Are we at a Gladwellian tipping point when it comes to e-learning use in training workers?
Is it possible to be someone’s favourite teacher if the student attends another school?
Can content and production values get in the way of quality e-learning experiences?
And just what IS “innovation”?
These were just some of the questions raised at the InnovateSA conference organised by the South Australia unit of the Australian Flexible Learning Framework.
Elaine Bensted, Deputy Chief Executive of DFEEST, set the stage by pointing out that the most recent E-learning Benchmark survey of 800 businesses conducted by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework has found that 50% of employers provide e-learning and that more and more learners – on the job and those studying full time – are expecting that at least some of their training will be made available online.
What implications does this have for the VET sector? The answers will depend on how VET sector can respond.
Strategic leadership will be key so that e-learning is made affordable and accessible . E-learning needs to be driven by educational considerations rather than love of technology and use of technology needs to be embedded into everyday practice. We’re also going to need infrastructure backed by tech support, quality resources that support innovate practice and personalised learning experiences and support for those learners.
E-learning Benchmark Survey results
Next up we heard from Ian Phillips, who has worked with the Framework for the past five years managing the E-learning Benchmark surveys of business owners, teachers and learners. He presented on the 2010 Employer E-learning Benchmarking Survey Report findings.
The trend since 2005 is decidedly up in terms of understanding, perception of value and use. The big reasons for employers and learners was flexibility and access – fitting learning into the work day. Another big benefit is the incidental ICT skills learned as a result of e-learning. For many industries, technology is increasingly becoming part of the skills package required – and e-learning provides opportunities for learners to strengthen those skills.
The big message from business owners is that e-learning is great provided that it makes sense to provide training in that way. However Ian says that for just about every industry with people that says e-learning doesn’t apply there are examples of people in that industry using it’s not about can/can’t – it’s about providing employees engaging and useful skills development. Basically you need to want to and have the resources and support to do it well.
Nationally, 68% of employers who use e-learning say they would recommend it – that rises to 76% in South Australia. And 90% of learners say they want at least some of their training to be delivered via e-learning.
When it comes to RTOs and trainers – the message Ian wanted to get across is that there needs to be collaboration and sharing. E-learning is important to employers and learners and tools that have in the past have been seen as not having intrinsic educational value such as mobile phones and social networking are part of the lives of our learners. So if those tools and modes of communication are familiar and comfortable for learners – we need to use them.
Andrew Douch, a middle school biology teacher from Victoria, might look on paper to have been a confusing choice for a VET conference.
Personally, I feel the sectors have a lot to learn from each other and having heard a lot about Andrew in advance, was really looking forward to him. What I didn’t expect was to be moved to tears by the impact that his work had on the learners who took part in his online courses.
Douch was fortunate to have the sort of strategic and visionary leaders that Elaine Bensted mentioned were vital to embedding e-learning. His principal gave him a 50% time allowance to explore online tools – choosing Andrew over the IT teacher because if it came from the IT teacher, others might think the tools would be beyond them technically.
He started his presentation by quoting from media theorist Neil Postman (whose “Amusing ourselves to death” was required reading for my university journalism studies) about tools “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”
Douch then showed us his science side exploring right and left brain skills and abilities and mapping them against what is required in the 21st century and in careers.
We’ve all heard that we are stuck in an industrial age education system that is inadequate to our needs but Andrew gave a new twist. We still seem to prize skills and abilities from the last century that computers could replace some or most of.
For instance, lawyers used to be required to do all legal paperwork. Today, you can get a form from a web site to get a no fault divorce or buy a pre-printed will kit. Does this mean lawyers are replaceable? Or does it mean that the more creative side of law such as being able to argue well in front of a jury – will be more important in the future?
He then looked at GenY students and recommended the book “The New Rules of Engagement” by Michael McQueen. According to McQueen, GenY’s are MORE likely to respect authority figures than Generations X or Jones – but they are also more honest and less tactful. Thanks to the technology they use, they have a need to be connected to their network 24/7. It’s not about the topic of conversation, it’s about the conversation itself.
Taking this all into consideration, when Andrew’s principal tapped him to research online tools, Douch came up with a set of criteria to help him through the process:
- Will the tool save time – class time and teacher time?
- Will it take allow teachers to teach in ways and places and times couldn’t otherwise teach to people couldn’t otherwise teach?
- Is it a simple solution that just works?
- Will it get better results than what I’m doing now?
- Is it a desire path? (A desire path in landscaping involves waiting to put in a paved path after erecting a building or series of buildings to see where people naturally go. In the case of e-learning- is it something students are already using/doing?)
The first tool he trialed was instant messaging. He asked his students what they used for chat. They told him MSN so he got on one night to have a look. One student found him and dragged him into a group conversation with several others. They ended up chatting, then he fired biology questions at them and they fell over themselves to participate!
His next step was to allow the use of mobile phones – with the rule that the use of said phones was respectful of teacher and fellow students. Douch says that in the years he’s put this in place, he’s only been disappointed twice! In one instance, he texted a student at the back of his class who was being a bit rowdy and asked her to settle down. She loved it!
In another instance a student texted him and asked that he not call on her today because she was having a rough day. Could both of these things been done face to face? Yes, of course. Did the students prefer having these exchanges via SMS? Absolutely.
Andrew next covered his experiences in podcasting, screencasting and vodcasting. He pointed out that every year there are basics that you have to teach – over and over and over again. By putting them in a form that students could access outside of class time, students could play and re-play them as much as they needed to to grasp the concepts, then ask questions on the material they were really struggling with.
Other teachers – a pottery teacher and a maths teacher – tried screencasting and video recordings with the same result: MORE class time to devote to teaching more creative and advanced concepts.
Plus, kids have busy lives and these recordings allow them to timeshift and revise as they need to. Not everyone is at peak every day, so if you’re not in top form in class, at least you can listen to a podcast or watch a screencast later when you might be.
He also set up online forums where kids could post and respond to questions and chat and posted his podcasts, screencasts and vodcasts there. He opens this up to learners anywhere – and has had kids from other schools take his classes online and do well. One sent him a beautiful note telling him that he was her favourite teacher!
He also encourages his kids to access other teachers’ podcasts and vodcasts because he acknowledges that he might not be everyone’s favourite teacher.
There is so much more to this presentation – I’ll write a short post as soon as the audio is up on the InnovateSA web site!
Looking to the Horizon
Marlene Manto – South Australian E-learning Coordinator for the Flexible Learning Framework and Stephan Schmidt – educator and SA Toolbox Champion supporter presented on this year’s New Media Consortium’s Horizona Report for Australia and New Zealand.
For those of you who don’t know what it is, the Horizon Report brings together experts in education and technology to predict which emerging technologies are going to have an impact on education and training over 3 set periods of time: 1 to 2 years, 2-3 years and 3-5 years.
They started off by putting things in context. They looked back at the 2005 Horizon Report predictions and if and how they’d been realised. It was really a great exercise. For instance, how they envisioned ubiquitous wireless being used involved laptops – whereas the reality today is most people use smart phones and other handheld devices.
The 1-year horizon technology predicted to impact education is mobile computing, which is already being explored and used by some. Stephen Griffith from TAFE North talked of the applications he uses for marking, sharing resources and communicating with this learners. Marlene and Stephan showed that the University of Utah has a human cadaver application for medical students.
Open Education Resources was next up. We can’t collaborate if our institutions and education departments lock things up under copyright and OER and Creative Commons licensed resources make that collaboration and sharing that much easier.
In 2-3 years, Augmented Reality is seen as playing a role in education and training. Marlene and Stephan showed an amazing video of its use for mechanics at BMW. Putting on a special pair of glasses provides them with informational graphics overlaying a car engine and audio instructions on a given procedure. Leo pointed out via Twitter that if you’re interested in AR, it’s worth checking out wikitude.org and layar.com – it’s available now.
On the 4-5 year horizon we’ve got gesture-based computing to look forward to. Unfortunately Marlene and Stephan ran short on time, but you can download the Australia-New Zealand Horizon Report here: http://www.nmc.org/publications/2010-horizon-anz-report
TAFE SA North Hair & Beauty
Next up were Marina Borrello and Tina Dalwood – lecturers in the Hair and Beauty Program for TAFE SA Adelaide North.
Tina presented on the Hairdresser’s Toolpouch http://prezi.com/xnf1ccisacqz/copy-of-toolpouch/ and content aside, her Lego stills make this must-see.
Add content and you get a look at an educator willing to reach out to where her students live in terms of technology to help them create learning.
“Hairdressers are visual, they are loud, colourful, entertaining, wild, crazy, outrageous and calming…”
So rather than sit them in chairs and force them to quietly absorb, Tina and Marina set their students loose using digital cameras, mobile phones to blog, share resources, create collages and onlien photo albums and communicate using a Mahara e-Portfolio, Facebook as the communications hub and Wikispaces for online induction.
Marina focused on the e-Books portion of the project, to get learning materials into the hands of learners. According to a 2009 Curtin University study, 99% of university-aged learners have mobile phones, 74% have access to a laptop.
She says they quickly discovered that e-Books are more than just electronic copies of paper resources. What you want it to DO and how it drives learning, what devices it will display on and whether or not those devices make sense to learners, storing ebooks, keeping up with the pace of technology – what she’d though would be a straight road had a lot of twists and turns.
More on the Toolpouch project here: http://toolpouch2010.wikispaces.com/
TAFE SA/DECS Aboriginal Recruitment & Retention
Ruth Fraser, Principal Lecturer and Jacinta Ryan, Lecturer from TAFESA Adelaide South who presented on the great work they did with Aboriginal trainees in remote areas using the virtual world of Second Life. These customer service trainees didn’t have much contact with each other and only saw each other in the classroom once a month. They’d often be late back from breaks and itching to leave early.
When they were introduced to Second Life, some were wary – one was very negative about it. But as they progressed, the trainees quickly became engaged with the environment and with customising their avatars. Ruth and Jacinta found an online space run by the New Media Consortium with information booths about Second Life.
Each student was assigned a booth and had to learn the contents, then they were expected to be able to share that information with others.
On the day they got quite nervous but were incredibly engaged, worked together as a team in ways they’d not done previously and delivered high quality service. One participant remarked that “ it “was pretty nerve wracking, but once I got out there communicating with people it was really good” and even though it was a video game, it felt like I was really doing it”.
They have since worked with arts students and have future plans to create a project around events planning and coordination.
We then broke for lunch and had the first of two professional conversation sessions. Marlene tapped several people in advance of the day to facilitate conversations at each of the tables on a specific topic. As she points out, it’s often hard for educators to have professional conversations with colleagues during their work life – so part of every face to face conference needs to allow time for this.
And she was right – the room was buzzing with people discussing topics ranging from Creative Commons licensing, Moodle and where to find online resources through to Virtual worlds. I overhead a few people talking about future projects they needed to discuss with each other – so perhaps the seeds of future innovation were sown that day!
Does Great Looking Content equal Innovation?
Michael Coghlan, a friend and teacher of mine challenged us all with a presentation titled “Does flashy, sparkling, sophisticated-looking content = innovation?” http://www.slideshare.net/michaelc/the-relationship-between-content-and-innovation
Is it about content or process? Destination or journey? The answer is that it has to be about both. While co-creating content with learners is the ideal, it’s difficult to do in practice and not always practical. For instance, if you’re teaching refrigeration mechanics and learners want to learn how to fix a motor, co-creating not the best option here.
The best way to learn is to teach – because teaching involves gathering content – browsing, choosing, creating, deciding where and how to use, assembling it into coherent body of content and then working on how it looks.
The learning all takes place in all the other stages – not in how content looks. We somehow fear that the eyes of the world are on us when we put materials online.
Innovations should involve challenges, forcing differing behaviours and calling on new insights, knowledge and skills to increase the chances of success in a world where collaboration and creative thinking are the skills that are in short supply. Of course these are right brained skills and thus harder to assess.
90% of assessment in the VET sector is done via quizzes – and not very well. As Cathy Moore says, quizzes are great for testing what you’ve read in the past 10 minutes and don’t have much value beyond that.
So what can you do? Spend less time on creating content – there are volumes of new content being created every minute – and more time being creative with assessment.
Some ideas for creative quizzes:
- get up from computer and look for OHS issues, report back
- take a photo that satisfies set criteria, tag it and upload it to a database
- speak to a fellow student about best way to solve a problem
- research the various ways people have a addressed a similar problem in past
- design for cheating — build in questions where they have to talk to each other – synthesize info, collaborate, summarise, feed it back
- telephone 2 suppliers and evaluate products
- find tutorials on YouTube
We need people who can solve HARD problems. Here’s a scenario for you: 400 gigalitres of water have to go back into Murray, this will have social and economic impacts on towns all along the river – HOW do we do this? What questions does each town need to address to solve this?
Where are the competent eLearning Practitioners – a Report on the National Survey of the VET Practitioner – VET practitioners see elearning as advanced skill set – less than 10% of VET lecturers see themselves in this category. So we need people who can teach online, not more content.
After another break for professional conversations, two more innovation projects were presented.
SA Plant Operator Training (SAPOT)
SAPOT – SA Plant Operator Training – is no stranger to innovating in training. They are using POV cameras combined with Moodle for assessment and training and John said he was excited about what he’d learned at the conference today and that he saw so many ways to expand e-learning into other areas such as traffic management and elevated work platforms.
Cemons Skills Centre
Debra Flanagan, Workplace Assessor and Education Manager with Cemons Skills Centre, presented the results of their trial of e-learning over 8 salons.
They presented the project o salon managers at a breakfast meeting and laid out a 5-step model:
- Engage in partnerships. And practicing what they preach, the salon managers were offered the 4 assessment units of the Certificate IV in Training and Assessments to give them an ample grounding in assessment.
- Clear Outcomes with feedback and mentoring – needed to change assessment strategy so that is was assessment FOR learning not just OF it.
- Blended Training – face to face, mentoring, e-learning, skype meetings, workplace learning, salon training.
- Evidence – what do I need/gather – for trainers too – for both how to make it engaging.
- A wide range of online tools.
They gave salon owners clear parameters – students had to attend face to face training five times, employers needed to confirm, the Cemons skills representative attended on site, employers and staff had to attend Skype sessions – 3 for employees, 2 for employers.
Cemons used Mahara for students to blog and to upload videos shot using POV cameras as evidence of their learning. Students enjoyed the blogging and instructors commented that they enjoyed reading the blogs and seeing the student’s learning unfold. As well, Cemons used a WordPress blog to share their thoughts.
From Debra: “ With all hands participating, workplace competence looks different to everyone of us but we felt that we could be more effective and were able to get apprentices through in 2 semesters instead of 3. As we implemented our vision we had the potential to evolve as we all learn together – we don’t just train apprentices – we work alongside them, so we need to make sure they are competent – and I think that’s where this program was successful.”
Debra showed several video interviews with trainers, salon owners and learners. One trainer at a salon commented that she felt that the one on one work was easier to see and that she felt more involved in the training.
A learner commented that she “liked being able to watch herself and improve -and liked being able to show people what she’d done.” She went on to say that she loved the e-portfolio because she can take it with her anywhere and show anyone what she’s accomplished. Debra told us that not long after that recording the learner decided to go back to school for another course and is going to use her Mahara e-portfolio for RPL.
Debra and Cemons staff will finish their evaluations after the busy Christmas holiday season and then decide which elements of their trial they will move forward with in future.
Melanie Worrall, a Project Officer with for the Framework’s Benchmarking and Research business activity and an e-learning consultant, wrapped up the day using low-tech butcher’s paper and post-it notes and high-order thinking.
I am only summarising a quote she used out of a marketing textbook related to innovation:
“The principle of innovativeness requires the marketing organisation that overlooks new and better ways to do things will lose market share to those who do.”
She invited us to replace the word marketing with education.
She then read out the various definitions of innovation that conference participants had throughout the day posted to her butcher’s paper posters.
She read out a list of the organsiations that top CEOs think are innovative – most of them were tech companies – Facebook didn’t come in until number 48 – and there were no education organisations near the top of the list.
Ian talked to us about how e-learning is becoming normalised – so what does innovation look like?
- Senior Leadership
- A Business Case,
- Resourcing because innovating and trying new things isn’t cheap
- Professional Development and safe places to play
- An understanding that innovation is subjective – what is innovative to one isn’t to another
- Persistence and trying, trying trying
- The ability make mistakes and learn from them.
She finished with a thought-provoking quote about what defines originality from a book on the history of ideas in the 20th century:
“Originality is not an attempt to capture attention come what may or to shock or disturb to shut out competition from the world… what makes them (original workds) original is not their defiance of the past – but the element of surprise with which they invest the forms and repertoire of a tradition…Without tradition, originality cannot exist: for it is only against a tradition that it becomes perceivable...”
(Full quote in context available here http://bit.ly/9x0Uat )
Melanie finished by saying it’s from tradition of being effective educators that we will move forward in our innovative lives.
That wrapped up the conference part of the day. The displays and cocktail party went on after 5pm, but after a day of live blogging, I packed up my gear with Rose’s assistance and took my full brain away to assimilate all I’d seen and heard.