Designing Professional Development/JIT Learning

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Using just in time learning/training in professional development

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This Wikibook chapter will examine ways that a tool called Just-in-Time Learning/Teaching (JITL) is being used in the professional development of persons. The goal will be to look at example implementations of Just-in-Time learning (JITL) and then to isolate some best practices for implementing it in similar settings. JITL has been used in the corporate world to train employees, in hospitals and government and even in the K-12 setting, but the focus here will be primarily on the university setting. Looked at will be ways JITL is used to assist faculty in integrating technology into their teaching, maintaining their expertise in a subject field, and changing the ways classroom learning can occur. Using the term in a looser sense, the professional development of students (as they strive to maintain competency in their field/major and supplement their classroom learning) will also be addressed. Additionally, the professional development of employees in the corporate world will be looked at briefly.

What is Just-in-Time Learning or Training?[edit | edit source]

Before considering some exemplary programs and best practices, one must ask what is JITL and why has it become something a lot of people are now talking about?

JITL has to do with making content immediately and readily available so that students can learn from it under their own direction and motivation. The just-in-time model can be said to be characterized by three things. First, there is learner control or self-direction, whereby the pupil controls what it is that is learned and in what order. Second, there is learning that is location and time-independent: students in this model access information and tools of learning virtually anywhere and anytime. Finally, learning in this model has a key functional aspect so that the process of learning is characterized by an immediate putting to use of the material.

Most would see the educational advantages of this JITL model of learning. Individuals placed in such contexts are more motivated to learn in the first place, they generally learn at higher cognitive levels, and they retain more of what they learn. This just-in-time learning also makes room for the fact that learners often learn in any number of different ways or varying styles.

An example of just-in-time learning today would be an employee of a large corporation who is able to maintain his skills in the company’s presentation capture

software by viewing tutorials on the company’s website. These tutorials take him step by step through the individual elements of making a screen capture. In that the employee is usually already knowledgeable of such software to some extent, the tutorial program allows for the skipping of steps in favor of a review of steps that are more unfamiliar. Another example of JITL would be a faculty member in a small college who needs to review how to post materials to a course content application for distance education courses she teaches. She has been trained to use the application, but in an early evening session while trying to post new materials to the program, she forgets some key steps. She proceeds to the exact places in the bookmarked tutorial on how to post new documents. Finally, just-in-time learning or training is gaining ground in the area of teaching students at the collegiate level; here the model is characterized by faculty members posting short questions for students to answer just before each class session. The faculty in turn hone their lectures based on the prerequisite knowledge and conceptual mistakes they find in their students’ answers. More efficient time is thereby made of class sessions in this model. We shall look at implementations of JITL below in more detail.

Why JITL Now?[edit | edit source]

JITL is in some ways a mirror of present consumerist society (where products are manufactured or assembled in direct response to buyer decisions), but it also is an obvious reflection of the vast resources now available on the Internet and the timely manner in which anyone, anywhere can access information. Additionally, it is also a reflection of the constructivist perspective that is dominating educational theory, where the focus is on active, student-centered learning. Finally, from a more pragmatic side, it is a response to the need for all organizations to save money and time when it comes to keeping their associates trained.

Exemplary Implementations and Best Practices in JITL today[edit | edit source]

A. Using JITL to Assist Higher Education Faculty with Honing Technology Skills[edit | edit source]

One use of JITL has been in the area of teaching faculty how to use technology. As colleges roll out technology, they want their staff and faculty to be employing it in classrooms. Many colleges will provide some face-to-face training in this area, but this can be costly and time consuming. Many thinkers see the JITL model as a nice supplement to this primary technology training.

Technology skills that may need to be learned are some or all of the following: 1) honing skills in various functions of productivity software such as word processing, spreadsheet, and email programs, 2) training on more advanced topics such as how to do screen captures that are animated and include a voice-over, or 3) training on using distance education programs from the moderator perspective (uploading documents or creating forums on the course portal for instance).

Due to the prohibitive costs of producing materials in-house, the implementation of JIT for technology skills training has traditionally involved the purchase of vendor training videos. Nevertheless, a certain percentage of JIT training is often still produced in-house, using, for instance, screen capture software such as Camtasia or Captivate. This is what Virginia Tech has done with their Faculty Development Institute, combining faculty produced technology department videos with Elements K training videos and Safari Books Online. The latter is a repository (with a subscription fee) of full-text online books in computer science and I.T., updated every 6 months. A brief survey of college websites where some form of JITL is being employed indicate three of the most popular outside vendors for training materials are, Elements K, and[1]

  • is a vast repository of some 24,000 videos in the area of multimedia design but now also including videos on productivity software and even course delivery portal software training. The videos are produced in the QuickTime format. Licenses to educational institutions for either in-class use or multi-user use (throughout whole institutions) range in price from $245/month (for up to 6000 students) to $325/month.
  • Elements K is a repository of over 600 interactive tutorials which cover office productivity, web development, and other software in depth. Courses are also available for technical subjects such as programming languages, system administration, and networking. Cisco courses are offered by special request. Costs for institutions range from $200–400 per year.
  •– contains free training videos offered here but mostly in the area of web design and graphics design and its associated software.

Some exemplary implementations of JITL for faculty training are Bowling Green University’s use of to provide training on productivity applications. The institutional package was chosen at $225/month and the college gets access to every video on’s site relating to productivity software. The software is accessed through the web browser, from the college or from the end user’s home as long as the supplied login is used. The college places bookmarks to the video sources into the browsers on faculty computers.[2] Faculty commented on some things they liked about the implementation: they said the videos loaded fast, they were able to get right to the content they needed at the time, and they could skip through the content fairly easily by dragging the scrub tool.[3]

Another exemplary implementation is that of Pellissippi State Technical Community College where, again, videos are used (primarily on web design and presentation design) and made available 24/7 to both faculty and students as part of class work in the design major.[4] The videos are accessed through a browser using the QuickTime plug-in and can be viewed from home or school with the appropriate login credentials. Prior to this implementation, faculty of the design classes had been producing their own video capture tutorials, but this had become time-consuming. In faculty evaluations of the implementation, the following benefits are mentioned: the courses “enhanced instruction for online courses, they allowed students to explore topics of interest not covered in face-to-face class, they offered instructors a high quality, effective way to learn new programs on their own, instruction was available from any computer anywhere, and provided reports that helped evaluate usage and effectiveness of training.”[5]

The Zhao Study An important study that looked at what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to JITL for learning technology skills was the Zhao study of 2009.[6] Fifteen institutions using some of the vendors mentioned here for their JITL implementation were surveyed. The faculty and staff using the materials and administrators were queried for their impressions. Some results are reported here:

1. Most schools felt they saved money by purchasing the video tutorials rather than having tutorials produced in-house. There were just too many topics to address when attempting the latter and cost for the tutorial vendors like and Elements K ranged from $220/month to $550/month for institutional packages (up to 6000 students).
2. It was agreed across the board that JITL was also much less costly than doing training with physical trainers. Nevertheless, all parties still felt a need to do some training on applications (e.g., using distance education course portal software). The impression from technology planners was that JITL had its place as a supplement to this other training.
3. Faculty liked that the training videos were searchable and that they could be navigated piecemeal. The need for videos to be well indexed emerged as a key concern. If one cannot easily find the topic one needs, it is a problem.
4. Also, as mentioned above, the training tended to stick in the mind of the learner for longer because the skill was learned right at that time when the learner needed to use it.[7]

The same study pointed out that there were things that the technology planner must be aware of when implementing JITL for technology training.

1. The technology planners were concerned whether the videos would be cost-beneficial in that faculty might not use them. Conclusions were that faculty may in some cases have to be assigned some videos by their superiors, but would later warm up to them.
2. Emphasized by all parties was the idea that superiors should rarely require faculty to complete videos in their entirely; if they do this, JITL can quickly become a pedantic exercise instead of a learning opportunity.
3. It was also asked, technically, how do the JITL learning tools work? What plug-in do they use and do they run with little trouble on most computers? There was obviously a concern for the uninterrupted nature of JITL.
4. Also the study found that the necessary bandwidth had to be there to make the tools work right.
5. All parties reported that the best programs combined an aural and visual aspect so that the trainer could be heard while inside the application itself.
6. Finally, depending on what was done, the training tools seemed to work best in no longer than 20-minute chunks.[8]

B. Using JITL in corporate training[edit | edit source]

JITL is currently being used in the corporate world to train employees and middle managers on concepts and tasks ranging from technology to management to marketing. Some large companies that use JITL are Cartech and Penske Truck Leasing, both in Reading, PA. There are many more companies that make use of the training concept in some form or other. In the implementation at Penske,[9] managers assign a certain number of hours of Skillsoft training to employees pertinent to their job function. Skillsoft is a leader in e-learning courseware. The training is made available via Penske’s internal website and employees can access it using their company login credentials whether they are at work or at home. Many training modules in Skillsoft consist of video and animation, so that a Microsoft Outlook training module, for example, might show an animated mouse pointer inside some static screens with the instructor’s voice laid over.[10]

In the current implementation at Penske, managers assign some courses to be completed in their entirety and the managers are then emailed scores achieved by those workers. Those courses that have to be completed in their entirety are usually ones where the employee is not used to the content (one example in recent weeks has been a course called “Managing Difficult Associates for Middle Managers”). For other courses where the employee already has some skills (such as using Microsoft Outlook email), the employee is free to proceed through the course content at his/her own pace and not necessarily in its entirety and the final evaluation/testing section of the software is ignored (it can be skipped). Face-to-face training is also not ignored in the mix at Penske. Every quarter, middle managers in all sectors of the company are given training in many of the areas already covered by JITL. This entails training in Outlook, Excel, and customer role-playing. These all tools maintenance, sales, and rental managers might use.[11]

Through “voice of the associate” surveys, employees have provided feedback about this JITL training at Penske. Most comment that they like the way they can access it at work or home. While they do not like the idea of working at home, they know it is often a more relaxed atmosphere where they can get more out of the course. They also like that they can go through the courses at their own pace, going backwards to review and also that they can skip parts of the course that they do not feel they need. It seems very important to put this control in the learner’s hands. Unfortunately scores are not tabulated when the employees are allowed to skip sections, so this would be a good addition to future versions of Skillsoft. (How, for instance, do associates perform when they can skip sections? Better or worse?) Employees complain when they have to complete courses in which they feel they have good competence. They also say that the Skillsoft software crashing or locking up is a definite negative though they only report this occurring 5% of the time. Finally, they report that face-to-face training is a critical aspect of Penske training, mainly because in that setting they get to ask questions.[12]

Areas of improvement in this implementation might involve some of the following: a general degree of animation could be added to the Skillsoft modules, where there is screen capture of instruction inside the actual program. Additionally, the evaluation portion of the training modules should be aiming at testing for higher cognitive levels: usually questions are multiple choice and they are sometimes not well constructed (ambiguous questions, only one clearly correct answer, etc.). Skillsoft should be informed about this. Finally, one can again conclude that face-to-face training needs to exist alongside JITL.[13]

C. Using JITL to Assist Higher Education Faculty or Students in Keeping up With Their Subject Fields or Majors[edit | edit source]

Another area where JITL has been used in higher education has been with regard to assisting teachers in maintaining expertise in their fields of study. As reported in the article by Carrington & Green,[14]“using web-based JITL, while not yet at the level of systematic implementation, is being recognized at thousands of colleges as an efficient tool of knowledge expansion and upkeep.” The article adds later that students are also finding the numerous recorded classes and transcripts available on the Web of “very substantial benefit” to their education. Carrington & Green[15] also mention the increasing number of colleges that are bookmarking certain web-based materials and directing their faculty and students to those sites as exemplary spots to expand their learning base. They mention the following colleges where the I.T. departments and administration have encouraged the use of free learning sites such as iTunes University: Swarthmore College, Morehouse College, and Philadelphia Biblical University. At these institutions and likely thousands more, the I.T. departments have embedded links to iTunes University and Academic Earth (just two examples) into their Internet browsers when imaging their school computers.[16] The schools are very careful about promoting the sites and courses that are free for unlimited use.

What, it might be asked, do faculty (and students) get out of these kinds of sites? Could this content on the Internet, that can be delivered just-in-time and which is rich and plentiful, be an end to the college classroom and teacher, especially if degree credit can be earned for partaking in it?[17] Higher education faculty sometimes want to learn about cutting edge things in their own field or see what other scholars are doing. They might also wish to briefly look at a field closely related to their own field. These are all places where the JITL sites like iTunes University can play a role.

What sites and what variations on them are out there that can be a part of a JITL implementation at colleges? There are still many free sites available—indeed, the MIT Courseware, now considered a pioneer of online learning, was the first such site to go totally free. Examples of free sites are iTunes University with the many contributions from thousands of colleges and universities throughout the U.S.,,, and The first two are very substantial academic resources, yet very simple in conception. The content consists of the recorded lectures of faculty at these colleges, sometimes just aurally (podcasts) and other times with visual aspects included. One typically gets every lecture in a semester-long course. While basic in construction, the content is excellent because it essentially consists of the presentation of some of the best faculty that U.S. colleges have to offer.

It used to be that these were largely introductory and survey classes available on iTunes University and, but one study recently conducted of iTunes University showed that the mix of introductory first-year courses to intermediate level courses across all subject fields was about 5:1. In other words, for every five introductory courses, there was one, but this compares to 20:1 about a year ago. Each lecture is labeled with what it is about, but one cannot find individual topics within lectures.[18] With this kind of content, however, the goal is usually to listen to lectures in their entirety. Of course, one can skip ahead and also review parts of any presentation using the scrub tool.

The last two sites mentioned ( and are somewhat more artificial in that the lectures there are edited. edits its lectures and tweaks them to have an impact on the educated layperson. Content is that of real professors, but the courses are generally shorter and more easily searchable (i.e., one can find specific topics discussed through a search engine on the site and compare the presentation of that topic across multiple courses). With, the presenter is one person (all 1600 videos done by one man, himself a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School). His lectures entail his spoken voice while he draws on a whiteboard. The author’s primary audience is the high school student and first or second year college undergraduate; he has a style of presentation that is friendly and inviting for that age group.

There are other resources that could be considered JITL that focus on assisting faculty with honing their presentation skills. Some of the best ones are:

Several colleges also embed this resource in its university browsers for faculty use (Claremont Graduate University, Harvey Mudd University, and Pomona College to name just a few)

Students also might want to keep up with things going on in their majors and in other fields. If they are taking their liberal arts core courses, they can partake of a great deal of material on the web and this also functions in a JITL manner. Particularly exemplary sites are the ones already mentioned just above.

What can be concluded about the benefits and drawbacks of this JITL for faculty and students when used to maintain expertise in subject fields or majors? What many feel is being missed when students learn from these sites is a total framework of learning or the learning of a method that one receives over the course of multiple semesters in college.[19] Riel criticizes the idea that teachers will no longer be a required resource, given all the excellent and free learning resources available on the Internet. Teachers are still needed, she says, because these sites fail to train in a holistic manner. “Students need guidance and assessment by skilled teachers. Projects need to be placed in a larger context. Students need help in understanding how their project work relates to the larger field and to the community of people who are involved in creating, organizing, and preserving knowledge.”[20] Riel perceptively relates elsewhere that “just in time learning suggests that knowledge is a stockpile of discrete ideas, concepts, or tools that can be delivered as needed. The systemic relationships among skills and concepts are minimized in this way of thinking about knowledge. It also assumes that ideas have value only in terms of their functional use in solving specified problems.”[21] Finally, she states that “knowledge is not built from the needs of individuals; it is a process of weighing many different perspectives of thinking beyond what is needed for the current activity…and the goal is comprehensive, integrative learning”.[22]

Many would agree with Riel’s assessment; she does not throw out JITL completely either. She says that it can have inestimable value for learning if it is directed by good teachers and has as its context a learning community or communities of learners.[23] It makes sense, on the face of it, that with the massive amount of information that is currently available on the Internet, some expert in a field is needed to sort out the significant from the trivial. Consider what happens when students (and faculty) log on to sites like iTunes University or The content is very good, especially when it is simply great professors delivering lectures on their fields of expertise. Of course this is the old style, factory type lecture, but many would say that in the hands of an experienced, passionate teacher, that style is still immensely worthwhile. However, on these sites students are under no compulsion to view or listen to the entirety of lectures, or even the entirety of any one lecture. Additionally, they do not have to do any of the readings or assignments in the class nor take any of the tests. Furthermore, they cannot ask any questions of teachers or interact with peers in this context. The experience is indeed characterized by something very individualistic. It is probably the rare student who can truly learn in this way. Most students need to be taught and see modeled appropriate methodologies for their field, see blind alleys pursued, and ask questions of the informed. A combination of empirical data and modeled methodologies and practice is what is needed for significant learning to occur. This takes time and guidance from experts.

A conclusion many would share is that JITL pales next to good classroom learning (emphasize good), but that it is a nice supplement to that learning. Students can supplement their understanding from what they learn in the classroom and expanded classroom, but the former must presuppose the latter. Faculty, of course, (and students for that matter) will find a great deal on the JITL sites that can assist them in broadening and deepening other learning and they will find materials that relate to their fields and majors as well as closely related fields. All of these things can assist them greatly in filling out their own understanding.

D. The JITL classroom teaching model[edit | edit source]

One of the most exciting implementations perhaps has to do with what some educators and colleges are doing with JITL in close connection with their face-to-

face teaching. Started by educator George Novak in the early 1990’s, the “JITL classroom teaching model” is now being used in hundreds of colleges in the United States and in fields ranging from the sciences to the humanities. A key starting point to learn about the model is found at which is a site written largely by George Novak who taught physics and used this concept in those classes. The model can be described with these essential characteristics: students answer web-based questions that pertain to that day’s class work, the professor gets their responses and hones his/her lecture one hour before class time based on conceptual mistakes he/she finds in their answers and prerequisite knowledge. The “Warm-ups,” as they are called, often require complex answers and students are asked to try to answer them to their best from prior knowledge or textbook reading. They are not graded on them. Novak has other elements in his model such as “Puzzles,” where follow-up questions are posed after class and also “Good For” pages that relate class content to some relevant issue in the news or current events.

As Cashman has commented, the JITL model of Novak addresses what many now appreciate about college lectures: the old way of doing things, where a professor delivers a lecture and students feed it back to him/her on exams, has been exposed as entirely unsatisfactory.[24] The professor must make that effort to connect the contents of a course with his students’ existing mental schemas and move them on from those. The vastness of the content on the Internet and what students can learn on their own also evokes how students and teachers can and should be partners in learning. The model still maintains that the teacher—the expert in a field—is required for good learning to occur today.

As indicated, this model has been used, in one form or another, in thousands of college classrooms across the nation. Some exemplary sites are listed on Novak’s “sampler page” and Cashman has posted some student responses to Warm-ups in her online article on the effectiveness of the model.[25] Reading those student answers can provide a good bit of insight into how effective this JITL can be. Another implementation of the Novak model is in writing classes and a variation here involved students writing notes to each other online on chapters of a novel they read for class.[26] Eric Mazur at Harvard has promoted a similar kind of exercise where students teach each other in small groups after answering warm-up type questions.[27] Finally, Carrington and Green have highlighted the exciting new software that is being developed that will allow professors to post the warm-up questions in an essay response format. This should allow for more detailed answers from which instructors can then work better at modifying their lectures.[28]

What benefits and drawbacks have been observed in this JITL model and what can be concluded about best practices? The Cashman article sums this up nicely.[29] Some faculty have been put off by the amount of work that appears to be required during the pre-class preparation, having also only one hour to do it. After some work with the model, however, many faculty members concluded that the extra preparation time was in fact negligible though they commented that they did have to set aside that one hour without interruption. Some instructors also asked initially about the feasibility of doing such preparation for a whole semester, and here responses were that the Novak model did not have to be followed exactly. There was nothing that said that Warmups would only be done once per week, for instance. Other benefits listed were that the model helped significantly increase student confidence because the students felt ownership over the in-class discussion as a result of the Warmups. Additionally, increased interaction between students and faculty was said to occur in this model and the feedback box was considered to be extremely helpful to all parties (where students could write anything that they wished to write on the Warmups). Drawbacks centered on the effort in writing Warmup questions that were difficult enough to generate the appropriate feedback looked for by faculty but also not so difficult as to discourage answers.[30]

Summary[edit | edit source]

Some conclusions that can be drawn from this short study of JITL are as follows. It seems that JITL can serve its best role when it is viewed as a supplement to the learning of the classroom or of face-to-face learning. Of course, this assumes that that classroom is hitting its mark when it comes to learning and goals of active learning. The JITL model of Novak points us in the right direction. Another conclusion has to do with the mandatory nature of the JITL training: generally speaking, it would seem that the less compulsion involved with taking the classes the better. The content is supplementary and students should be given their opportunity for those learning moments. Believing that they have to complete certain steps that might not be perceived to be relevant to what they do will usually defeat those learning moments. Finally, the degree of search-ability of the JITL is also fairly critical; the nature of JITL is such that learners need to be able to find the content they are looking for without too much trouble; otherwise they give up looking for it quickly. This last point, of course, is relative to the content in question. Content that is of a more discrete nature as opposed to continuous will need a better method for searching within it.

External links[edit | edit source]

  • Adobe ELearning Solutions website A vendor site, yes, but also one of the most comprehensive listings of JITL solutions and products anywhere on the Web.
  • Brandon Hall Research Center Independent Brandon Hall Research firm provides expert reviews and phone and email consultation on JITL and e-learning solutions.
  • E-learning Magazine Website Another informational resource on JITL solutions. You will find expert reviews, white papers, and links to products and trials.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Woodford, J. (2006). Just in Time Training or Point-of-Use Information. ITEC Bulletin, 22, 1-10
  2. (2009). Online courses from help Bowling Green students push creative boundaries. Retrieved from on November 14, 2010.
  3. Bowling Green University. (2010). BGU workshop. Retrieved from on November 14, 2010.
  4. (2009). online training boosts learning for students in media technologies classes. Retrieved from on November 14, 2010.
  5. Pellissippi State Community College. (2010). Online training for students and faculty. Retrieved from on November 14, 2010.
  6. Zhao, Y., & Bryant, F. L. (2009). Can teacher technology integration training alone lead to high levels of technology integration? a qualitative look at teachers’ technology integration after state mandated technology training. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, 5, 53-61.
  7. Zhao, Y., & Bryant, F. L. (2009).
  8. Zhao, Y., & Bryant, F. L. (2009).
  9. See and click on training links on left side of page
  10. Author’s experience at Penske Truck Leasing. (2010).
  11. Author’s experience at Penske Truck Leasing. (2010).
  12. Penske Truck Leasing Training Department. (2010). VOC responses to training on Skillsoft. Penske Truck Leasing Training Department.
  13. Author’s experience at Penske Truck Leasing. (2010).
  14. Carrington, A., & Green, I. (2007). Just in time teaching revisited: using e-assessment and rapid e-learning to empower face to face teaching. Proceedings ascilite Singapore 2007 Bulletin, 11, 129-131.
  15. Carrington, A., & Green, I. (2007).
  16. Carrington, A., & Green, I. (2007).
  17. Riel, M. (2002). Education in the 21st century: just-in-time learning or learning communities Center for Collaborative Research in Education. Retrieved from on November 4, 2010.
  18. Riel, M. (2002).
  19. Riel, M. (2002).
  20. Riel, M. (2002).
  21. Riel, M. (2002).
  22. Riel, M. (2002).
  23. Riel, M. (2002).
  24. Cashman, E. M., & Eschenbach, E. A. (2003). Using on-line quizzes outside the classroom to increase student engagement inside the classroom. American Society for Engineering Education. Retrieved from on November 14, 2010.
  25. Cashman, E. M., & Eschenbach, E. A. (2003).
  26. O’Hara, J. (2005). Just in time writing assignment ideas. Retrieved from on November 14, 2010.
  27. Abrahamson, M. (2003). The Mazur perspective: an interview with Harvard Physics Professor Eric Mazur. Retrieved from on November 14, 2010.
  28. Carrington, A., & Green, I. (2007).
  29. Cashman, E. M., & Eschenbach, E. A. (2003).
  30. Cashman, E. M., & Eschenbach, E. A. (2003).