GV Expo News: Q&A with FGDLA's Jolly Holden

Themes in distance learning include 'gamification' and Section 508 compliance
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WASHINGTON In spite of persistent rain outside, Government Video Expo 2015 is in full swing in our nation’s capital. GV Expo is the East Coast’s largest technology event designed for video, broadcast and AV professionals, and features a full exhibit floor, numerous training options, free seminars, keynotes, panel discussions, networking opportunities, and moderated panel discussions in the Briefing Zone.

Government Video had a chance to meet with Dr. Jolly Holden, executive director and co-founder of the Federal Government Distance Learning Association, to ask him a few questions about his organization and its participation in this show.

What is the FGDLA?

The FGDLA is a non-profit, 501(c)(6) business league organization. All board members serve pro bono. A business league focuses on a specific application aspect, and ours is promoting distance learning in the federal government. We don’t sell courses, we don’t offer courses; our primary mission is to network within the federal government to promote distance learning.

How long has the association been in existence?

This is our 20th year. We became an official member of the United States Distance Learning Association in 1995. The association was created by Dr. Philip Westfall and me. We were both in the Unites States Air Force, and we were in the field of distance learning at the Air Force Institute of Technology. Since the federal government is so big, we could not find any organization, or any place to go, to find out who was doing what in distance learning.

We were both members of the USDLA, so we put our heads together and we decided we needed to create a chapter of the national organization for the federal government, focusing only on the federal government. The primary purpose of this chapter would be promoting distance learning in the federal government and provide network opportunities.

What is trending in distance learning for the government?

The buzz word going around is “gamification,” or “serious games.” So, what’s the difference between a video game and gamification? Video games are for entertainment, but gamification is a video game based on a set of learning objectives. During the game, the participants are entertained and engaged, but they are also learning something from it. So you are using game mechanics, game design, based on a set of prescribed learning objectives and learning outcomes.

A good example is The Oregon Trail game. The game is all about the westward migration. So, the player learns about history from the game, and has fun at the same time.

Is there anything significant coming up as far as regulations?

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Nothing coming up, but we got Section 508 compliance, which means that all users must have access to technology. Even in training you have to be 508 compliant. It’s a federal requirement. (Editor’s note: Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 addresses the need for federal agencies to make electronic information accessible to people with disabilities.)

What topics are important for attendees to understand at the FGDLA sessions?

All forms of training at a distance. The technology has got so much better, and it’s evolving so fast! At these conferences you can see how the technology is evolving. Talk to the people involved, and ask how you can best use it.

Has the association participated with the GV Expo before?

This is our first time. It’s a great opportunity because we are really seeing heavy emphasis of video used in distance learning. This is a conference that is about video, and video is used substantially in distance learning, so this is a good fit.

We are the practitioners, we are the creators and users of distance learning that incorporate video, but someone else creates the video. I mean, just shooting a video with your cellphone is one thing — and we may think it’s good — but a video producer could provide a lot of insight and make it better.

Why do you think it’s important for FGDLA to participate in this expo?

We want to bridge that gap between the instructors’ side as trainers, and their perception of what’s good video. Even though we don’t need network TV quality video, we need good video, production-quality video. The trainers may say, “I’ve got this content, and it’s boring. I need video. Help me; how do I make it more interesting?” We have the trainers with content, and here at the show are the video producers. This conference brings them together. It’s symbiotic.

What are your expectations at the show?

There is no longer a distance learning conference in the Washington, D.C., area. There used to be years ago but they couldn’t make it work. We would like to see, along with GV Expo, a Federal Government Distance Learning Conference. A place where people could go to, and be able to network; find information.

Are the FGDLA conferences happening here part of the GV Expo or are they independent?

They are part of the show, and we want to keep it that way. We can’t exist without them as we don’t have enough resources for our own show. We are in the right place. GV Expo has the resources and we have the expertise for distance learning. This is where our members are; so this is an ideal show. It’s our first year and it has exceeded our expectations so far.

What are some surprising situations you've observed at the show?

Our first session had more people than I anticipated, and the questions that the attendees asked were exactly what I was there to answer. Somebody said, “I’m a video producer, how do I make a video for the training department that they actually can remember?” That’s my expertise.

The FGDLA, co-located with the 2015 Government Video Expo, continues until Dec. 3 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Registration is still open. Details can be found at www.gvexpo.com.


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