E-learning Solutions

Central West TAFE WA 2008

Background

As the major provider of vocational education and training (VET) in the Midwest region of Western Australia (WA), Central West TAFE services clients from a large regional area. There is a need to utilise a range of innovative and flexible delivery methods to increase and improve client access to programs both on and off campus.
The college has a long history of delivering training via a number of e-learning strategies including using Elluminate web conferencing technology and WebCT for online course delivery. A variety of strategies to meet clients needs are being implemented with further alternative study options being made available such as delivery and assessment in the workplace, recognition of prior learning (RPL) and a blended delivery approach that offers the best of all worlds. In some sections of the college, e-learning has become a way of doing business, standard practice. Lecturers in these sections promote e-learning as a practical solution to the time and distance constraints they are confronted with, for example in traditional trades block training.
Other areas of the college have been dabbling in e-learning but it has not become part of everyday practice. The challenge for Central West TAFE was to move beyond this. The college has strategically focused over the next three years to move from traditional based training to a more work based learning and assessment strategy. The strategy is to implement client friendly RPL practices with e-learning options for innovative gap training concentrating, on the higher AQF levels and clients who are working in industry. For the college to meet the existing training and assessment requirements, as well as service new opportunities in the Midwest region, it is critical it evolves into a more flexible training provider that embraces innovation.
The college has used the Innovate and Integrate research as a strategy to embed e-learning across the entire organisation through the use of an incubator model that replicates the successes already experienced in some industry areas. Mentors with experienced e-learning successes have been matched with key staff members in the mining, science, training and assessment and community services sections to provide practical hands on experience as well as training and solutions that meet their needs.
The key focus for the project development was e-learning gap training for the client group of mature age workers that have significant skills, but with a need to update skills and knowledge to keep pace with the increasing demands of the workforce. These clients are typically regional and remote workers who are stretched for time and cannot attend traditional classroom based instruction due to their work commitments. These clients have benefited from access to relevant training without the constraints of specific times and locations.
The project team has developed a variety of products including learning resources, teaching resources, learning management system content, course materials, multimedia resources and assessment tools. All of these resources are being used by our lecturers to empower individual learners and to build on our current training and assessment services in order to meet our diverse client needs.
The college has implemented strategies to improve our processes for the administration of flexible learning and developed products that are more engaging for learners in the selected qualifications. Easy checklists for lecturers to follow ensure they develop learning resources within their learning management system, Blackboard Campus Edition 6 (CE6), that meet the high quality standards the college has set. Use of EDNA and Teacher Tube to allow students to access course information online has ensured advice and information is given in a timely manner. This has also freed up the lecturers concerned to develop other learning products. The use of selected mentors and facilitators in the core industry areas has enabled the promotion of e-learning strategies more effectively. Lecturers are getting hands on help as they need it. This has resulted in other lecturers requesting support and starting to utilise e-learning strategies. The ripple effect is beginning to occur.

The Framework connection

This is a 2008 Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Central West TAFE, with seed funding from the national training system's e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework).
The 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.
This project has used and customised a variety of Framework products and services, including accessing relevant Flexible Learning Toolboxes (Toolboxes) and LORN (Learning Object Repository Network) products and customising these for the local context. The project team members also used the Framework’s ARED tool to develop learning sequences. The project team accessed from the Framework and abided by the e-learning technical standards for VET to ensure anything developed is able to be utilised by others. The project team accessed research and benchmarking information to ensure the team is well informed of new developments or directions. This has included participation in e-Gems Elluminate conferences, either live or by listening to recorded sessions that were appropriate to what was happening with our project.
The Innovate and Integrate Embedding Innovative Practices report has been used to develop a three year strategy to embed e-learning into Central West TAFE. This project forms just part of the strategy. Particular aspects of this research such as the enablers for embedding innovative e-learning checklist, the four phase strategy for embedding, Case studies and the innovation styles profile have been considered in the development of the strategy for Central West TAFE.
Other products from the Framework that we have used during the project are:
• E-standards for Training
• A guide to working with M-learning Standards (report)
• Access to Bandwidth Project (2007)
• Basic technical requirements for commonly used VET e-learning applications (report)
• Designing e-learning
• Copyright Kitchen
• QTImPlayer
• VET e-learning content development guidelines (report)
• E- learning for Industry.
Seven members from the project team attended the Innovate 08 Conference in Perth on the 17 November 2008 and this inspired the project team to refocus goals for 2009.
The college has also received significant support from the WA Framework team, including general ongoing support for the project, professional development, and support in the use of learning objects and Toolbox materials. In addition to this we have also received considerable support from WestOne Services, without which it would have been difficult to achieve many of our outcomes.
The project team presented at the Innovate 08 Conference on how the team had used the Innovate and Integrate research to begin to embed e-learning into the college. The team shared the project’s EDNA groups URL so that others could access team working documents. The team demonstrated how they had developed information products online, as well as provided hard copies of examples of products developed during the project.
The student orientation module that was developed for CE6 college clients has also been provided to WestOne to modify for the entire WA sector to use.

What was done

The project has integrated good practice in e-learning by utilising the e-standards and various other guidelines, documentation and products available from the Framework to ensure products developed meet high quality standards. The professional development has been provided by experts from the Framework and other locally recognised experts who have contributed and been involved in many Framework projects over recent years.
Our e-learning project has been embedded into our organisation’s business strategy and beyond the life of the project through the development of a three year plan. This includes a flexible learning strategy, an e-learning professional development plan that is embedded in the workforce development plan and the delivery of the TAA40104 Training and Assessment qualification to internal lecturing staff.
The college’s current Strategic Plan focuses on increasing the number of qualifications gained through RPL. This required the organisation to also build our capability to provide gap training in the workplace through innovative means, including the use of e-learning as a learning and assessment strategy. The Strategic Plan also focuses on the delivery of higher AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework) qualifications through work-based learning and assessment strategies. These strategies also include the implementation of e-learning strategies to provide greater flexibility to the clients who are working and completing study at the same time.
This project clearly targeted the higher AQF qualifications that had potential for growth and were to be delivered and assessed in the workplace, with the gap training being provided through e-learning strategies. As this is an achievable outcome to continue to provide growth in a decreasing market, it is a sustainable practice beyond the life of the project.

Benefits experienced by the organisation and the clients

The benefits to the college of developing the three year strategy are that there will be an increase in uptake of training and assessment in the identified market areas, which will also flow on to other areas as a result of the planned move towards embedding e-learning strategies across the college. This will help move the college’s target markets towards more lucrative industries.
The college’s focus is also shifting from primarily servicing school leavers to provide opportunities for a more diversified student population, a market that has diminished over recent years with the country’s strong economy and high employment rates in the Midwest region. This trend has also impacted on the profile and abilities of the students that have been accessing traditional face to face training on campus, with student completion rates declining, as well as the number of high level AQF qualifications being offered also decreasing as a result.
The college has begun to enhance its capacity to access students who are in full time work and provide RPL for current work skills and identify gap training that can be conducted through e-learning modes. The RPL tools, work-based assessments and gap training has been closely mapped to work tasks occurring naturally in the workplace and has created efficiencies in the training and assessment process for both the clients and the organisation’s trainers and assessors.
Within the targeted industry areas our clients are now starting to have greater access to training methods that have not previously been available to them. This training and assessment is also being tailored to mirror client’s core work tasks, simplifying the training and assessment process for them. This means the training and assessment is now also in a context that is easy for them to relate to, therefore allowing them more opportunity for success.
Clients are also not required to attend face to face workshops as often, if at all, providing them with more flexibility to meet their other work and family, community commitments. For the college, this also provides more flexibility with staffing, as industry experts can be employed on a casual basis, a strategy which builds on and takes advantage of the important strong linkages between the organisation and the industries within our region.


Lessons Learnt

Some advice and tips for others, based on the team’s experiences throughout the project,include:
1. Make sure you get management involved – we formed a Steering Committee of key staff within the organisation who could champion for us
2. Incorporate the services of a skilled and flexible project mentor if possible
3. Search for and be sure to use existing relevant Framework products
4. Remain flexible throughout the duration of the project and retain the option of shifting and re-clarifying goals and allow for movements in staffing within the organisation and the impact this can have on the project
5. Draw upon the expertise in your state/territory’s E-learning Innovations project team for support
6. Take advantage of the opportunity to participate in any professional development that will broaden the team’s ideas and open up new possibilities in e-learning (for example, the Framework’s regular e-Gems webconferencing sessions)
7. Keep looking out for any new innovations that may help you achieve your project goals.


The results

The project has achieved outcomes across several different levels, from the establishment of better support systems across the college, to the improvement of skills within the project team and the development of a range of e-learning products that meet the varied demands of our regional location, the targeted industries and the project’s client groups.

Firstly, the team now have an established Steering Committee made up of key staff members who can support the embedding of e-learning across the organisation through their various roles, including the Manager of Information Systems, the Director of Academic Training Services, the Academic Director of Mining, Engineering, Transport and Arts and the Principal Lecturer of Quality Training and Delivery. The team also have a clear three year plan to provide focus on as it moves through each phase of the embedding e-learning process. In addition, the team now have a range of new e-learning support resources for staff, including ’How to‘ guides and pre-delivery checklists and best-practice examples to help lecturers who are trying to implement new e-learning strategies. A CE6 (WebCT) Users group has also been formed. This consists of a group of lecturers who meet regularly to provide support to each other, as well as keeping the College’s CE6 Administrator informed about any issues they may be having using CE6.

Secondly, the skills amongst the project team members have improved significantly in their understanding of, and their ability to use new and alternative technologies and tools to develop and implement e-learning products. The team have been exposed to the many products available through the Framework and with support from the project’s mentor and facilitator have had hands-on experience in developing e-learning resources to suit the requirements of their individual contexts. The ‘ripple effect’ plan is to now use these new e-learning champions to support the next group of lecturers who are required to move towards using an e-learning delivery mode to meet the demands of industry and their clients.

Finally, the organisation has benefitted directly from the number of new products that have been developed during this project. These include:
• The development of a CE6 product for the TAA40104 qualification that is customised for the Central West TAFE lecturing staff context. This includes LORN objects from the Training and Assessment (TAA) Toolbox and learning objects developed with ARED. The TAA Toolbox has also become an integral resource in the delivery of the qualification to external clients who do not necessarily have the benefit of experience, or employment within an RTO.
• A College Professional Development resource repository has been developed in CE6. This contains copies of all professional development presentations and workshop materials, as well as links to relevant e-learning websites and resources. Originally this resource was for the project team’s use, but the value in such a resource being made available college wide was quickly identified. The team now have plans to move the resources to a more accessible open-source platform such as Moodle.
• A ’Getting Started with CE6‘ student CE6 orientation Learning Module, which is embedded in all college CE6 course master shells that lecturers use as a base template to develop their own customised online courses. This resource has also been shared with the Blackboard CE6 team at WestOne, so they can adapt it and‘professionalise’ it, so that it will be available to all WA RTOs that use CE6 as a learning management system. Easily accessible pre-enrolment and RPL information resources such as ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ podcasts and digital stories for the Certificate IV in Occupation Health and Safety and the Certificate IV in Teacher Assistant qualifications. These web-based digital information resources currently hosted by EDNA and Teacher Tube are readily available, as links on our college website, for any potential clients who wish to find out more about a qualification prior to enrolling.
• The Laboratory Operations qualifications have also been totally restructured to focus on the knowledge aspects of the qualifications that would not be achievable on the job. The content has also been ‘modularised’, so it may be utilised at different qualification levels across the Science delivery area.
• The Certificate III in Teacher Assistant resources have been enhanced to provide new interactive material that is more engaging and addresses the full range of learning styles. The Certificate IV in Occupational Health and Safety qualification specifically delivered to mining clientele has also been enhanced by the shift away from textbased resources and the use of more interactive and appealing learning materials.
In addition to the above achievements, overall there is now a greater level of college support for lecturers to be able to use a wider choice of e-learning products, for example, lecturers are now able to choose if they prefer to use Moodle or Blackboard CE6 as their learning management system. Our Information Systems Manager is also willing to investigate the feasibility of any new e-learning products that we identify, as long as we are able to clearly demonstrate their validity with a concise business case.
Another successful outcome of this project has been the raising of awareness and the enthusiasm for the use of e-learning strategies and resources across all other sections of the college. For example, clients from industry currently enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Children’s Services are now using CE6 resources and collaboration tools to compliment their face-to-face workshops as a result of that lecturer’s interest in the Teacher Assistant e-learning project team member’s work. In another instance, relevant resources from LORN have been imported into a CE6 shell and the blog discussion tools have been used to engage a VET In Schools student group. This innovative model also has the potential to be used successfully with other industry area VET In Schools groups and we are planning to expand on that example next year. Other industry areas that have also approached us as a result of seeing the potential for e-learning resources to improve their capacity to meet their client’s needs include Hairdressing and Automotive. The plan is to support these lecturers as part of our ‘ripple effect’ strategy for next year.


For more information

Kath Wallace
Principal Lecturer Quality Training and Delivery
Central West TAFE
Phone: (08) 9956 2707
Email: kath.wallace@durack.edu.au

Cheryl Galloway
Principal Lecturer Curriculum
Central West TAFE
Phone: (08) 9956 2724
Email: cheryl.galloway@durack.edu.au
Project URL: http://www.groups.edna.edu.au/course/view.php?id=1903

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