Get people loving your RTO through social media

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Allison will be presenting at the upcoming EdVET 2017 conference on ‘The many faces of social media: Attracting, supporting and retaining learners’.

Social media is fully ingrained into lots of people’s lives with some Australians spending more than half a day per week (12.5 hours) on Facebook alone. This frequency of activity presents you with lots of opportunities to get people to love your training organisation through social media. The following information shares how you can capitalise on this opportunity.

Take an outwardly and inwardly perspective

There are two ways you can be using social media to get people to love your training organisation, through an:

  • Outward facing perspective – where you create a social media profile/page as a communication tool to build your training organisation’s brand awareness to encourage potential students (and employers) to choose your training organisation
  • Inward facing perspective – where you create a social media group as a community of practice for existing and alumni students to share experiences and new opportunities with one another, ensuring people love you while they are with your training organisation, and once they have left

It’s all about helping your students succeed

Whichever approach you select, you will need to consider why potential, existing and alumni students want to engage with your training organisation through social media. This is best done by knowing how your training organisation is helping people getting their training ‘job’ done.  According to Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business Professor, the job of education and training is to help people feel successful.

What feeling successful looks like for your students can vary from wanting to:

  • find a job or get a better job
  • start their own business or improve the one they have
  • get into a higher qualification
  • improve themselves out of self-interest
  • meet compliance or legislative requirements

Once you determine which of these jobs you are helping your students achieve, you can then consider how to communicate and connect with them on social media.  If your students fall into more than one of these categories, you will need to tailor different interactions in social media to meet these different needs.

What types of communication works well on social media?

An analysis of various successful training organisations’ use of social media uncovered that the following are key ways to communicate with students in social media:

Topics Activities
Student life while studying with your RTO or afterwards Share photos and video of cool stuff that students have done:

– Industry visits or work placements
– Awards won
– Stuff they have produced

Industry specific information Set up a Google Alert which notifies you by email of hard to find information on topics relevant to your area and re-share this information, such as:
– Upcoming important dates or regulatory changes
– Funding opportunities
Job, work experience or internship opportunities Subscribe to job finding websites which send you emails when jobs in your industry/location are advertised and then share this information
Course content Share your own content (or that of others) which is hard to find elsewhere – Video works best here if it is practical topic, but so do blog posts, checklists and reports etc.  Live streaming from events is also becoming very popular.
Course information Share how your upcoming training programs help potential students get their ‘job to be successful’ done
Team fun Share photos and video of what happens ‘behind the scene’ in your organisation, and at organisational events, which show the ‘human’ side of your organisation
Voting and polling Involve students in decision making from anything from helping to choose your next logo or to voting on key policies effecting students

When using students’ work or including imagery of students in posts, make sure you have them sign a media release form.  If you do not already have one of these, do a quick web search to find lots of examples on which you can base one on.

Which social media site?

Whoever said “build it and they will come” never worked online.  While Facebook is still “King of the Mountain’ with the largest number of social media users, there are a number of other places where your students could be frequenting including: Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Whatsapp.

If you are not sure which one to start with then, generally speaking, start with Facebook as it does have the largest pool of people.  Also consider:

  • surveying your existing students to find out where they hang out online
  • checking out where people in your industry hang out online

Tweak to be unique

To ensure that your training organisation has a ‘return on investment’ in the time and money spent getting people to love your RTO through social media, ensure you set a goal of what your training organisation is trying to achieve through social media (e.g. getting more people to your website or contacting you about your courses).

Your social media goal will be used to:

  • set the call to action for your social media communications, for example, including links in your posts to landing pages on your website, as well as having your training organisation’s website link and contact details in your social media profile
  • monitor the interactions with your social media communications on a regular basis to determine how many likes, shares and comments different posts get, and then increasing those posts which get most engagement and help you achieve your social media goal

How do you grow your social media presence?

Use paid and targeted ‘boosts’ to get your posts into the steams of your ideal potential students.  With the right content in the post, this will encourage people to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ your social media profile.  For example, regularly boosting your Facebook posts which have the right content for as little as $10 a day for a week or so will see a great return on investment over time.

Other ways to grow your social media followers is to encourage existing followers to share your posts through competitions to win stuff or by asking them to tag people into posts if they think the content is appealing e.g. tag a friend who should apply for this job.  Make these competitions fun and relevant to your followers, and to your social media goal.

And finally, use social media yourself to stay current about what is happening in your industry and as a form of professional development by following organisations and individuals considered ‘leaders’ in your field.  This activity will also give you ideas about what works and what doesn’t in social media.

For tips on using social media and ensuring you are meeting your ASQA requirements read this blog post.

Learn more about EdVET 2017.

Developing digital literacy in learners: a how-to guide for teachers

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Here she considers digital literacy, what it does and doesn’t mean, and the important role of educators in enhancing these crucial skills.

What is digital literacy?

“Digital literacy involves finding, using and disseminating information in a digital world” (Deakin University, 2016). Digital literacy is also a transversal skill, which means that by having good digital literacy, a person’s ability to learn and improve other skills increases through the use of technology.

In the next 5-10 years, a number of routine jobs will be taken over by automation and artificial intelligence (AI) (ACS, 2016). This automation and AI will also be ingrained in workplaces, homes and everything we do, due to the increased productivity and lifestyle gains that these technologies provide. In order to remain current in the workplace, and to be able to fully function in society, the need for good digital literacy has never been greater.

While a number of government initiatives aim to address this need in the school sector, a large proportion of the Australian adult population  needs to further develop its digital literacy (ABS, 2013). Either that, or risk ‘dying’, figuratively speaking, in a digitally disrupted world. A common misconception is that young people are highly digitally literate, because they are so active online. While it is true that many adult Australians are engaged on social media, and many of these were born into an ‘online world’, research suggests  that this does not equate to them having good digital literacy. This means that adult educators not only need to be aware of this shortfall, they play a significant role in meeting this need.

Developing learners’ digital literacy

At a minimum, the use of technology needs to be embedded in the learning and assessment process.  This can be done through a blended approach which allows learners to access and submit part of their work online. This ensures that all learners engage with information online, but in a very safe and supported environment. This approach can also help to improve the quality of the learning and assessment environment.

Using technology as part of the learning and assessment process starts by using a simple and easy to use online learning environments such as learning management systems (LMS), ePortfolios, blogs, social media and online meeting rooms, with well-designed learning and assessment activities. It is important to offer an ‘orientation’ to the online learning environment, which can be done either through face to face or online workshops using Google Hangout, Skype or Zoom. Easily accessible orientation videos on YouTube or Vimeo can also provide good support, as well as providing more traditional text based ‘how to’ and ‘help’ support while the learners learn to navigate the online environment on their own.

Digital literacy development activities

If, in the first instance, learners have had limited exposure to computers and mobile devices prior to being asked to interact online, then working with foundation skills staff / consultants to help the learners develop some basic computing skills may be required. This training could be offered through relevant bridging units. Once orientated to the online learning environment, activities which build digital literacy should be adopted.  The following table includes some approaches you might like to consider:

Activity Description
Discussion forums or online groups Learners do online research or view online videos, and then post what they have found into a discussion forum or online group.  These learners should then be asked to review other learners’ posts and comment on them.
Instant messaging or ‘chat’ Learners connect with others in real time to organise a group activity or debate ideas and concepts solely through text.
Mobile devices Learners capture evidence of their learning, or tell a story or present information about their training, through video, audio, photos or mobile apps. This digital content is then uploaded or shared via the online learning environment.
Online calendars Learners schedule when their assessments and other commitments are due. Then the online calendar ‘reminds’ learners when things are due through the pre-set alerts.
Online journals Learners keep a written record of their progress, either on or off the job. These online journals can be either shared with others or solely with the educator.
Online meeting spaces Learners come together to discuss topics, plan group activities, brainstorm problems, conduct interviews and/or present their work to others.
Online questionnaires/surveys Learners either design questions as part of their research or they are required to undertake a survey to demonstrate their knowledge in an area.
Social media Learners follow and interact with key individuals or organisations to find out what current practice or issues are happening within their industry, or to benchmark their own work against these practices.
Wikis/Google docs/Mind mapping tools Learners work collaboratively online to solve a problem or come up with new ideas or designs, either in real time or over a period of time.

Helping learners stay safe online

Before starting any online activities, however, information and activities about the correct ‘netiquette’ when learning and working online should be introduced. This can be offered as generic information to be used across an organisation as part of a learner’s induction to their training, or embedded into the training program itself.

Learners will also need to be supported to manage the privacy of their own information, and that of others when working in groups. Helping learners understand the profile and privacy settings in third party online sites such as social media, as well as reading through and discussing the terms and conditions of these sites can be helpful. Information regarding how third party online sites manage and use learners’ information should also be provided, and discussions about what organisational online learning environments capture about a learner such as ‘activity logs’ should take place.

Ensuring learners work successfully online

Interaction with technology as part of learning and assessment will mean that learners create digital objects such as Word documents, video and audio files, and images. Enabling learners to develop good file management habits should therefore be supported.

Helping learners develop strategies for remembering their login details, and teaching them to have ‘strong’ passwords which contain letters, numbers and symbols is also crucial. A lack of skill in this area is said to be the number one killer of online activities as learners cannot access their work.

And finally, discussions and/or information about copyright and plagiarism are important. Learners need to understand that just because information, resources and digital objects are readily available online, doesn’t mean that they can use these resources as their own.  Teaching learners about quoting and referencing other people’s work is very important.

Sites such as search.creativecommons.org allow learners to filter their web searches so they are only presented with information, video, music and images and so on which have been licensed for open use, as long as they attribute the work. This practice will help the learner easily transition from using other people’s information and content for educational use to more public and online use, without breaching copyright and intellectual property laws.

Guide and let go

Developing digital literacy happens best when learners are supported and guided to learn and work online. Like any real learning, however, this is best done through a spirit of experimentation and risk taking, and an adult learning environment is a great place for this to happen.

Ensure you cover all of this by using this Developing digital literacy checklist.

IxD and usability: Must haves in online training and assessment tools

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Here
Allison discusses the impact of IxD and usability principles to both enhance the user experience and drive technical evolution in the world of education.

User experience and the technical evolution

Technology and the internet, both their development and uptake, have been changing at an amazing pace over the last five to ten  years. This has been greatly enabled by mobile devices and better internet/mobile data plans. Another key driver of this evolution has been improved user experience (UX).  For example, consider how touch screens, mobile apps and improved mobile phone responsiveness have greatly changed how we live our lives and communicate with one another compared to ten years ago.

However, it could be said that this technical evolution has not occurred as rapidly in online learning and assessment tools such as learning management systems (LMS), eportfolio tools and webinar rooms. This evolution is also unlikely to gain the same momentum as other technologies while educational institutions continue to accept a low level of UX design in these systems.

To ensure that your next online training and assessment tool (online tool) doesn’t fall into the same low UX design trap, ensure that you factor in UX from the perspective of the learners, educators and educational support staff, by basing your selection criteria on interaction design (IxD) and usability principles.

What are IxD and usability principles?

IxD and usability principles make sure that an online tool is:

  • Efficient to use as it takes the least amount of time to accomplish a particular task,
  • Easy to learn to use, and
  • More satisfying to use compared to other online tools.

IxD and usability principles concentrate on:

1.      Being user focussed

This is done by defining who the users of your online tool will be, and then determining their needs in relation to your online tool, for example:

  • Learners wants to easily find relevant information and access learning and assessment activities, eg discussion forums, assignments etc, from any device.
  • Educators want to easily find learners’ work to mark and provide feedback, and to be able to easily update information or activities.
  • Educational support staff want to be able to easily create exciting and interactive learning and assessment spaces; extract learner data such as their results; and view site stats about the use of the online tool for reporting purposes.

2.      Ease of use

How easy is it for users to navigate the online tool to achieve their goals is also important. Questions to ask in this area include:

  • How many clicks does it take the user to satisfy their needs?
  • Does the system’s workflow help users meet their requirements in the least amount of time?
  • Can users easily find where they need to go to achieve their goals?

3.      Learnability

Optimum learnability means the online tool has a consistent design approach  which makes it easy for the user to quickly understand how to use it, with the least amount of information and support. You determine this by consulting with organisations that already use the online tool you are considering and ask them how much upfront support their users needed before they felt confident to use it.

4.      Signifiers

Online tools should provide symbols which indicate how far a user has progressed through a task task such as ‘progress’ bars or through prompts such as ‘you are at Page 5 of 15’ or ‘you are marking learner no 2 of 5’.  Signifiers provide the user with a context of where they are at in completing a task which can help them manage their time better, and/or motivate them to continue to complete a task.

5.      Functionality

Considering the key functional requirements for each user group and the way they might therefore navigate your system will contribute to the user friendliness of it. For example:

  • Learners want simple ways to access content, as well as communicate and collaborate with others, and to upload their work.
  • Educators want simple ways to access learners’ work, provide feedback and results, and to review information about their learners eg activity logs.
  • Educational support staff want simple ways to present information and encourage learner activity, and to access results and reports.

6.      Feedback

As online tools cannot use body language to communicate how well a user is performing, it is important that the online tool provides feedback prompts to users as they progress through the system eg You have successfully submitted your assignment. This confirmation ensures that users feel confident that they have achieved their task, and they can take satisfaction in this achievement.

7.      Response time and responsiveness

Most users these days have access to fast internet on highly responsive devices. This means that they expect pages/screens of your online tool to load quickly. They will also expect to be able to access the online tool from any device, whether that is a computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. This means that responsiveness needs to be a key factor in the selection of your online tool.

Get it right at the start

Incorporating IxD and usability principles into the selection process of your next online tool will ensure a return on the investment you have made into researching, implementing and maintaining the online tool, and your users will quickly adopt and continue to utilise the system with lower ongoing support.

This approach requires user consultation and research into how other educational organisations rate the IxD and usability of the online tool. Any questions? We’re here to help.

Easy marking with Moodle

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Today Allison shares how to make marking easier with Moodle.

Having students submit their work into Moodle has many advantages. Not only does it provide accessible and timely training and assessment, it also evidences the training and assessment requirements for Standard 1 of the Standards for RTOs (2015).  However, marking online in Moodle Gradebook takes a bit of getting used to when compared with marking students’ paper-based assessments, so here are few simple steps to making marking easier in Moodle (try saying that quickly ten times in a row).

1. Start at the designing and planning stage

Ensuring that your assessment requirements in Moodle are set up correctly is the very first step. This will ensure that your students are given the right information, and allow you to provide them with timely and effective feedback.

This starts with setting up the grades in the Moodle activity (eg an Assignment or a Quiz) with the right marking scheme. For example:

  • Quiz activity in Moodle by default only allows you to provide a ‘number’ mark for correct answers. In competency based assessment, the use of numbers to mark a student’s work is not desirable. To ensure students understand these quiz results, it is a good idea to provide a written explanation as part of the introduction of the quiz about how these marks contribute to their overall marks eg: correct marks means they have ‘completed’ the quiz activity correctly. Zero marks means they are yet to complete the activity correctly.
  • When allocating grades to an Assignment activity, ensure that you only provide a Competent/Not yet Competent result on the final assessment activity in Moodle. All other assessment activities, whether they are Learning / Formative activities or Assessment / Summative activities, should only have a Completed/Satisfactory / Not yet Completed/Satisfactory result.

The above may require to you add a customised course scale as Moodle may not have the required grading option for your RTOs grading requirements.

If you have a learning / assessment tasks which does not require an Activity to be added in Moodle eg class presentations, you can add a grade item in the Gradebook to cater for this activity.

2. Set up for easy marking

Gradebook is Moodle’s killer feature as it electronically stores students’ work, results and feedback, making it a lot  easier to:

  • mark students’ work without having to lug around heavy paper-based assessments
  • provide timely feedback to students as notifications are sent to students as soon as work is marked in Moodle, so no more waiting until you see your students to return their work, and
  • find requested information for an NCVER non-financial activity audit. With Moodle this is a breeze compared to trawling through paper-based archives.

However, separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of finding which students’ work needs marking in the Moodle Gradebook can be time consuming if you do not set up Moodle correctly.

Start by ensuring that Moodle provides email notifications to trainers when students have submitted their work. This provides a trigger for the trainer to go into Moodle. Once logged into Moodle, each course on the trainer’s home page should be set to show “You have assignments that need attention”. This notification allows the trainer to go straight to the activities which need marking without having to search through each course and each course activity individually.

Once in the Moodle Gradebook, the trainer should set the filter option at the bottom of the page to “requires grading”. This means that the Gradebook will only show those students’ work which needs to be assessed. Upon assessing a student’s work, the option to mark the next student’s work becomes available, thereby streamlining the marking process.

3. Group the learners together

Moodle also provides for efficiency in the delivery of training and assessment by allowing more than one trainer to use a Moodle course at the same time, without their students interacting with any other students outside of their class using Moodle Groups. This means that course updates only need to happen in one course at any given time.

However, finding your students in among your colleagues’ students can be time consuming, so by creating Moodle Groups, you can filter to only see your students in the Gradebook. This feature will also allow you to get an overall perspective of where your students are at with completing all of the required tasks for the training program.

4. Train the students to submit their work in the correct format

If students submit their work in Moodle using the PDF file format, trainers can then view and comment on this work directly in the Moodle Gradebook. This avoids the need to download files to view, and then having to save them somewhere if comments have been written in them before uploading back into Moodle for the student to receive their results and feedback. Why not remind them of the correct format by customising your Moodle emails.

5. Provide the right feedback

When providing feedback in Moodle Gradebook always ensure you:

  • Add the date on which you provided feedback and your name – Moodle records the date that the last lot of feedback was given but not the dates of any feedback which may have been previously given on any assignment task. Nor does Moodle record which ‘teacher’ has provided the feedback. So, by writing the date and your name you will establish a chronological trail of feedback. This will make validation of assessment and non-financial audit processes a lot simpler.
  • Explain the what and why of the assignment outcome – If students are doing more than one Moodle course or assignment at a time, it can be confusing when they receive multiple feedback notifications from Moodle so writing ‘well done’ as your feedback does not cut it. Always include the following in your feedback so your students (and the auditor) are clear about what the student has done:
    • The assignment/activity name
    • The course / unit name / title
    • The reason why the student has correctly/incorrectly completed the assessment
    • How the student could be successful or improve their work next time (if necessary)
  • Keep a bank of feedback responses – if your Moodle learning and assessment activities are well designed, the evaluation of the evidence is easier to assess because the assessment criteria is clearly stated and easy to follow. This often means that the feedback you provide to students is very similar, so collecting a bank of feedback responses and saving them electronically into Notepad or similar means that you do not need to type the same thing over and over. You can simply copy and paste it into the feedback section of the Moodle Gradebook, and then contextualise the feedback for each student’s work.

6. Maintain good Moodle housekeeping

Moodle is a software program, which means it is susceptible to technical issues as is any other software program. As part of your good Moodle housekeeping you should periodically back-up each course with all of the students’ work in it.  Also, ensure that you download a copy of this Moodle course back-up and store it safely away from where Moodle is housed.

A little less frequently (eg end of year/program), and after doing a backup, you should also ‘reset’ your Moodle course to clear out all students and their work. This will take your Moodle course back to its original pristine format to allow you to start a fresh with new students or for a new year.  You can then restore your backed-up version at any time if you need to.

When in doubt, ask

If you’re not making the most out of educational technology but you’re ready to get started, it’s time to contact the friendly eWorks team.