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WA10EL464 - Facilitat-e

Project under development on behalf of the Central Institute of Technology, Perth

Executive Summary

This aim of this project was to explore and review the different personal and individual classroom practices and strategies promoted by other lecturers for cooperative and engaged learning in the classroom and their possible adaptation for use in online delivery and learning.
Previous personal experience has led me to believe that an engaged learner in an online course has a higher level of completion than those who are self-paced learners. And the level of participation seems to be congruent with facilitation. So engaging the learner using different tools, techniques and strategies should increase the possibility of a successful outcome for both the organisation and student alike.

There already exists a number of strategies, tactics and student engagement practices modelled for classroom learning under titles such as Instructional Intelligence and De Bona’s Six Hats to name but a few.
This project aims to add to the existing body of knowledge for the online practitioners and the wider educational community. There were interested lecturers from the Business and Management portfolio and communities of practice that opted to participate and work together to improve online delivery and learning.

The challenge was to see if the type of delivery lecturers provide in their classrooms with face-to-face engagement practices and if these could be adapted into an online course by useful consideration of applicable software, available technology and a degree of instructional design.

Engagement material was developed, trialled and adjusted for online delivery and new material researched on the internet and recorded in a collaborative Wikispace (http://onlineengagement.wikispaces.com/). The new student engagement resources were then developed further by using a simple template and posted as New Resources.

In line with the 2009 Central TAFE vision statement ‘College aims to be recognised as an innovative, creative and sought after deliverer of vocational education and training solutions locally, nationally and internationally’ - our initial aim was to be innovative in our approach to developing new resources for which we have been reasonably successful given some limitations.

A number of new resources were developed and presented on the Wiki for anyone wishing to use this resource for the benefit of engaging students in an online course or collaborative environment, and can be used as a central source after completing this project.

Background

The Central Institute of Technology (formerly Central TAFE) is Western Australia's first post-secondary education institution having run its first classes on 16 May 1900. It is also one of Australia’s largest VET colleges, whereby Central trains more than 25,000 students, including 1300 international students.

Central also offer around 400 nationally accredited courses in the areas of:
  • Business, Management and Finance
  • Creative and Digital (Art, Design and Media; Information Technology and Information Services)
  • Engineering and Building
  • English and Community Access
  • Health and Community Services
  • Resources and Science
  • Sport and Education
  • Tourism and Languages

Central's vision ‘Aims to be recognised as an innovative, creative and sought after deliverer of vocational education and training solutions locally, nationally and internationally’ which has led to the implementation of a new online development section within Central complemented by a head of e-learning and several e-learning mentors. Central’s shift into online delivery has heralded a number of issues that have been identified. For instance, a minimum time-frame in which to undertake professional development training. Without deliberate training, understanding facilitation methods and minimal student engagement knowledge, there is little scope of moving forward with their vision, in this context, for online courses.

The project team were chosen due to their current use of technology to deliver their courses in an online environment. The members used their own classroom student engagement practices and posted these on the Wiki site to see if they could be adapted for use as an online engagement activity.

As can be noted above, the team members have varied interests and digital literacy, but as a working group, our aim is to develop our own resources and share these with our peers and the wider online community and to continue contributing to the Wiki site with future resources and engagement tools.

The project

We will provide resources, guidelines and activities to engage students in online learning.
We will work with other online lecturers and trainers to assist, develop and trial new concepts, ideas and techniques and to review different classroom practices, including models such as Instructional Intelligence as a series of instructional concepts and strategies for promoting cooperative and engaged learning and their possible adaptation for use in online delivery and learning.
Current knowledge and experience has shown that an engaged learner in an online course has a higher level of completion than those who are self-directed learners; and the level of participation seems to be congruent with engagement through facilitation.
So engaging the learner using different tools, techniques and strategies should increase the possibility of a successful outcome for both the organisation and student alike. Initial presentation:

Rationale of the project

This project will also examine and trial whether an improvement in online teaching using techniques, strategies, practices and activities already promoted in a face-to-face class environment can increase student engagement.
Having undertaken a number of projects, observed, learned and participated in a vast array of online activities, both professionally and for project development I have noticed a missing element in the ability to use purposeful classroom practices of student engagement activities in an online environment. This includes student engagement activities similar in context to establishing a lecturer/student relationships developed through team building and collaborative participation or in meeting the individual students’ needs.
The TAFE system is recognised and more synonymous with having more school leaving students who are unsure which career pathway of continuous learning they wish to undertake, and therefore, require a higher level of lecturing, discipline, facilitation, mentoring, motivating and engagement activities. The relevancy here is a higher level of classroom engagement requirement and a hands-on approach with emphasis on practicality with more intent on teaching vocational skills.
This is contrast to the manner in which Universities deliver their teaching, as they provide a more transfer of information approach in that the rights of learning are passed onto the student and their ability as proactive participants in the learning process.
Online delivery generally known as e-learning is really a paradigm shift in teaching from classroom delivery through the use of technology for students who do not have the ability to attend classes, those remote students including international students, and people in the current workforce wishing to upgrade their credentials and/or qualifications as well as for professional development reasons.This project is centred on the learning requirements of students who wish to learn in an online environment yet who still require facilitation, mentoring, lecturing, learning all of which are coupled to engaging and building a relationship with each student in an online environment.


Project research

We also conducted some research into the project both current and historically in order to fully understand that as a group we were not replicating something that been previously undertaken. We also found that on researching engagement practices that there were more than 10,000 current books offered through Amazon.com on e-learning, facilitation techniques, engagement practices and many other books about delivering education and training online.
However, we stayed within the context of the TAFE system and with the level of knowledge we provide to the student cohort we understand in providing a good service.

Why is the project needed

E-learning is now embedded as a result of a previous funded project increasing the need to develop and nurture the future strategy of Centrals' focus on delivering a better training option in online delivery. The following shows where we've been and how we intend to move forward.
Dedicated e-learning staff employed at the Institute, including six mentors and a Leader Online learning and Innovative Practice:
  1. Budget allocated to development of online learning resources and educational technologies
  2. E-learning integrated into Institute business planning, with priorities set
  3. Review of IT services conducted to ensure infrastructure can support e-learning
At the coal face:
  1. Number of students with access to online resources has doubled in the period April - Oct 2009
  2. 74 e-learning projects funded during 2009
  3. e-Portfolio trial conducted
  4. Increasing use of audio recording/videoing and Podcasting of lectures
  5. Growth in the use of Elluminate
  6. Improved student outcomes in online Diploma of Project Management through focus on facilitation
  7. Improved student engagement through the use of social technologies in Cert IV and Diploma of Public Relations

What are the Institute's future goals in developing e-learning?

  • A mix of high profile online developments involving diploma/advance diploma qualifications to increase Central's online brand.
  • KPI to have an online presence for every course by end of 2011 plus increasing number of courses incorporating enhanced e-learning environments - using collaboration, assessment, communication tools and containing interactive learning materials.
  • Develop organisational capability to sustain e-learning and mainstream innovation in educational technologies through professional development.
If the project wasn't funded, the same project 'might' have gone ahead and would have been developed in an ad-hoc fashion with little to no direction and more reactive than proactive. The funding has enabled direction, project management and a required outcome that is shareable by not only team members, but complements Central's future focus. This also includes providing resources to the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.

What was done

Time-tabling was and continues to be an issue as time-dependent participation of team members needs to be included in the lecturing roster which is easier said than done. Though the outcomes are generally good, it took a great deal of asking to ensure that some of the lecturers would be available to participate.

We had an induction day for all project work, and some of the resources looked amazing. Copyright issues always nag at the back of my mind, but know this is an imperative part of the project's final outcome and we have 'employed' Nalynn from the college library to also participate in this process of ensuring complicity with all legal requirements of copyright issues.
We continue to process the development of material and speaking to others who have developed ideas and strategies to connect and engage online students, so the process has started.
Speaking with other team members and organising a schedule of meetings, events, trials, etc. was easier said than done as we are all predominantly time-tabled, so makes this an interesting starting point to ensure we are all 'singing off the same song sheet'.

Time management of other team members continues to be an issue whereby the allocation for lecturing times, doesn't always fit in with meetings, etc. So to overcome this I managed a meeting or rather a focus group a few weeks ago to get everyone on the 'same page', literally. I have now started a wiki page which can be found at http://onlineengagement.wikispaces.com/.
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The Wiki was used as a tool for collaboration whereby each lecturer was able to post their ideas and developed resources. Image of collaborative online Wiki.






In order to understand student engagement, this will be used with a constructivist approach to enable lecturers to understand what it feels like to be the student in participating, engagement, time-management, etc.
The following are some sample images of work already developed and where a template can be used for future activities:
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The following are online surveys to help the participating lecturers offer an insight into their own perspective on issues on student engagement that included:
Online student engagement resources

Technology Survey

Barriers to Effective Delivery in an Online Environment

Responses from the online student survey - this was undertaken to get an understanding from a students perspective of thier thoughts and ideas of online learning and delivery.

The focus group was recorded based on Barriers to Effective Delivery survey as noted above. The transcript and data analysis can be found here:
and
There were several personal one-on-one interviews with the participants that also provided an insight into issues about online delivery.

We also conducted an online questionnaire using Monkey Survey and the following responses offered yet another insight into lecturer's understanding of online student engagement practices:


Lessons learnt

Simple issues that have come to the fore are the appreciation of each team members time in that as I want to move the project forward in my time, its not always convenient for someone else. Patience is a key requirement as an online facilitator.
I have tried to make the process of developing material and gathering of information as simple as possible. On the Wiki page we have developed templates, examples, etc for each lecturer to utilise and even this is sometimes overlooked.
We have had several meetings and one focus group. As the project coordinator, I interviewed three of the lecturers and am currently developing a survey for each lecturer to send through to their own students to investigate the use and applications of online engagement activities that they enjoy or find tedious. Due to other commitments, time-poor management and daily operational issues I find that the same passion and enthusiasm cannot always be transferred to other team members.
We all think differently about the approach and mechanisms of a project and its coordination but none-the-less, a general positive project working towards a final outcome.

The student survey was sent via email, I received approximately 36 out of a possible 57 responses. Some were ineligible, however one lecturer consolidated his subject area students responses from the Diploma of Human Resources, which proved invaluable.

The practices of lecturers in the classroom had to be creative in their thinking and delivery and above all, engaging with the student to enable interesting learning.

The pedagogy of a social constructivist approach to working with the participants enabled the development of a Wikispace which was populated by all the participants. The ability for each of the participants to share their knowledge with like-minded people assisted in the development of resources that can and will be utilised after this project has finished.

One team member offered the idea that it wasn’t the use of technology, but in the manner in which a facilitator communicates. This included the writing of information, style and language etc that basically substitutes for other abilities to engage students such as body language, close proximity, smiling and other personal student/lecturers relational building elements.

Another team member suggested a number of tutorial methods of learning about teaching online that encompassed the facilitators different learning styles with a ‘how to…’ series of instructions such as vidcasting, podcasting, written, online training using webinars and Elluminate. The instruction and material knowledge would be the same and only slightly altered when considering the utilising the many different channels of communication.
The collective group suggested that now that the Wikispace has been established that they [the team members] continue to use this resource and continue building the site and sharing the opportunity with other like-minded and future practitioners of e-learning.
They would also continue to develop new resources themselves now that the development of material has been initiated.

I found that in recording the focus group and conducting some personal interviews I was able to focus more on the questions, participate in the conversation and then measure and analyse their feedback with some very good and thought-provoking input as was noted in the Focus Group Analysis document (see above). This provided me with some insight into my peers current situation and issues relating to online facilitation and student engagement practices.

The results and project outputs

From a learner’s perspective:
  • The learner will have a great participation in their online course due to an increased level of facilitation and student engagement activities that will be employed as part of course delivery.
  • We will ensure that the course development does not impose on the learners’ ability to undertake the course at their own pace, but believe that motivation through student contact, facilitation and online engagement activities are there to 'provide support' for a successful outcome.
From a lecturer’s perspective:
  • The benefit to the lecturer is the continual achievement of a successful student outcome and positive feedback.
  • The lecturer is armed with a new insight of tools of tactics, strategies and engagement activities to assist them in their daily operational delivery of an online course.
  • The advocacy associated with the learners enjoying their academic time and sharing their experiences.
  • Future new enrolments due to learners’ advocacy as part of a long-term marketing strategy of being the best College in online delivery.
  • Embedding e-learning in each and every course we deliver.
  • Gaining a sound reputation within industry circles as providing a flexible approach to learning and training.
The project aims to provide a more flexible and engaged approach to the sustainability of delivering online courses, now and in the future to those students who have little to no geographic capability of attending a face-to-face classroom for their learning. This also includes the use and knowledge base of niche areas of subject topic provided by lecturers and industry representatives alike. The value of developing and trialling guidelines and activities for current and future online lecturing staff grants them the capacity to engage their learners is really of paramount importance. Once developed and trialled the main objective is to then share these new resources for the greater cause of enabling and allowing the 'learner to learn and the teacher to teach.'Currently, some of the lecturers have already used and embedded some of the engagement strategies and tactics resources into their online courses.

Outputs will include:

1. Case study report – researched and noted response by both lecturing staff and students alike as to the use of innovative classroom activities and strategies that work within an online environment.
2. A set of engagement and interactivity and engagement resources that can be utilised for anyone currently involved or new to the online delivery.
This will be provided by feedback from lecturing staff as the type of resources that have had both positive and negative responses and all variables reported. And feedback from students as to their initial expectations and their thoughts, ideas and interpretation of the manner in which they were engaged in online delivery

Reflections and suggestions

There were some limitations to the project such as the level of knowledge and technological skills for some of the participants to engage in this project. See Technology Survey.


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http://prezi.com/4kxjxjrecs5k/an-e-learning-journey/
This presentation was compiled using Prezi for which Keith Critchett presented at the Team 10 E-learning Conference on Friday 22 November 2010 in Perth. The presentation was developed based on having received funding for three consecutive years from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework and showcasing the three projects based on the theme: The Time Machine. An entertaining and sometimes, nostalgic shift from the beginnings of distance education to current daily e-learning operations to the final closure on a time machine. Enjoy.

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.

Acknowledgment

This is a Western Australia E-learning Innovations project output, developed by the Central Institute of Technology with seed funding from the Framework.

For more information

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Keith Critchett
Project Coordinator (Lecturer)
Facilitat-e on behalf of the Central Institute of Technology, Perth
Website: Central website
Phone: (08) 9427 1235
Mob: 0404 850 418
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: www.flexiblelearning.net.au