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Surgeons amp up e-learning

Bill MezzettiBill Mezzetti is the Manager of eLearning at The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS). The College is recognised for the high standards it maintains through its educational, training and professional development and support activities. This commitment to educational excellence includes working with eWorks to embrace the latest developments in online education. Here Bill shares his experience at a workshop with internationally renowned e-learning expert Nancy White, together with take home tips and strategies from this event.

Amping up engagement at RACS

Towards the end of last year, the kind people at eWorks invited us to a workshop Amping up engagement for learner success with Nancy White. We have been working with eWorks for several years now, and since we are always looking for ways to improve our online learning take-up , I thought it was a good opportunity to see what new ideas I could consider (aka pinch) and apply in our context.

The invitation came at a good time for us, as we are currently reviewing our learner engagement and ways to make our offerings more appealing to our time-poor, core audience. As I arrived, I was greeted by a friendly woman with a familiar manner who immediately made all of us participants feel welcome.

See one e-learning workshop and you’ve seen them all?

In the back of my mind, however, I considered the imminent roleplay that usually accompanies these workshops, as it’s not a place where my acting talent usually shines. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the exercises (not role plays) were carefully designed to familiarise participants with each other and we quickly started making connections and discussing our similar challenges. As we discussed the predefined topic our discussions inevitably led to more meaningful common ground that we all shared around e-learning, our barriers came down and paved the way for easy and receptive conversations.

So how do we apply this to our work at the College?

Apart from the many benefits of online education, one of the biggest barriers to engagement is the feeling of isolation that can accompany learning online. The simple act of posting to a forum leaves the learner without the benefit of body language or tone. It can leave the learner asking ‘What happens if people who I have never met don’t know me and misinterpret what I‘ve posted?’

In a lot of cases, learning both online and offline is often designed around the content. Nancy reiterated that we have many tools at our disposal to increase and improve learner engagement.. It all starts with entering the learning environment (as I did) to a warm welcome and making connections, facilitator with the learners and the learners with each other. We have online facilitators that use this technique with their blended learning courses that really make the most of the face to face time by breaking the ice as much as practical in the online environment.

Nancy emphasised the importance of these connections in an online environment and walked the group through facilitation strategies which effectively use online technologies such as ‘Impromptu Networking’. By asking a smaller group of the whole to focus on problems they want to solve it allows for connections to be made before presenting to the wider group. I was able to trial one of the many techniques Nancy shared during the workshop later that same day – ‘Troika consulting’, an exercise in active listening. After defining your challenge you sit turned away from the group of three other participants discussing your issue generating ideas for solutions. The person who presented the issue remains silent and listens to the group discuss possibilities it helped refine listening skills, build trust among the team and ultimately, help provide a solution to an ongoing roadblock in a project.

Thanks to eWorks for the opportunity to expand our way of thinking around online learning.

Struggling to engage your learners?

Or keen to improve on what you are already doing well? eWorks can help. Contact us to find out more.

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