Business Management E-learning Project Western Australia 2008

Central TAFE

Background

The Business and Management Portfolio at Central TAFE already offers several courses and a selection of units through online and off-campus delivery modes. With improving student outcomes a key priority, the institute recognised that facilitation of their current online training needed to be reviewed to provide improved student engagement and consistent quality of resources and delivery across online programs, with a view to expanding online training across the portfolio.
Central TAFE’s key priority area is to increase work-based training, including traineeships. Currently the Business and Management Portfolio does most of the work-based training in the institute; constituting 28% of the institute’s total work-based delivery; and employs six lecturers in this area. The project team identified that improved student support, through the provision of online delivery resources, would improve student training outcomes and further increase institute business in this area.
There is also a growing demand in the Business and Management Portfolio for online training options, particularly from remote students in the resources sector, and in areas such as Human Resources, Project Management and Occupational Health and Safety.

The Framework Connection

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework) provides the vocational education and training (VET) system with the essential e-learning infrastructure and expertise needed to respond to the challenges of a modern economy and the training needs of Australian businesses and workers.
E-learning Innovations aims 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.
In engaging in this E-learning Innovations project the team used the Framework’s website as the primary research tool and point of reference in establishing some form of benchmark for our e-learning environment, templates for e-learning development and a base structure for our project, including:
• Your guide to social e-learning
• Research
• Designing (and implementing) e-learning
• E-gems webconferencing sessions
• E-leaning for industry
• E-learning Innovations blog
• Innovate and Integrate
• ARED
• Flex e-News.
We also reviewed some of the other WA Framework projects in consideration for use by other areas within our portfolio.
We engaged in a number of workshops offered by the Framework and more recently, presented our project at the Innovate08 conference on e-learning in Perth, an event organised by the Framework.

What was done

We developed a facilitation model to suit the Business and Management Portfolio of Central TAFE that can be utilised by other users willing to adapt the model and templates for their own requirements.
Our project essentially consolidated all researched information to create a working template in order to provide high facilitation to meet our students training needs. The outcome is expected to contribute to lower attrition, higher engaged and more motivated students with an increased MLCR (module load completion rates) leading to increase in competencies.
One of the primary key outcomes is that we are hoping that the quality and consistency of online training will improve, as well as also naturally increasing the knowledge, skills and awareness of teachers throughout our portfolio, and ultimately, the institute.
The model looks at timing, delivery methods, expectations and staff requirements including personal attributes in order to provide professional development for teachers in how to deliver an online course.
The model, initially set up for the Business and Management Portfolio, has gained favourable recognition throughout Central TAFE for its simplicity and flexibility, as it can be used for the training of students from Certificate III to Diploma level and even advance Diploma with a blended model of delivery.
The project team presented their findings and model to the Academic Board of Central TAFE on 4 December 2008. The group was made up of academic staff from both middle and senior management and from this the team hope to gain widespread acceptance of the model as a key driver in embedding e-learning in Central TAFE and as part of the colleges future planning.

Benefits experienced by lecturers and learners

The project has increased e-learning awareness and generated a high-degree of enthusiasm in teaching staff. The project team are currently engaged in progressing
e-learning within the portfolio whilst being a positive advocate throughout Central TAFE.
Several staff members are now actively engaged in using WebCT and have realised the potential for ongoing development of this resource. They have discovered and are still discovering the potential for the practical online use of e-learning as a training tool and wish to get involved in opening up discussion groups.
Two trainees were in areas not physically accessible by our traineeship team in (one on Christmas Island and one in Esperance) Both trainees have now accessed and used this facility and e-portfolios have been established for them to provide evidence towards their qualification.
We believe that organisations can benefit from this project as we have developed a model based on best practice through facilitating an online course for the public training provider environment.

Lessons learnt

While the facilitation model is still in its infancy and is currently being used to develop a number of online courses delivered by the Business and Management Portfolio, it has been monitored by each of the individual staff members through an interview process of both their needs and students profiles.
For the trainee support facility, the traineeship teaching staff found the facility, content and simple model easy to follow, as can be seen from commentary from one traineeship teacher:

“My personal opinion is that this is the most innovative and real assistance we have provided for trainees in many years. In no way does this replace the need for face-to-face work with the lecturer; however, it provides a support in addition to the trainer.
The feedback I have received from those trainees who have accessed the WebCT shell is very positive. They are excited to hear of the possibilities. The reality is that time will tell if they access and utilise the information available. Again I feel that this is one more way that we are ensuring that the trainee has all the support possible”
Maxine Dashwood, Teacher/Consultant, Central TAFE

As part of the traineeship induction, the area administrator now forwards details by email to all new enrolled trainees on how to access WebCT and its current use. With a 20% uptake and continual building of this facility we can only see its reputation grow as a distinct facility that no other TAFEWA institute has at its disposal.
During the implementation stage, we found that time was predominantly an issue with only one person, the project manager, fully engaged on ensuring that the project was fully developed to the specified funding application.
However, the process has been continually reviewed by six of the participants in that they have a high level of input in regards to supporting their trainees. They have been very proactive in developing and updating key resources and information for the online facility.
We learnt that not everyone embraces technology easily and not all people have a ‘sense of discovery’, that of ‘having a go’, trying new ideas even if they don’t work. We found that an online facilitator must be enthusiastic, innovative and show entrepreneurship for both teaching and technology. We believe that if you are a good teacher/communicator in the classroom, this can be translated into an online environment.
Personal reflection on the project team’s own depth of knowledge, both technical and in creativity of delivery, provided a number of opportunities to learn from each other, both objectively and subjectively.
A large part of the facilitation model is centred on creative instruction. This translates into how to communicate and facilitate course content by keeping the students engaged and motivated whilst learning; and focused on achieving the positive outcome of course completion and competency.
We also learnt that there is so much information available it was initially difficult to focus on the outcomes, as continual research kept taking the team off into different directions and opened up other opportunities whilst diluting the potential for a positive outcome of the project. We had to keep focusing on the two primary outcomes of the project, that of a facilitation model suitable for us (Central TAFE) and due consideration for what our students need.
One of the initial team members, who undertook the facilitation course offered by Gipps TAFE, is solely involved in overseeing RPL (recognition of prior learning) for our portfolio and is preparing to develop RPL checklists and materials that can be put into a similar template for enrolled students undertaking RPL evidence assessments.

Outcomes

Through the Business Management E-learning Project the outcomes have been substantial. Time was given to develop a practical and usable resource with the production of two WebCT shells significantly populated with units of competency, checklists, web links and unit resources to assist trainees in the field learn and develop their career pathways.
A workable facilitation model has been developed and will be used as a template to train current and future online facilitators. This also includes updating and developing their current online courses along our facilitation guidelines.
The project has been highlighted to senior management about the potential for the whole of institutes’ strategic future, and significant, proactive planning for embedding e-learning is being highly considered.
The Central TAFE Traineeship Apprenticeship Group has offered the WebCT shells as workable templates to each of the 12 portfolios for their own use in developing their own areas of expertise.
There is an enthused trail of teaching staff now considering what they can provide to their students next year. Two have already initiated the development of wikis, with a third teacher having developed a new course for the Diploma of Human Resources based on a Practice Firm model. We have had a degree of input into instilling our new found knowledge through mentoring of these staff members.
We updated the Diploma of Project Management online course with a complete makeover of interactive and participative activities, complemented by podcasting, use of Mind Meister, journaling and using community building skills of Instructional Intelligence such as Place Mats, EBS and Tribe activities.
In our advocacy, we have been approached by the VET Coordinator for rural schools to assist rural teaching staff gain further professional development qualifications by providing a TAA (Teaching and Assessment) course online to aid schools with their VET programs.
The Professional Development and Training Unit at Western Australia Police Academy was impressed with our model a copy of the presentation (Innovate08) was requested to consider using within and as part of their future training programs.
The project has had a very high-degree of success, from the 116 current trainees enrolled with some utilising the Trainee Support online facility.
Of the six traineeship assessors (teachers) all are reasonably competent in the use and promotion of the facility. Half admitted to not being very computer literate, but have embraced the facility when visiting the workplace and requiring additional support whilst assessing their trainees.
The other portal, Workbased Training, being used is an open sourced promotional tool to industry with username and password offered as a glimpse into their (supervisors) trainees and the expectations of resources and support. This is further complemented by providing contact information and a feedback facility to continue its development.

Link to outcomes
Business Management WebCT Login: s04guestct Password: password

Future directions

We have been encouraged by the take-up and enthusiasm from both the trainees and teaching staff. Future developments that have been highlighted include the expansion of resources, facilitation, discussion scheduling and development of e-portfolios.
The Central TAFE Traineeship Apprenticeship Group have expressed their interest for using the WebCT shells as workable templates for other portfolios in the institute and for each portfolio to develop their own material and resources.

Acknowledgements

This is a Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Central TAFE, with seed funding from the national training system's e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework).

For more information

Ros Howell
Learning Portfolio Manager
Central TAFE, Perth
Phone: (08) 9427 1249
Email: ros.howell@central.wa.edu.au

Keith Critchett
Project Manager
Central TAFE, Perth
Phone: (08) 9427 1235
Email: keith.critchett@central.wa.edu.au

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