Hand-e-Fit, WA, 2008

Private RTO

Fitness

The Australian YMCA Institute of Education and Training / YMCA Perth


1. Background

In 2007 the Department of Sport and Recreation undertook research into the effectiveness of current training opportunities for fitness industry employees in rural and regional WA. The need for well trained fitness industry professionals is self evident when viewed in the context of the much discussed ‘obesity epidemic’ and the need to lead more active lifestyles. They concluded that there were significant gaps in the standard of training available to this sector, and have worked with the YMCA to champion a new approach to improve the standard of training. The new approach incorporates a significant e-learning component, using well established technologies (eg Moodle).
This new program had been established since the beginning of 2008, but we continued to look for opportunities to improve the current offering. The obstacles faced by distance learners are well documented and this new approach to delivery and assessment, enhanced by technology, will improve the outcomes for learners and their industry but it will still lack some of the benefits of having an instructor face-to-face with the learner, demonstrating practical skills. It is very costly to regularly send a trainer to learners in regional locations. This Innovations project proposed to put an instructor in the hand of the learner, allowing them to access demonstrations of practical skills in a just-in-time fashion, in their work setting.
The proposed clients for this project were fitness industry employees working in regional areas, in the case of this project, the Gascoyne. The participant group were already engaged in the industry, mostly working full-time, and as such were unable to take advantage of traditional learning pathways (e.g. TAFE) where they were available. They required a flexible training solution that would still be able to provide the richness and depth of learning required in this important field.
The proposed project combined with an existing Cert III in Fitness qualification to enhance the quality of delivery through just-in-time demonstrations of various practical aspects of working in a gym. The use of a hand held multimedia capable device and properly placed RFIDs aimed to assist in the delivery of the units;
SRFFIT005B Apply basic exercise science to exercise instruction
SRFFIT006B Use and maintain core fitness industry equipment
SRFFIT014A Provide advice to clients on the application of basic anatomy and physiology to fitness programs
SRFGYM002B Instruct fitness activity skills to a client using fitness equipment
SRXGYM002B Customise gym instructional skills to include specific areas of expertise current in the fitness industry
This project aimed to provide learners with a source of easily accessible multimedia content to demonstrate correct and safe practice with common gym equipment through the intelligent deployment of technology. In brief terms, the participants used a hand held device (a Nokia mobile phone) to view multimedia objects (in a standards compliant format) that were triggered by Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID) placed on the different pieces of equipment in the gym. The aim of the Hand-e-fit project was to bring together a number of existing technologies to give participants a trainer that they could carry in their pocket.

2. The Framework connections

The project hasn’t directly used any previous products, but the inspiration for Hand-e-Fit is a direct result of the work done by others under the banner of the Framework. The idea and ground work for this project relied very heavily on a number of previous Framework projects, most notably the work done over a number of years by Marcus Ragus and others, such as Ian Whitehouse, Daniel Dacey, and Sam Meredith. The works that we have primarily relied upon in developing this project include:
• 2004 New Practices in Flexible Learning: Mobile learning: handheld innovations in flexible learning
• E-learning using radio frequency identification (RFID) device scoping study, November 2006
• 2007 New Practices in Flexible Learning: Bringing on mobile learning: handheld innovations in flexible learning workshop recording (October 2007)
• Training Forum 2007 - Emerging Technologies workshop
The final technological solution for the project was actually provided by GlobalNet ICT, a consultancy headed up by Ian Whitehouse.
The fundamental objective of the project was to create an easily replicable technological solution, which could be deployed with ease into any number of contexts. By using existing, and essentially ‘off the shelf’ technologies, we have been able to achieve that. It is this information that has already been shared with the Framework in a significant way – exactly what we have used, where we got it from, and who helped us.
We believe that the presentations made to date are variously available to the VTE community through the Framework. We are also more than willing, and already have, responded to queries from other VTE providers as to how we have achieved what we have to date.

3. Knowledge Sharing

The project has already been presented in a number of forums with a view to disseminating the learning, including in a conference context. The Project Manager presented Hand-e-Fit and its outcomes to a national audience through the Framework’s Inspiring Innovations: national e-learning highlights in November. Hand-e-Fit was also presented as part of a session at Innovate 08, WA’s face-to-face Framework conference event.
There has been a deal of additional interest from across Australia. We have already answered a number of additional queries via phone and email that have resulted from the publicising of the project. This willingness to share information will continue.
The project has also been featured in the YMCA Perth newsletter which is distributed to hundreds of stakeholders across the state. The completed project is also likely to feature in the YMCA’s Annual Report for 2008-2009.
The project will be further promoted and explained throughout the YMCAs of Australia primarily via the YMCA’s Extranet. The YMCAs around Australia that operate as part of the national RTO meet regularly via telephone, and biannually have a face-to-face Campus Manager’s meeting at which major operational issues and developments are discussed. The Hand-e-Fit project will form part of the agenda at the next meeting.
As noted above, the project has already been communicated to a large number of interested parties through conference presentations, both state based and national. Information has also been provided to the Framework to allow the project to be featured on the Frameworks’ E-learning Innovations Blog.
The project has also been publicised internally through the YMCA of Perth via newsletters and face-to-face meetings, and will be communicated and demonstrated to other YMCAs throughout the country at our next biannual Campus Manager’s Meeting.
Direct queries via telephone and email have also been responded to in a timely fashion. Interested parties have either been provided with additional information or pointed in the right direction in terms of sourcing additional support or information.

4. Building on essential infrastructure

Hand-e-Fit has built on the work mentioned in previous sections of this report. The outputs have been similar in so far as the intention of the project was mainly to ‘show the way’ for others. The major benefit to the framework has been the innovative use of combined technologies to create a new way of doing things. It is hoped that the legacy of the project will be the uptake of this idea and its application across a range of industries and qualifications – anywhere that having practical demonstration as part of a program is not easy due to geographical location or other factors.
It is also hoped that our work will help others to think innovatively about the use of technology in VTE. The essence of Hand-e-Fit was to apply a technological solution to a real problem. So often innovation in e-learning is driven by the technology (i.e. what can we use this technology for?). Our project was based on an existing problem, and our motivation was to find ways around that problem. One possible answer was technology, and that was what we pursued.

5. Embedding E-learning

Hand-e-Fit has demonstrated for us how existing technologies can be integrated into existing programs to enhance the learning experience for participants in our fitness programs. The aim of the project was to produce a learning aid that took advantage of the technology but was not ‘all about the technology’. This is one of the common criticisms of e-learning, that the technology takes centre stage and detracts from the learning. Whilst we may not have perfected the use of the technology in this initial iteration, we are certainly very close. With minor refinement the goal of a user friendly aid which allows the learning to shine through will be achieved.
The project also ensured, that wherever applicable, the relevant e-learning standards were applied, for example, in the file formats of the media objects used.
The Hand-e-Fit and its outcomes are currently being evaluated by the Strategic Management Group (SMG) of YMCA Perth with a view to incorporating the technology into everyday practice. Members of the SMG were also part of the project’s Advisory Group, and as such are already invested in the program and its possibilities. The aim of the evaluation is to see whether the technology might be adapted into other aspects of our training (and other) operations.
The Hand-e-Fit technology will continue to be utilised by participants of this trial as they continue through their qualification. Ongoing feedback as we refine the technology further will help us to decide on the merits of a wider application of the product.

6. Achievement.

The major outcome of the project has been the proving of the technology. The original hypothesis of the project was that the combination of technologies, both hardware and software, could be used to deliver just-in-time training to remote participants in their workplace. Whilst the end product was less than perfect (dodgy sound quality, small picture size, etc.) it did prove that the delivery vehicle was effective. Essentially, we got it to work the way that we thought it could.
In combination with getting the technology to work, we believe that we have developed a learning aid which requires no technical ability or computer literacy to use. This is an important aspect of the learning tool – its ability to present the learning without getting in the way, or creating barriers to learning through the need to understand the technology. Simply being able to wave the phone in front of a sticker on the piece of fitness equipment is the only competency required in order to access the media. Participants don’t even need to know the name of the piece of equipment, which is all taken care of for them through the use of the RFID technology.
The trial group have perhaps not benefitted significantly themselves from this new technology; rather they have made a significant contribution to the lot of those who will benefit from the use of this technology in the future. The essential gain provided by the project will be the ability to access personalised just-in-time instruction at the piece of equipment or situation, whatever the context, closely mirroring the benefits of having a real live instructor there showing you how to do it.
The project has developed a method of enhancing the learning experience for the practical aspects of programs delivered in regional areas. Whilst this may not have a major impact on the uptake of qualifications in these regions (other forms of distance delivery are available), it will certainly have a major impact on the quality of training delivered. Much of the existing training delivery, as discovered by the Department of Sport and Recreation, takes the form of fairly dry paper based programs. Hand-e-Fit contributes significantly to adding depth and richness to the content available to learners.
From a learning styles perspective, the Hand-e-Fit idea also provides an additional pathway to those who might find it difficult to learn from simply reading how to use a piece of gym equipment.
Returns on investment at this stage are not monetary, and as such are difficult to measure. The return that we are anticipating is an enhanced learning experience for regional participants. This will result in better trained and more confident gym instructors being available to the regions and country towns.
In the medium term the use of the technology may see a reduction in the cost of travel associated with training in regional areas, trainers not needing to spend as much time face-to-face with participants. This cost saving could result in overall reductions in course cost, making training more accessible to a wider range of people.
The Hand-e-Fit project empowered learners by increasing the degree of the what, how and when of accessing training content. By handing this power to learners they are able to access practical content as often as they wish, and at a time that suits them. In some instances the project has also provided them with demonstrations that without the technology they may not have been able to get access to.
It is hoped that over time the availability of the technology will increase the uptake of training in this area, as the Hand-e-Fit initiative helps to provide a more attractive pathway for those interested in achieving fitness qualifications.

7. Benchmarking

Description
Total
Total number of employees in the business/learners in the RTO
200/900
Total number of employees/learners being targeted/within the scope of the project
30
Total number of employees/learners using e-learning at the beginning of the project
0
Total number of employees/learners using e-learning at the end of the project
15
Total number of competencies/skill sets incorprating e-learning at the beginning of the project
21
Total number of competencies/skill sets incorprating e-learning at the end of the project
21

8. Resources/Outputs

Resources/output
Cross
Case Study
X
Other:
Methodology for utilizing the technology
X

9. Executive Summary

In 2007 the Department of Sport and Recreation undertook research into the effectiveness of current training opportunities for fitness industry employees in rural and regional WA . They concluded that there were significant gaps in the standard of training available to this sector, and have worked with the YMCA to champion a new approach to improve the standard of training.
The Hand-e-Fit project aimed to provide learners with a source of easily accessible multimedia content to demonstrate correct and safe practice with common gym equipment through the intelligent deployment of technology. In brief terms, the participants used a hand held device (a Nokia mobile phone) to view multimedia objects (in a standards compliant format) that were triggered by Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID) placed on the different pieces of equipment in the gym. The aim of the Hand-e-fit project was to bring together a number of existing technologies to give participants a trainer that they could carry in their pocket.
The project has been a qualified success, proving that the delivery system was practical and effective. It is hoped that this success, with essentially ‘off the shelf’ technology will encourage others to look at the application of this tool across the wider VTE sector.

For more information

Andrew Ballam
Project 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