A10EL491 - Karrayili Online Strategy


Executive Summary

Karrayili was originally established to meet the needs of its Indigenous community. The Fitzroy Valley is 350km in diameter; it comprises over fifty separate Indigenous communities that are centred on the township of Fitzroy Crossing. Initially the community's adult education needs included the ability to read and write in English. Today it is to innovatively facilitate independent economic participation. E-learning is a natural partner with Karrayili to make this possible. A fundamental e-learning success factor is its ability to allow participants to remain 'on country' whilst being able to access services that were only ever available a 'country mile' away. Economic and physical barriers are able to be overcome, e-learning offers is a cost effective training solution.

As a pilot program, this project uncovered a number of issues which encumbered what was otherwise a smooth project. Although these issues were previously taken into account, risk management came to the fore from the very start. Ultimately these issues contribute to the skills and aptitude required to manage e-training and e-assessment for remote communities in the future.

Overall Karrayili has good reason to be proud of its efforts. Given that the whole concept had never been trialled with Indigenous communities before, and that Internet bandwidth was the only dominant issue, the communities that participated were very pleased with the overall concept. This in itself offers not only offers high hopes for the continuation of e-learning, but more importantly it creates a pathway for people in remote Australia to access higher levels of training and thus opportunities and to gain vital skills which contribute to sustainable economic development. In relation to Internet speed it would be pertinent for the National Broadband Network to consider the provision of a fibre optic cable node to all remote Aboriginal communities as soon as possible.


Karrayili Adult Education centre is located in the Kimberley town of Fitzroy Crossing (2500km NE of Perth). It is a not-for-profit registered training organisation (RTO) and the only Indigenous adult education service provider servicing the communities and people of the Fitzroy Valley. There are four primary language groups in the Fitzroy Valley (Bunuba, Gooniyarndi, Walmajarri, and Wangkatjungka).Karrayili is a Walmajarri word for ‘middle aged’. In the context of the Karrayili Adult Education Centre it means a place for middle aged people to meet for educational purposes.Karrayili was established in the early 1980’s by a group of Walmajarri people who wanted to learn to read and write English. They wanted to learn to write their names so that they could sign their cheques instead of putting a cross on their cheques all the time. They wanted to learn to use western technology such as using a telephone and to better understand the letters they received from various government departments and be able to reply to these letters. Most of all, they wanted to learn to be more independent in the society they lived in.

Today, with the advent of information technology and the gradual return of Aboriginal family groups to their traditional lands, e-learning offers Aboriginal people the prospect of being able to remain 'on country' whilst gaining access to the opportunity to learn about mainstream Australian business enterprise and its economic system. This project was all about empowerment and does so through the availability of choice. It is about Aboriginal people being given the chance to gain and utilise knowledge in identified areas of personal interest and to then use this interest towards innovative remote enterprise development opportunities and associated employment experience.Karrayili's virtual classroom phase one strategy was the Karrayili's Remote Community Online Training Strategy (KRCOTS) project. It begins as assistance for remote community students to become competent in the use of the personal computer in an online learning environment. Industry specific training in identified areas of interest will be introduced to students next through the assistance of TAFE as phase two of (KRCOTS). Karrayili's role alongside TAFE in phase two is to introduce students to organisational roles and responsibilities and this is incorporated into Certificate II in Business. Phase two is to be delivered and depicted through a series of locally produced scenario videos for which it is hoped Karrayili can obtain future funding so it can be filmed. The scenes and storylines will be mapped to cover each unit's performance criteria in Certificate II in Business. The videos will be used to demonstrate how six generic day-to-day business situations affect six local Aboriginal organisations. Once filmed, the series will be video streamed in a e-learning virtual classroom environment to demonstrate Certificate II in Business and will promote effective and efficient workplace habits. Phase three is planned to introduce ongoing enterprise management training, business mentorship, support and corporate governance. The phases are cyclical.In phase one the KRCOTS project team leader is Daron Keogh and Jamie Croft is the assistant business lecturer.

What was done

How did the project commence?

It goes without saying that anything new, innovative, and different or outside the norm and can attract knockers. The project came about because the project manager’s organisation originally told them that they were not allowed to visit remote communities to deliver business training even though the demand for business skills and training was high. E-learning was a logical solution. Although this approach was new for Karrayili and for the remote Indigenous communities in the district, elsewhere it was not.

To the project manager the courses for these town sites students was always available, Karrayili would still continued to promote its courses in town and as usual student attendance continually improved, but the biggest demand for training was from community based members who could not get into town to do training.

An important part of making this online training project possible was the chance to give Karrayili's Indigenous Directors the opportunity to lead the way and to fly their organisation's flag. With their support the next task was to get trial versions of the virtual classroom software and then with these examples determine which one was best to use. The project manager was very fortunate to have had one community (Mt Pierre) willing to support early endeavours. Elluminate and Adobe Connect were tested but the trial only lasted for thirty days at a time. Elluminate's V-room was alright because there was no time limit, but as a freeware version it had limited functionality and only enabled three participants to be online at a time.

For this project to succeed, and its subsequent three phases to become implemented, the project manager came up with a plan which supported Karrayili's role to do training but also the means to facilitate economic development and growth on remote communities through new enterprise and employment development. A part of this approach also included being able to establish Karrayili as a leader in the e-training side of the plan.

If someone from outside the district was to take over it would take them too long to understand the cultural influence, the impact of past government policy and the Indigenous people's view of the world. The project managers main motivation to establish the project was to supply the strong demand for employment based skills development and training which exists in our remote communities. The project managers knowledge and experience in the region has made the commencement of this project an important breakthrough in the establishment of a pathway to provide such essential skills and knowledge to remote communities. Ultimately this ground breaking task is not just for Karrayili but any training provider who is willing to work in with the Karrayili model of an area specific approach to Indigenous training.

What I would do differently next time:
Virtual classroom training can be exhausting, not because students were not familiar with the computer but because the best person to do this job and to overcome the risks of poor communication was a local Indigenous person.

One final note, the limitation of bandwidth was a frustration. With limited bandwidth the project manager was unable to have each student broadcast on their own computer with a web cam, and have them talk or connect directly with the project manager. The online environment can be a lonely experience like this. You cannot see the participants and or interact with them. So if there was something that could have influenced, it would be to have convinced the powers that be that mobile phone towers or fibre optic cabling is absolutely vital for all our Indigenous community's chances of economic development.

Benefits experienced – refer to Appendix A

Lessons learnt

The project has been the fulfilment of three years of determination. To be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of e-learning and the virtual classroom to Karrayili and our Indigenous communities as a resource for remote Indigenous community training has been an invaluable experience. The trick now is to keep it going. The KRCOTS virtual classroom has successfully commenced in four of the five communities.

Three of these four communities have been a struggle to coordinate regular sessions. In place of regular sessions has been the reinforcement of e-learning as a source of skills development all year round. The project manager hoped to show in these early days that there is still plenty of time for communities to get used to the idea and then allow them the time to adapt parts of their daily, weekly, and yearly routines to accept it and then for me to have patience to implement it. A bonus will be that over time the technology should become better in the goodness of time too.

Where the virtual classroom has been used regularly the virtual classroom has allowed for the students to become accredited in their enrolled unit Operate a personal computer. The online champion at the Kulkarriya (Noonkanbah) school, enrolled six Aboriginal Islander Education Workers (AIEWs) in their computer course and helped them all the way through from being able to log them onto the course URL with the school's laptops and webcams and onto competency.

The fact that everyone at each community has access to a web cam meant that it was the learning method that would be the most ideal way to conduct training, this way everyone can see and hear each other. But unfortunately, the reality of poor Internet speed and the demand of the virtual classroom to take up plenty of bandwidth meant this was not possible. Plan B was to get students to not use the we cams but still be logged on as themselves on their individual computer. Plan C was to use a computer, webcam and digital projector as the master computer while students worked in front of their own screen and followed the broadcast on the big white screen. Students then cycle through to sit in front of the master computer to do activities that needed them to demonstrate competency.

The results

The outcomes of the project have already been used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of KRCOTS's e-learning solution. The technological areas noted certain limitations and advantages to both the particular software solution chosen as well as to the infrastructure which supports it.

Overall the successful ratification of the project by Karrayili and the Fitzroy Valley's Indigenous communities involved in the project reinforces the capacity of the e-learning solution to supplement or replace aspects of traditional face-to-face learning. It needs to be noted too that some of these negative issues are short term. It is likely that as the demand for e-learning becomes matched by the supply for the use of the technology which services it the issues which arose from the project’s delivery and its assessment practices will go away. The issues that have been collected over the duration of the project were evaluated and documented through this Wikispace.

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework can use the insight and understanding from experiences learnt to attest to how well the project was received. This evidence does attest to its level of effectiveness. Student and facilitator feedback from the project, as well as student results/unit completions, continue to be collected and will be used holistically to ascertain what information will be of benefit to the project's ongoing development. The lessons learned from this project have been those which either impeded or enhanced the learning experience. As they occurred they were either continued and reinforced or reviewed and discontinued. There was little time to ponder alternatives.

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.

Many remote Indigenous communities throughout Australia will benefit from the approach used by Karrayili in the KRCOTS. This project demonstrated the ability to use e-learning to deliver an introductory computer training course to geographically isolated Indigenous students where English is not the first language and amid the ambit of a pilot virtual classroom program that had to deal with a wide range of barriers, is testament to the future of this type of training and as opposed to alternative types of online training approaches. For the future, to be able to eventually grant remote Indigenous communities access to an unimpeded level of band width will greatly increase the community's access to vital employability skills in assistance of economic development.

In engaging in this E-learning Innovations project, the following Framework resources were created:

  • BSBITU101A Operate a personal computer (Kimberley Kriol language version)

Appendix A: Project journal


This is a Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by the Karrayili Adult Education Centre Aboriginal Corporation, with seed funding from the Framework.

For more information

Daron Keogh
Virtual Classroom Business Lecturer
Karrayili Remote Community Online Training Strategy (KRCOTS)
Phone: (08) 9191 5333
Email: daron@karrayili.org.au

For more information on the Australian Flexible Learning Framework:
Phone: (07) 3307 4700

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