WA10EL434 Choose your Own Learning



Background
The YMCA is a community-based not-for-profit organisation which works with people, families and communities right around Australia. In a number of locations it operates a registered training organisation (RTO). YMCA Perth is one of the largest providers of Children's Services trainers in Western Australia and has students from Kununurra in the north to Albany in the south. Almost all learners are currently working as well as trying to juggle family and other commitments. The YMCA does not work with just specific employers, but provides training services where they are needed, including in regional and remote locations.

The aim of this project was to try to better meet the needs of our diverse learners through the use of technology.

The project team was made up of a number of current staff at YMCA Perth as well as some external colleagues who contributed greatly to the outcomes.



Andrew Ballam - Project Manager, YMCA Perth
Amanda Nabi - Project Facilitator, YMCA Perth
Daryl Halliburton - Online Coordinator, YMCA Perth
Steve McVey - Consultant, Skills Strategies International
Sandra Robinson - Consultant, Skills Strategies International
Lesley Reagon - Team Member, YMCA Perth
Keryn Wilkinson - Team Member, YMCA Perth
Jo Warneke - Team Member, YMCA Perth
Carolyn Johnson - Team Member, YMCA Perth
Jane Figgis - Mentor, AAAJ Consulting
Debi Butt & Kylie Prout - Admin Support, YMCA Perth



Executive Summary

The purpose of the project was to investigate the development and effectiveness of scenario-based decision learning tools for units from the Certificate III in Children’s Services. These tools were developed using the Australian Flexible Learning Framework’s (Framework) ARED (Applications for Rapid E-learning Development) software product.

The tools developed were trialled over a period of a number of months with potentially up to 10-15 learners. These learners were diversely situated around Western Australia.

The learners involved in the trial were a selection of YMCA Perth’s existing Cert III in Children’s Services students.

Learners were asked to use the learning resources and then report upon their effectiveness. For example: Were they user friendly? Did they allow the required learning to occur? Did the resources adequately cover the topic area?


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The plan was to build the project around the development of a small suite of learning resources against all or some of the units:

  • - CHCIC301D Interact effectively with children
  • - CHCCN301A Ensure the health and safety of children
  • - CHCCN302A Provide care for children

The project also used interviews with candidates using the resources and the assessment of those candidates as measures of the success of the learning approach.

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The lessons learnt were documented and disseminated in a research report that was produced in conjunction with the NCVER Communities of Practice program.


Quantitative outcomes were measured in terms of decisions of competence and survey feedback. Qualitative outcomes were captured via an interview process and were collated and coded according to theme.

The project was presented at TEAM10 in Perth on November 19 2010. Click here to have a look at the presentation.


What was done

The prospect of a 'new way of doing things' was always something that excites the team at YMCA, and this project was no different.


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The first step for embarking on this process was deciding and planning on how and what objects were to be produced.Assistance was sought for this from personnel at Skills Strategies International.

With a notional format decided upon for the scenarios, the Children's Services training team set about the task of working out some basic scenarios. Deciding on the scenarios and getting the units to fit into the e-learning tool were identified as the most difficult part of the whole process. It was not just the selection of the subjects, but identifying the potential outcomes and the documentation of same and ensuring that regulations were considered and the unit's range statement was sufficiently addressed.

As a result of the difficulties identified, it was decided that the number of units that had originally been proposed for the trial be reduced to one unit only. To alleviate some of the difficulties previously identified, it was also decided that a unit of competency not in the initial selection be used ie:

CHCCHILD401A Identify and respond to children and young people at risk.

The scenarios were converted into e-learning objects using the Decision Tree module within ARED - a process that really wasn't difficult. The next step included finessing the ARED outputs to make them more visually appealing and useable (e.g. increasing the font size).

The objects were then made available to the trial group for testing, via our existing Moodle platform. The feedback received was very positive.


Benefits experienced by YMCA.

The greatest beneficiaries of the project were YMCA’s time-poor learners and as a flow-on, the learners of other RTOs. In the future, by using this model, YMCA hopes to inspire other RTOs to take on what is a fairly simple exercise in developing an e-learning scenario based decision learning tools for specific units of competency.

At the YMCA it is envisaged that this new learning style will, where appropriate, be included into future course designs. As a result of this project, it has been established that in certain contexts the decision-based approach can deliver superior outcomes for learners.


Lessons learnt

A great deal was learnt during the course of this project including the reinforcement of prior knowledge. The key issue identified was the fact that it is the identification of the learning need that is paramount, not the identification of a tool and then trying to make the learning fit that tool. This is the main reason that a unit of competency not in our initial selection was used for the project.

Planning was also a key issue. By working out the basic format of the scenarios before beginning the project, ensured that the development and conversion stages were transitioned more smoothly. The creation of the e-learning objects was relatively easy and that was due, in no small part, to the fact that the scenarios were developed with the format in mind.

Another key thing that was learnt was that by using ARED, e-learning objects can be produced at a relatively low cost and it can be used as a tool for a DIY approach to developing e-learning resources.

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The results

The project turned out very successfully in terms of what was set out to be achieved. The number of scenarios produced was not as many as originally anticipated and the actual objects produced seemed to lack a 'wow' factor. It was established that the e-learning approach was popular with the students, allowing them to develop necessary workplace knowledge in an environment that suited them.


Participants reported that there was no problem accessing or using the learning objects. They found them easy and uncomplicated to work through. In most instances they also felt that the scenario approach was better than most other similar learning opportunities.

The Training Officers also involved in trial have been positive about the approach. This perspective will be explored in greater detail as the research paper which will follow on from this project is developed.

Project Outputs

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The most significant outcome of this project was the trialling of the Decision Tree approach to learning.

It is hoped that this approach to training delivery will supplement workplace practice enough to provide sufficient knowledge to participants, through a deductive/decision-based pathway. This should refine the amount of time needed for learning, by keeping the focus on what participants will need to know in the workplace, and avoiding the traditional ‘information dump’.

In addition to the learning, six learning objects were produced based on the selected unit of competency CHCCHILD401A Identify and respond to children and young people at risk. The scenarios produced are not expected to provide sufficient learning for a participant to become competent based upon these alone, but are designed to supplement workplace experience.



Reflections and suggestions

The project had its challenges, but it's fair to say that these were more traditional in nature rather than technological. The issues were mostly around time, logistics and the development of sound learning, rather than anything to do with a computer!

It was proven that e-learning resources improved the experience of learners and can be produced without having to outlay large sums of money and without the need for advanced technical expertise. It was also realised that there are e-learning tools available, many free, that just need some inspiration to put them to work.





Framework connection

The national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework funds and supports E-learning Innovations projects which aim to embed e-learning into the national training system by supporting and enabling innovation in training design and delivery, at the state and territory level.

The findings of this project will hopefully inspire other RTOs to have a look at the decision-based approach and to utilise the Framework owned software tool - ARED

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Acknowledgement

This is a Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by the Australian YMCA Institute of Education and Training, with seed funding from the Framework.



For more information

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Andrew Ballam
Executive Manager, Training
YMCA Perth
Phone: (08) 9473 8400

Email: andrew.ballam@ymca.org.au


For more information on the Australian Flexible Learning Framework:
Phone: (07) 3307 4700
Email: enquiries@flexiblelearning.net.au
Website: flexiblelearning.net.au