Sustainabilit-e Western Australia 2008

Challenger TAFE

Background

Challenger TAFE recognises that, within industry, government and the community, there is an increasing awareness of the need to implement sustainable work practices and the importance of providing specific training in sustainability at a management level. There is an expectation that current graduates will be equipped with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to work in a contemporary world that has heightened awareness of, and demands for, sustainable practices and leadership in this area.
During Semester 2, 2008 the Western Australian Horticulture and Environment Science Skills Centre at Challenger TAFE delivered a pilot program in which the Diploma of Sustainability was offered as a dual qualification to students studying Diploma courses in Maritime, Horticulture, Conservation and Land Management, Environmental Science and Laboratory Operations.
Seventeen students, including two lecturers, enrolled in the pilot program.
The Diploma of Sustainability was delivered in a blended format that gave the learners a varied and flexible learning environment.
The blended strategy included:
• E-learning resources delivered to the students through the learning management system Moodle. This included course information, schedules, assessment requirements, assessment tools, course readings, links to websites, course content, and media such as videos, audio, presentations.
• Weekly synchronous workshops using the webconferencing platform, Elluminate.
• Blogging software, such as Blogger and Edublogs, for student reflections and electronic journals.
• A weekend workshop at the start of the project, followed by another weekend workshop midway through the project.
The pilot has been a success and the Western Australia Horticulture and Environment Science Skills Centre plans to enrol 100 students in 2009. The course will be offered to current Diploma students of Challenger TAFE and past students of Challenger TAFE who have completed a Diploma or higher qualification. The blended delivery format will be similar to the pilot program, with improvements made where appropriate.
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The Framework connection

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework (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.
In engaging in this E-learning Innovations project the team utilised the following Framework resources:
• E-learning for industry, including the Practical guide to e-learning for industry
• E-standards for Training
• LORN
• E-portfolios
• E-events
• WA webpage.

What was done

The Sustainability-e project was aimed at students studying either the Diploma of Sustainability as a stand-alone qualification, or as a dual qualification with Diploma courses in Maritime, Horticulture, Conservation and Land Management, Environmental Science and Laboratory Operations.
The project provided flexible approaches to delivery and assessment, through combining e-learning or technology based platforms (online), with on-the-job training, face-to-face instruction, coaching, mentoring and informal learning.
The project consisted of two parts:
  1. The development of e-learning resources and delivery of training using Moodle, wikis, blogs, web conferencing and instant messaging.
  2. The development of a system for using e-portfolios as a record of a student's learning and achievements. The particular focus was on using e-portfolios for assessment, ie to provide evidence of a student's competencies.

The units of competency that were addressed are:
• 36731 Analyse the long term outcomes of sustainable production and consumption
• 36728 Apply the concepts of sustainability to a major challenge
• 36730 Develop a business plan for responsive and sustainable business
• 36729 develop and implement a program to support behavioural change and sustainable practices.

The project’s Delicious bookmarking site is: http://delicious.com/msustainability
The project’s wiki (for e-portfolios) is: http://challenger-eportfolios.wikispaces.com/

Benefits experienced by teachers and learners

The benefits include sustainability and sustainable development are increasingly recognised by industry, government and the wider community as the way of living and working for the future. A 2002 study, commissioned by the Western Australia Department of Education and Training, made it clear that employment potential for ‘green’ jobs in Western Australia are much more positive than are other business trends.
A recent CSIRO report predicted a national carbon trading scheme will require three million workers to be trained or re-skilled. Research undertaken by the National Centre for Sustainability indicates that business needs to adopt more sustainable practices, which means employees need relevant and accredited training to successfully incorporate sustainability into their work practices.
The Diploma of Sustainability is an integrated qualification in which students learn how to embed sustainability into their everyday work and establish valuable networks through contacts with other participants.
The training helps students understand the economic, social and environmental implications of different industries and the development of sustainable thinking and positive strategies.
The blended delivery mode gives students flexibility, in that they don’t have to attend faceto- face sessions every week. The Elluminate sessions are recorded so that they can be accessed at a time that suits the students. The Elluminate virtual classrooms support the delivery of content as well as interaction and collaboration.
The flexibility of the course means that it can be delivered to people already in the workplace, providing they have already gained a Diploma in another discipline.

Lessons Learnt

Through the project the project team learnt the importance and value of industry, community and education consultation, and collaboration and people’s willingness to contribute time and knowledge to achieve a successful outcome and to share resources and ideas.
The value of a blended approach to delivery and including several learning technologies and applications was evident, along with the level of interest displayed by the students in the course. The project has enhanced industry and community networks and provided options for dual Diploma qualifications, as well as enhancing flexible training options for students
The flexibility of the course meant that it could be delivered to people already in the workplace, providing they have already gained a Diploma in another discipline.
The project has found strong support from sustainability industry, community groups and educators for the delivery of the course, including flexibility and a willingness by educators to engage in, and explore, different learning technologies. In addition there has been strong support from academic disciplines within Challenger TAFE (for example hairdressing, business, nursing, beauty) for the dual qualification and for the blended delivery strategy.

The results

This project targeted higher AQF (Australian Qualifications Framework) level training delivery to support career opportunities for students and provides the knowledge and skills necessary for the modern-day workforce.
The blended strategy added value to the training offered by Challenger TAFE and increased the uptake of e-learning in the Western Australia Horticultural and Science Skills centre and in other sections offering the dual qualification.
A selection of students was surveyed by phone mid-project and asked:
• Did the flexible delivery mode suit them?
• How they found the Elluminate sessions?
• How they found the navigation of the Moodle site?
• How they found the clarity of the course expectations?
• What were their overall feelings about the course?
Overall, the students’ comments were positive, with a few qualifications such as ‘took a bit to get used to’ or ‘the format of learning is different to what I’m used to’.
They found:
• Elluminate sessions - ‘Easy to follow’; ‘good, interesting’
• Moodle site - ‘Fantastic, all info is there, set up so well’.
• Course - ‘Very good, makes you aware of different ways of thinking’
This project has resulted in the design and development of a Moodle site for the course which includes:
  1. electronic copies of the four units of competence
  2. a calendar
  3. latest news
  4. URLs for the Elluminate rooms – both in the calendar and in a block
  5. URLs for the recordings of the Elluminate sessions
  6. delivery schedules
  7. assessment tasks
  8. a description of the course and the weekly schedule.
For each session (Elluminate or workshop) a description of the content, links to websites and electronic copies of resources such as word documents, PowerPoint presentations.
Resources provided by the National Centre for Sustainability were modified to suit the Western Australian context and for use in the web conferencing/virtual classroom environment and uploaded to the Moodle site.
Professional development was provided for Moodle, Elluminate, Delicious, along with a weekly schedule of Elluminate sessions. Students could participate either on a Wednesday evening or on a Saturday morning.
The project is in the final stages of establishing an institute-wide team of teachers and managers to formulate a strategy to include the dual qualification of the Diploma of Sustainability with the other Diplomas offered by the institute.
The project pilot received 17 enrolments, including two lecturers. The students were studying the Diploma of Environmental Science (Management), Diploma of Conservation and Land Management, and the Diploma of Seafood Industry (Aquaculture).
In 2009, the plan is to enrol 100 students into the course; which will be offered to current Diploma students of Challenger TAFE (for study concurrently during their existing Diploma course in any year of study other than their first year), and past students of Challenger TAFE who have completed a Diploma or higher qualification. The project will share the blended strategies for delivering the Diploma of Sustainability, as well as the induction strategies and guides that were developed for students and staff, with the Framework community.

Acknowledgement

This is a Western Australian E-learning Innovations project output, developed by Challenger TAFE, with seed funding from the national training system's e-learning strategy, the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework).

For more information

Ms Pascaline Owers
Program Manager, Sustainable Development
E-Sustainability, Challenger TAFE
Phone: (08) 9229 8443
Email: Pascaline.owers@challengertafe.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