Regional RPL Western Australia 2009

Polytechnic West (Formerly Swan TAFE)

Background

In 2008, PathWest approached Polytechnic West to provide recognition of prior learning (RPL) and training services to their existing laboratory assistants and technicians in regional laboratories in WA. These laboratories do not readily have access to Registered Training Organisations (RTO).
PathWest has experienced poor staff retention in the regional areas due to remoteness. As a result of this employees have sought more attractive employment opportunities in the metropolitan area. By recognising their existing skills, retention of staff may improve as employees feel valued in the workplace and the awarding of a higher qualification (Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques) will permit laboratory workers the opportunity for promotion and pay increases.
As there are a large number of regional laboratory assistants and technicians from various areas around the state seeking RPL and up skilling (approximately 50 as at 24 February 2009), implementation of an effective e-learning process accessible by all candidates is vital to ensure the success of the training program. The training is being conducted under existing worker traineeship conditions.

What was done

Initially, the program proposed to be delivered to the client group included embedding of the Certificate III in Laboratory Skills with progression towards the Certificate IV in Laboratory Techniques. However, the final online program was designed only for RPL and gap training of the Certificate IV qualification as PathWest opted to enroll their staff as existing worker trainees, for which the guidelines stipulate that students can only enroll in one qualification unless the lower level qualification is a pre-requisite.
The staff involved in the project underwent extensive professional development prior to development of the online program. Professional development courses included:
• Introduction to CE6.
• Advanced CE6.
• Elluminate Live!
• Workshops regarding implementation of revised VET apprenticeship and traineeship legislation.
• E-learning online conferences.
• Attendance at the Online09 Conference and workshops.
Laboratory Managers were educated about the program via a presentation by the Project Manager at the PathWest Branch Managers meeting in October 2009.

Regular progress meetings were conducted throughout the life of the project to ensure the task schedule was adhered to as much as possible. These meetings proved useful as it provided an opportunity for participants to discuss issues and achievements. Several issues were experienced during this project which delayed progress. These included:
• The facilitator involved in the project was new to the college and the VET sector and was required to learn a large amount in a short period of time.
• Education and implementation of revised VET legislation.
• Delay in enrolment of students in program. There was a large variation in enrolment dates of students as they were required to be visited personally by members of Mission Australia and the Australian Apprenticeship Centre (AAC), to enable signing up for the existing worker traineeship program. As there is a vast range of locations of respective students around the state, this task has taken several months to complete.
• Students in the program did not have internet access in their workplace (this has since been resolved).
• The specifications of the computers in the students’ workplace were not compatible for using Elluminate Live!, hence induction was conducted via emailing a power point presentation to the participants and working through it via teleconference.
• The size of the student group was large (approximately 45 students), hence induction was conducted in stages with groups of up to eight participants involved in each session.
• Underestimation of time commitment required by project participants in developing the CE6 shell.

For future online learning projects, it is imperative to confirm that all participants have access to a computer that meets the specification requirements of the programs used eg Elluminate Live!
Delivery of the online RPL and gap training program is in its early stages, however as the enrolment period for this student group is two years, there is still ample time to complete development of the CE6 shell.


Benefits experienced by PathWest and Polytechnic West

Although there were significant delays in development and implementation of the e-learning strategy for this client group, many benefits were manifested in the early stages of the program. Benefits included:
For PathWest
• regional staff have access to a flexible, self-paced, training program where previously access to training was not possible
• provision of a career development pathway for laboratory staff
• improvement in retention rates of laboratory staff
• CE6 LMS allows for networking of lab assistants throughout the state, promoting community building.
For Polytechnic West
• an improved understanding of e-learning by trainers and assessors
• flexible delivery and assessment
• development of a reproducible model that can be used in other training programs
• the building of a stronger industry partnership.

Lessons learnt

• Regular communication between all parties involved in the program including PathWest Director of Regional Laboratories, Laboratory Managers, students, facilitator and developers was crucial in achieving the common goal. As there was a delay in signing up of all trainees, the trainees that were contacted first were concerned about delay in commencing the program and were contacted for reassurance.
• Introducing the program to the Laboratory Managers first was effective in gaining their support and understanding of their role as trainers in the workplace using the online CE6 LMS as a platform.
• It is important to schedule sufficient time early in the project to allow for comprehensive professional development of the facilitator and developers involved in the project. Sufficient time should also be allocated to development of the online tools required to conduct the training and assessment.
• Where the student group involved in the project is large, consideration must be given to time required to enrol all students prior to commencement of the program, or alternatively, students could commence the program in smaller groups and the start date for each group could be staggered.
• Regular meetings with the project manager, developers and facilitator were useful in identifying issues and remaining focussed on targets to be met.

The results

As the program itself is in its early stages, it is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of the e-learning system developed.
Key outcomes include:
• Development of a CE6 online program (in progress).
• Development of an online RPL and gap training model for existing worker trainees.
• Development of a customised qualification for the student group based on tasks regularly conducted in their workplace.
• Development of online RPL assessment tools based on PathWest Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
• Establishment of an online network for PathWest regional laboratory staff.
During the course of the project, the facilitator and developers have acquired a range of e-learning skills which can be utilised for the training of future student groups. In fact, the facilitator is using a revised version of the CE6 shell for delivery to her face-to-face class.
The learner group provided useful feedback via email and during the induction teleconferences. This feedback was considered to improve the design of the CE6 program.
Feedback was also received from the Laboratory Managers at the PathWest Branch Managers conference and this was used to implement changes in the program.
The negative issues in the project stemmed from a lack of communication between participants in the group. Providing regular updates and information on causes of delays in implementation of the program was effective in allaying concerns within the participant group.


Reflections and suggestions

• Logistics of conducting induction sessions via teleconference for a large learner group dispersed over a number of regional branches requires considerable allocation of time and flexibility of delivery for minimal impact on work commitments. The industry partner and RTO need to ensure that up-to-date contact details are provided and maintained to circumvent any potential for breakdown in communication eg contact names, email addresses and landline information.
• Prior to the establishment of an online LMS the RTO needs to ascertain whether the industry partner has the necessary technological resources available and accessible to the learner group in the work environment.
• Once the online LMS, CE6 in this case, is established and the industry partner is more familiar with its application it will be a useful resource for future trainers, assessors and trainees.


The Framework connection

The national training system’s e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (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.
This project has provided an opportunity for RPL and gap training to a regional client group who do not have physical access to a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). The model developed for this client group is easily reproducible with substitution of PathWest operating procedures with the relevant business partners’ procedures on which RPL and gap training is based.
In engaging in this E-learning Innovations project, the following Framework products and resources were used…
• Flex e-News
• E-portfolios for RPL Assessment
• E-Tools n Tips


Acknowledgement

This is a WA E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Polytechnic West and PathWest, with seed funding from the Framework.

For more information

For more information on Polytechnic West
Lillian Primerano
RPL Coordinator
Regional RPL, Polytechnic West
Phone: (08) 9267 7192
Email: Lillian.primerano@polytechnic.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