Click Smart Western Australia 2009

Jobs South West Community Services

Background

Jobs South West Community Services (JSWCS) is a not for profit community service organisation and a registered training organisation (RTO). JSWCS have been delivering a wide range of career development services, community programs, accredited and non-accredited training in the South West region of Western Australia for two decades. JSWCS’ mission statement is ‘to make a positive difference in peoples lives’.
As a small dynamic RTO, JSWCS is committed to providing flexible, responsive training designed to meet the particular needs of regional and remote learners. In 2009, JSWCS was recognised for achievements in this area by winning the Western Australian Department of Education and Training Small Training Provider of the Year Award.
In 2007-2008, 237 young learners achieved nationally accredited competencies through JSWCS training progams. 69 of these learners successfully completed a traineeship at Certificate II or III level in Retail, Hospitality, Business or Horticulture, through JSWCS’ User Choice Program. These qualifications led successful participants directly to sustained employment. Traineeship uptake is highest in the Retail and Business sectors. Retail is a very significant source of local employment and business and admininstration qualifictions are in high demand among a range of local small and medium sized businesses.
The Click Smart project was designed to enhance JSWCS’ established mixed mode workplace and in-house face-to-face delivery by developing flexible web-based support for Certificates I – III in Business and Retail for JSWCS’ current cohort of widely dispersed trainees.
This project aimed to address:
• Lack of access to consistent, well facilitated, quality training for remote and regional learners.
• Employer demand for access to flexibly delivered training and assessment for up-skilling and staff retention.
Funding for this project enabled JSWCS to support the development of sustainable flexible delivery training options in its region to retain and extend its retail and business workforce. Without funding to support a changed delivery methodology it was unlikely that JSWCS would have been able to sustain the costs associated with the 120,000 kilometers of travel annually required by the JSWCS Training Manager, who visits trainees and their employers to ensure that they stay connected and on-track for successful program completions.

What was done

TThe educational design of the project was underpinned by the following principles; a strong focus on communication and the development of a learning community to address the social and professional isolation often experienced by our target group and a commitment to excellent ‘high touch, high tech’ practice in web-based teaching and learning to address the need to develop the technology skills of our learners and to meet their need for frequent one-on-one contact with their trainers.
JSWCS decided to:
• Use the open source software Moodle to support the delivery of Certificates I – III in Business and Retail. Moodle is the software of choice for the largest regional RTO South West Regional College of TAFE (SWRC). This enabled graduates of the programs to become familiar with Moodle should they decide to undertake further study at SWRC. Moodle is user friendly from design, teaching and learning perspectives.
• Use resources from LORN and applicable Flexible Learning Toolboxes (Toolboxes) including Retailer (10.05) and Retail Operations (212) to enhance the scenario-based and interactive quality of the training.
• Provide ongoing web-based and experiential professional development for JSWCS trainers to ensure they have the requisite facilitation and technical skills to establish and sustain relationships with learners, and to adapt and create additional content to suit their delivery style and meet learner needs.
Once JSWCS established Moodle access, the project coordinator and the JSWCS’ web designer began developing skills in customising Toolbox resources and LORN learning objects. These were embedded in assignments which utilised the teaching and learning tools available in Moodle. This enabled JSWCS to create engaging assignments and assessment tasks which utilised the best pieces of existing digital resources. It also allowed JSWCS to capitalise on the potential of Moodle to support web-based communication and information sharing via forums and wikis and to track and record learner progress.
JSWCS were able to make excellent progress using this model for retail skills training, there was far less success in the business area due to a lack of existing free digital materials. JSWCS also encountered some employer resistance and misgivings around allowing their trainees to work online.
This is an area that JSWCS will address in 2010 via:
• A more intensive marketing of online support to employers, which directly target their misgivings around the validity of online learning and their ‘fear of Facebook’ in the workplace.
• The development of a suite of e-learning websites supporting core communication, technology and OHS competencies in Certificates III and IV in Business.
As an alternative to working with our current trainees as a pilot group, JSWCS provided flexibly delivered training in Certificate I in Retail to a group of eight young women from a local senior high school who were keen to pursue a career in beauty therapy but were unable to access limited profile hours at their local TAFE.
The ten week short course combined e-learning, practical work in beauty therapy, lectures and tutorials that covered the underpinning knowledge and site visits. Teachers and trainers who worked with these students remarked that the course was ‘just fabulous for the girls’ motivation and self esteem’.
JSWCS is now working with the school and a local Youth Support Group Southern RIP, to adapt the model for a ten week Introduction to Events Management course, which will give participants the five core units of Certificate III in Events and three core units in Certificate I in Hospitality.

Benefits experienced by Jobs South West Community Services

The project is one component in JSWCS’ broader strategic initiative around flexible delivery and e-learning. It reflected JSWCS’ commitment to offering engaging, learner-centered training options to residents of the region who face barriers like geography, distance and lack of transportation, limited time due to family and workplace commitments, and lack of confidence around ‘traditional‘ face–to-face learning.
By the end of 2010, JSWCS will offer flexible web-based support for all its registered training, including its auspice training to schools and other employment services providers.
The project has greatly expanded JSWCS’ skills in developing high quality e-learning resources. It has also provided valuable insight into some of the challenges associated with implementing successful innovations in flexible delivery. These included:
• bringing stakeholders (employers, trainers, colleagues) on board with the project’s aims and potentials
• identifying and customising existing digital resources
• providing administrative support for online learning.
At the conclusion of the project, despite the challenges faced along the way with timeframes, stakeholder buy-in and access to appropriate resources, JSWCS has gained the following benefits from the Click Smart project:
• an effective ‘road tested’ model for e-learning delivery based on integrating framework resources and Moodle tools.
• considerable support and enthusiasm for e-learning based on the JSWCS model, an extended client base, including six of the eight regional senior high schools delivering vocational education and training programs and two large private metropolitan RTOs.
• a commitment from a core set of four staff across the diverse portfolios of Youth Services, Career Development and Training to become ‘Moodle gurus’ in their program areas.
• a successful interactive professional development workshop ‘Use Your Moodle’, which has been delivered to 12 local trainers and 12 teachers on auspice programs.

Lessons learnt

JSWCS’ most interesting and challenging lesson was that e-learning revolutions are not accomplished over night. As a not-for-profit community organisation dependent on the vagaries of government funding cycles, JSWCS is accustomed to responding to new initiatives quickly and achieving rapid results. JSWCS is also an organisation in which everyone works close to the limit of their capacity most of the time. Despite the Project Coordinator’s considerable experience in e-learning development, JSWCS underestimated the time and energy needed to get Click Smart humming in its initial stages. The project was also overambitious in what it set out to achieve given the time and resources available and what could be diverted from its facilitators ‘day jobs’.
The second most valuable lesson in face of these limitations was to stick to JSWCS’ standards and maintain its core aspiration to develop quality e-learning products that fostered interactivity and communication. As a result, JSWCS’ trainers have a sound starting place for providing e-learning support to their learners. The trainers were able to understood Moodle’s capabilities and know how to work with it. They also learned that an email to the E-learning Coordinator would bring a timely response to a glitch or a question on how to do the next interesting thing in Moodle.
The third lesson was about not needing to perfect our product before allowing trainers and learners loose with it. A Moodle website is exactly like a face-to-face classroom in that it is a lively ‘work in progress’, where some activities fly and others fall flat. In fact, the project learnt more from falls than flying.


The results

Click Smart has provided an excellent grounding in the complexities of developing e-learning solutions for a small RTO. JSWCS is a very dynamic community service organisation with a strong ‘can do ‘culture and a diverse set of interlocking programs and client bases. The potential of e-learning to impact positively on all aspects of JSWCS’ service provisions has been enormous.
The project gave JSWCS the opportunity to begin to define its ‘take’ on e-learning to find out whether it was ready to take up the challenge, to test the limits of JSWCS’ capabilities and tolerance for the ‘new’ in a year, in which JSWCS has expanded its training business exponentially on several fronts.
As a result of the Click Smart experience JSWCS will enter 2010 with the following key e-learning achievements under our belt; a small, strong and highly collaborative team capable of working across the core requirements of a successful e-learning program; a great ‘good practice’ model which has been tested in varying contexts; a sound set of ‘developer’ skills for working with Australian Flexible Learning Framework products in Moodle; a sought after professional development workshop that develops trainers’ facilitation and technical skills in record time and a scary but exciting level of demand for JSWCS’ e-learning services across the region.
Key Outcomes
• A model for e-learning support that fits the JSWCS style and reflects good practice in interactive high tech and high touch delivery. The model is currently in use with Certificates I in Retail, Leadership Development and Work Preparation and is in development for a ten week short course covering the core units in Certificate III in Events.
• A team of four committed JSWCS staff keen to build on the project outcomes:
  • Trainer/developer responsible for developing support core business units of competency dealing with communication, computing skills, OHS and legislative responsibilities at Certificate III and IV levels, establishing and facilitating Certificate IV in Business trainee website as an online community.
  • JSWCS Administrative Trainee, responsible for Moodle Administration - identification and password management and course cloning.
  • E-earning Coordinator (new role) managing the overall design and development of e-earning resources, marketing, management and delivery of professional development and fee for service delivery.
  • Web Developer/Graphic Designer managing the look and feel of JSWCS sites and support trainers in developing technical skills in using Moodle and manage Moodle/JSWWCS website interface.
• Five out of eight successful completions of Cert I in Retail from a trial group on the ten week short course.
• A workshop based professional development program ‘Use your Moodle’, which enabled trainers to develop a customised Moodle site ready for use with learners delivered to 24 trainers and teachers across the region.
• 24-hour turnaround email-based support for trainers using JSWCS Moodle sites
Learner experiences were captured formally and informally via web-based surveys and activities embedded in their programs and incorporated into overall program evaluations. Learners also provided feedback to the Western Australian Minister for Education and Training via Skype during his visit to JSWCS.
Trainer feedback was also collected via emails to the E-earning Coordinator and in informal conversations during ‘check in’ and moderation visits to off site and auspice programs using Moodle sites. A whole of organisation evaluation and review of the
e-learning initiative as a component in JSWCS’ annual strategic planning was conducted in late 2009.

Reflections and suggestions

The project update day at WestOne Services was an excellent way to share experiences and check in with other project staff. JSWCS staff found this valuable as a reassuring and energising event.
The national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (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.
NOTE: Copies of the documents supporting JSWCS’ professional development workshop ‘Use your Moodle’ and guest access to the ‘Moodle Musings’ professional development site and the Certificate I Retail Moodle site were customised to support the beauty therapy industry is available by contacting Mary Cameron at mary@jobs-sw.com.au

Acknowledgment

This is a Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Jobs South West Community Services with seed funding from the Framework.

For more information

For more information on Jobs South West Community Services
Posy Barnes
Chief Executive Officer
Email: posy@jobs-sw.com.au
Website: http://jobssouthwest.com.au/

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