WA11EL12 The Virtually Safe Workshop

Durack automotive workshop

Apprenticeship timeframes are being cut back, employers want the time apprentices spend away from the workplace reduced, the Durack Institute of Technology is running out of classroom and workshop space for the many different types of student groups we currently cater for – and the next skill shortage hasn’t even arrived yet! Durack has been looking for new ways to respond to this need and to fast track some apprentices through their off-the-job training. E-learning delivery strategies can help to provide the solution, however suitable materials need to be developed that can replicate and not compromise the best aspects and the quality of the face-to-face training currently provided to apprentices. To achieve this, content would need to be comprehensive and engaging enough to motivate the typical apprentice to want to take the time to access and work through their learning resources independently. Another challenging consideration is the preferred kinaesthetic learning style of many apprentices. They would generally rather ‘do’ than read, so materials must address this important need and immerse the learner in a range of interactive activities.

Tom & Murray, the automotive lecturers
Durack’s automotive delivery team has identified an opportunity within their area to progress the organisation’s capacity to provide more flexible training programs through the use of 360 degree photographic technology to develop engaging, interactive OH&S resources that can be used for learning and assessment and fast-tracking apprentices. Once the first virtual workshop learning objects have been developed and are ready to be used, the automotive lecturers will engage a group of up to 40 apprentices to pilot the materials. These students will access the resources through a link on Durack’s web site. From this pilot it will be possible to find out how engaging the learners find the materials, as well as how accessible the learning objects were, particularly if there are any apprentices who access the content via a mobile phone, or other portable device. It is anticipated that an initial trial and feedback process will occur before too much content has been developed, so any adjustments and improvements can immediately be made to additional materials. The resources developed will also have a wide application across other student groups at Durack, as the two core automotive OH&S units to be developed are also part of the pre-apprenticeship and the School Apprenticeship Link (SAL) programs.

This is what Murray had to say about our project:

View a copy of our proposed project presentation:

What was done

Planning the content
Hard at work planning
Things didn't move along much between December and late January, with the Christmas holidays and then planning and commencing delivery for the new year, taking a priority.The two lecturers who are the 'content experts' needed to work around when they had apprentices in on block release for two to three weeks at a time. In their first week of available time Tom and Murray worked on developing the storyboards for each of 360 degree learning objects. The storyboards included how the workshop would be set up for each object, including the hazards that would be included (for example, an oil spill) and the type of the control measure the learner would need to take. The following document is an example of some of the story board planning.
Murray and Tom planning the storyboards

Setting up each workshop OH&S 'scenario'
Once the storyboards were planned, we started working on how to set up and photograph each scenario within the various auto workshop environments available at Durack. Four different workshop areas were utilised:
  1. The main automotive workshop that included all the hoists, tools and other equipment required for the majority of the planned photographs and scenarios
  2. The engine washbay, which had different euipment available
  3. A smaller workshop area that was more suitable for constructing a spillage scenario
  4. An off-campus large / heavy vehicle (truck) workshop, with a sizable pit area.

Tom setting up the camera in the washbay area
Each scenario took aproximately two hours to set up and photograph. Most of this had to be achieved on the weekends, so our activities wouldn't disrupt any classes occuring in the workshop. Once the photos were taken, our photography expert, Tom, then had to spend another two or so hours stitching each of the photos together to form the 360 degree images. When Tom was initially stitching the first series of images together he realised the program he was using didn't really provide sufficient tools to do the job to the standard we required. He did some research and we then purchased a license online for a much better program - PT Gui Pro (from the Netherlands) http://www.ptgui.com/

The image / movie file below is one of our first test 'stitched up' 360 degree images of the automotive workshop. Use your mouse to move around the workshop in any direction.

If you look carefully you can see where the
images were stitched together on the floor
to cover the camera and tripod.
The back end (and not in automotive terms)

Once we had some objects stitched together and ready to start adding in the 'hot spots' (hazards, control examples, etc) the lecturers quickly realised that when the learners used the resource there would need to be a more sophistcated method of recording the student's responses to the activities. As it was working at that stage, every time a student clicked on a hotspot and added some information the lecturer would receive an email notification. This gets quite problematic when you are dealing with 40 or more apprentices (only one of the cohorts we planned to use the resource with) and a potential 20 to 30 activities! The lecturer's inbox would fill up very quickly - and it would have been very difficult to keep an accurate record of student progress.

After much creative thinking and some negotiation, we recruited two outstanding Diploma of Multi-media students to work as consultants on the project and develop the 'back-end' database that would enable all the information to be recorded straight to a database and then easily be exported, as required by the lecturer. Once we had these excellent helpers on board, the overall quality of the content really improved, as they were also able to develop very authentic replicas of danger tags and hazard report forms etc, that were really html pages that the students would be able to fill in. Durack_danger_login.jpg Some examples of the html pages that the students complete. Durack_service_tag.jpg

By this stage the product was really starting to come together as an exciting learning resource that contained substantial OH&S information and content, and was also interactive. It was then time to put it to the test with a group of students to find out if they were as impressed by the Virtually Safe Workshop as we all were! Their evaluation of the ressource and feedback was very favourable and they all agreed it was much more fun than having to complete workbooks for the two units covered. They also liked the idea that they could access the materials from their own workplace, or home. As it is planned that the apprentices would complete these units online before commencing their first block at Durack, those that come from small businesses also liked the exposure they could get to a larger workshop environment.
View the following document to see some of the students' feedback.

Based on the feedback received from the students and other lecturers who tested the product (including many who were getting very excited and saying "I want one of these for my course!") there was some 'tweeking' done to the materials. Also, at this stage there was a lot of work being done behind the scenes to complete all the technical aspects and make sure everything linked together and the students would be able to complete the virtual workshop journey in a straightforward manner, without getting 'lost' along the way. This also included developing several screencast instructional video tutorials that were also embedded in the resource. This example explains to the students how to navigate around within the 360 degree workshop environment.

Benefits experienced by Durack

Firstly, this project was a big step forward for Durack Institute in terms of innovative practice in e-learning. We have been using learning management systems to support learners for over 10 years and Durack has many e-learning champion lecturers developing resources and providing services that meet the various needs of their students. However, we have never previously developed learning resources that so accurately and realistically reflect an actual industry environment and provide learners with the experiences in the way that this virtual technology has enabled us to do.

Student numbers at Durack Institute of Technology have grown considerably over recent years and the increased demand on workshop space has created many timetabling difficulties, with up to four different student groups all trying to access the workshop at the same time. The solution was clearly not to increase classroom based activities, but instead, to find a creative way to provide students with the opportunity to learn off-campus that was engaging, thorough and authentic for the automotive industry. The Virtually Safe Workshop has achieved this goal. Students can now complete the two OH&S units of competency: ‘AURC270103A Apply safe working practices’ and ‘AURT271781A Implement and monitor environmental regulations in the automotive industry’ units before they attend their first training block, effectively freeing up the workshop for other groups.
As well as the apprentice qualification, these two units are also covered in the pre-apprenticeship and school apprentice link (SAL) programs. The virtual workshop resource replaces the need for students to complete the units via the traditional paper-based mode, which for many kinaesthetic learners who have chosen a hands-on industry, the workbooks were a very de-motivating experience.
Our automotive industry employers in the region who have been exposed to the resource have also been impressed with Durack's commitment to innovative delivery strategies and for the smaller businesses, our response to their need for less down-time (off-the-job training) to have their apprentices on the job and in the workplace as much as possible.
The enthusiasm of other industry areas such as hospitality (the industrial kitchen), carpentry and joinery, maritime (the Durack marine training vessel), engineering, hairdressing and beauty therapy and laboratory opperations etc, to also employ this model to for their OH&S units delivery has opened up further opportunities for us to provide engaging, high quality learning more flexibly to the students training through Durack Institute.
The model is not limited to student training, as our Human Resource department is also keen to use the virtual workshop strategy for staff inductions, particularly in the instances where it has been difficult to provide quality inductions to new Durack employees at our more remote sattelite campuses.
Finally, in this era of implementing sustainability practices, for each student who completes training via a virtual workshop, or other e-learning type mode and does not have to complete a 50 or 100 page workbook for each unit of competency within their qualification, this represents a significant saving of paper!

Lessons learnt

  1. Like most projects, this one turned out to be twice as big as originally planned! But everyone agrees that it has turned out twice as good! This meant looking for further funding within the organisation to get the job done. Luckily we have a very supportive executive who have been kept informed of the project's progress and have enabled us to bring the product to this final, professional completion.
  2. Even though the project aims were communicated across the organisation, we found it was critical with a project such as this to keep the IT support staff informed and involved through every step of the process. There always seems to be a situation where you discover you need some different or better software, access to blocked websites, or additional software licenses, etc. Make sure the IT guys are well-fed with chocolate, or any other means it takes to keep them on board!
  3. Creatively solving problems can bring about real win-win solutions. Not only did we end up with a very professional finished product by tapping into the skills of the Diploma IT students, they also learnt a lot about consultancy. Concepts such as commitment, communication, problem-solving, negotiation, milestones and deadlines were all learnt during the process. Their own lecturers agreed that the employability skills that they have gained would never have been learnt within the scope of their current course.
  4. One future aspect we will need to watch for is the 'maintenance' that will be required. Whilst the product is current and everything is 'working' now, as well as student feedback regarding the funcionality, we will also need to implement a strategy to ensure the resource and content remains up-to-date and continues to map to the two units of competency. The way the resource has been well structured initially (behind the scenes) will help to achieve this, however the two main technical and content currency aspects will need to be 'owned' and monitored by the automotive lecturing team.

The results

In reflection, we believe we have achieved even more than we originally dreamed possible. This came about through the dedication, innovation and commitment of the project team, the support of other Durack staff and management and some creative solutions to the road blocks along the way. The final product we have developed will:
  • enable more flexible training options for apprentices
  • be more engaging for the learners; and
  • help small employers to keep apprentices in their workplace and spend less time at the RTO completing off-the-job training.
In addition, the interest in this model generated from lecturers across a wide variety of other industry areas has now given us an exciting innovative training model and a new goal to aim for.

A stand alone version of the project is available here:

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. The Virtually Safe Workshop project has allowed us to develop an engaging and innovative resource for the automotive industry that could be used by any training organisation that delivers the ‘AURC270103A Apply safe working practices’ and ‘AURT271781A Implement and monitor environmental regulations in the automotive industry’ units of competency within the qualifications they offer.

In engaging in this E-learning Innovations project, the following Framework products and resources were used by the project team and supporting IT staff:

Here's what the Project Manager and Facilitator had to say during the development phase of the Vitrually Safe Workshop project:


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

For more information

For more information on Durack Institute of Technology:
Co-Project Managers: Cheryl & Nicci

Cheryl Galloway
Training Innovations Leader
The virtually safe workshop Co-Project Manager
Phone: (08) 9956 2724
Email: cheryl.galloway@durack.edu.au
Website: http://www.durack.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