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.

Easy video streaming through your LMS: Why reinvent the wheel?

john-collins-headshotJohn Collins is passionate about cloud-based e-learning solutions which enable the delivery of online training anywhere and anytime. Today, John explains how to easily stream video through an LMS using inexpensive and user-friendly tools on the market – a highly effective alternative to buying and setting up a custom streaming media server with your LMS.

Moodle and video content

Moodle is rapidly emerging as the most popular LMS in the world of global education. eWorks’ customisation of Moodle – TVC – offers a wide range of additional features specific to managing vocational education and training (VET). eWorks’ TVC clients frequently ask how to best deliver video content to their learners using Moodle. There are a number of reasons why we continue to recommend the two major players in web-based video streaming – YouTube and Vimeo.

YouTube and Vimeo – how it works

Both YouTube and Vimeo offer a wealth of opportunities for learning, sharing and collaborating via learning management systems. Displaying and streaming videos in a Moodle course page is easy to do, by simply copying the YouTube or Vimeo share address on the page of the video you wish to add as course content and then hyperlinking the share address, to text or an image in a Moodle label resource. The selected video will then be displayed within the Moodle Course page.

Where you are producing your own video, you first upload this to your own Vimeo or YouTube Account. Once your file has finished uploading to either platform it is re-encoded into different versions of varying quality in order to optimise playback performance over different internet connection speeds. You then follow the simple steps above to display your video in your course page. This is where the value in using these systems comes into play and provides a superior experience for your learners, in comparison to locally hosted content.

Video and privacy

Where your organisation requires a degree of restriction to content, this is achieved through the combination of the password protected Moodle course with either:

  • Hide this video from Vimeo.com (Plus + PRO only) – This video can be embedded on other sites (such as an LMS) but can’t be viewed on vimeo.com.
  • YouTube’s option to either ‘unlist’ your video (i.e. it is not included in searches) or make it private (only those you nominate can view the video).

Free guide to using YouTube and Vimeo

For further information, JISC digital media have written an excellent guide to using YouTube and Vimeo for education.

Need a hand setting up your Moodle?

Contact eWorks for some friendly advice.

Building learner foundation skills is your responsibility

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison Miller is a member of eWorks’ team of accredited consultants, and a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Allison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. Today she discusses the importance of foundation skills in general, as well as how they are linked VET FEE-HELP loans.

LLN and VET Fee-Help (VFH reforms)

One of the recent VET Fee-Help (VFH) reforms is the requirement that a learner who does not have a Senior Secondary Certificate of Education must complete Language Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) assessment to be eligible for a VET FEE-HELP loan. This type of assessment has been around for a while for State-based government funded training, and highlights the ongoing agenda to improve the language, literacy and numeracy of Australian adults (also see Allison’s Language, literacy and numeracy skills – how technology can help blog post).

This move to improve our learners’ core skills includes a foundation skill section in all new and updated units of competency. This section outlines the LLN and employment skills which a learner needs to demonstrate in order to be deemed competent for the unit. This means all VET practitioners using units with foundation skills explicitly included in them need to be assessing their learners’ required foundation skills.  

Ideally, more and more VET practitioners will do the TAELLN411 unit to help them understand how to address adult LLN skills gaps. However, competency in this unit is only the beginning of a VET practitioner’s journey, as each learner cohort will present different LLN needs, so it is important to know how to support that journey past the starting point.

What foundation skills might need to be addressed?

Even though learners may successfully pass the pre-enrolment LLN assessment as part of the requirements to access Government funded training, they may still present with some foundation skill gaps for one or more units within the qualification they are undertaking.

The explicit foundation skills being mapped in each unit come from either:

How will I know if my learners have foundation skill gaps?

The foundation skills section in each qualification unit describes each foundation skill and maps it to a unit’s performance criteria. Further analysis is required by a VET practitioner, however, to determine which of the five levels of performance in the Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) their learners should be performing to in order to deem them as competent for each unit. There are three steps to this process:

  1. Determine the foundation skill level or stage for a unit by identifying the embedded trigger or action words within the unit’s performance criteria (PC).  

An example would be TAELLN411 PC 1.2 Identify and analyse the LLN skill requirements essential to the workplace performance. Here the action words ‘identify’ and ‘analyse’ are Reading foundation skills, and the knowledge/related word = ‘LLN skill requirements’.

  1. Analyse the Australian Core Skills Framework performance levels based on the action word(s) (Leske and Francis, ND).

This is done by determining how these action words best match those in the five levels of ACSF Performance Variables Grid (ACSF, pg 14). For TAELLN411: the Foundation Skill Reading refers to interpreting and analysing information, indicating a level 3-4 of task complexity, text complexity, context and support performance indicators for this unit, which refer to such terms as ‘requires minimal support’, ‘includes specialised vocabulary’ etc.

You continue to do this for each foundation skills for the whole unit, to get the overall level for each foundation skill. For example, Reading – Level 3-4, Oral Communication – Level 3 etc.

  1. Identify whether each learner cohort has any foundation skill gaps through diagnostic and formative activities at the beginning of, and during, their training program.  

This is best done through activities which improve learners’ unit knowledge.   For the TAELLN411 this can be done through questioning or brainstorming each learner’s LLN workplace requirements for their industry requirements, either as a group or as individuals.

You will often find that only an individual or small number of learners will present with one or two foundation skills gaps. This is important, however, because even one skill gap needs to be addressed for the learner(s) to be deemed competent.

What strategies and tools can address each foundation skill gap?

Once you have established your learners’ foundation skills gaps, consider some of the following strategies and tools to help your learners build these skills:

Foundation Skill

Strategies and tools to address the gap

Learning

  • Incorporating reflective or self-assessment journals using blog/micro-blogs such as Mahara e-portfolio, WordPress or Twitter.
  • Encouraging conversations (ie reflective dialogue) around topics using online groups in Facebook, LinkedIn, Edmodo or Yammer.
  • Getting learners to teach each other using Skype, Google Hangout or Zoom.
  • Helping learners establish action plans using Mahara eportfolio, Evernote or Google Calendars.

Reading

  • Encouraging learners to read and comment on each other’s blog / journal, social media posts.
  • Providing audio versions of text so learners can read this information while listening to someone else reading it aloud.
  • Getting learners to record themselves reading the content using their mobile phone voice recorder and then listening to them self.
  • Incorporating images, diagrams, flowcharts etc which help learners to visualise text / content.

Writing

  • Using Moodle discussion forums or chat rooms for group debates, sharing researched information, problem solving or scenario-based learning.
  • Incorporating collaborative / group writing activities using Moodle wiki or Google Docs.
  • Encouraging peer reviews of learner work / ideas via social media groups.

Oral Communication

  • Incorporating learner presentations using webinar tools such as the Big Blue Button.
  • Getting learners to create screencasts, podcasts or videos of workplace scenarios using Screenr, Podbean and YouTube (respectively).
  • Encouraging learners to create animations of information that they have researched using Powtoon.

Numeracy

  • Using the Numbers (14.01) Toolbox to practice calculations, measurements and other mathematical formulas.
  • Encouraging learners to use Google Calendars for time management and assignment deadlines.
  • Using online calculations and converters such as ATO tax tables, time/currency converter sites, and insurance quoting etc.

Overwhelmed? Here is a quick summary

Building upon all learners’ foundation skills is important in order to meet the growing skill needs in Australian businesses.  A range of strategies are being implemented to support this, including explicitly outlining the foundation skill requirements of all new units of competency.  This change means that it is the responsibility of all VET practitioners to:

  • identify the foundation skills levels within each unit of competency, and
  • use a range of training and assessment strategies to ensure their learners are performing at the required foundation skill levels to pass a unit

Where else can you get help with addressing foundation skill gaps?

  • It is a good idea to seek Foundation Skills / LLN specialists support when you have individual learners who present with larger foundation skill gaps, or larger cohorts of learners who need help building their foundation skills. These specialists may be people within your RTO or staff in your local adult and community education sector.  
  • LLN & VET Meeting Place write regular blog posts, offer links to resources and run webinar events on this topic.  
  • eWorks provide excellent foundation skills educational design and content development services.

Compliance, video assessment and the e-learning resistance

What did you get up to in 2015? In between helping our customers to get started or stay current in all aspects of online learning, we wrote a bunch of great blog posts. Compliance was a particularly hot topic, especially when it comes to registered training organisations. The use of video to engage learners was also popular, as was the use of video in general. And don’t forget e-learning design tips, course development and – perhaps most importantly – dealing with any resistance to the online approach from within your organisation. If you missed any of this, or simply need a roundup, here are our top ten most popular blogs from 2015.

top-ten

1. Updated Toolboxes you can view on your iPad

Flexible Learning Toolboxes are stand-alone e-learning resources that cover a large range of topics, from aged care to plumbing and horticulture to food safety. Teachers and trainers can use more than 120 Toolboxes to deliver approximately 190 qualifications and support over 2,000 units of competency from a wide range of nationally-endorsed training packages. Three Toolboxes were updated in 2015.
Read more

2. Why do RTOs struggle with compliance?

It is not uncommon for an RTO to be found non-compliant in what was previously Standard 15 of the Standards for NVR RTOs 2012 when experiencing an audit (Standard One now replaces much of what was this standard prior to 2015). In fact, from October 2013 to March 2014, 78% of all existing RTOs were found non-compliant in their initial audit for Standard 15 – the elements that underpin quality in training and assessment.
Read more

3. Video assessment made easy

Are you frustrated by how complicated it can be to manipulate video and use it for assessment? This free smart phone (and tablet) app, that integrates with the assignment activity in Moodle, might be just what you need.
Read more

4. ASQA, industry engagement and RTOs – what you should be doing

What is industry engagement, why should registered training organisations (RTOs) bother with this approach, and what does the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) have to say about it all? Learn why this part of the Standards for RTOs 2015 is so important, and how to tick ASQA’s boxes without making life difficult for your industry contacts.
Read more

5. Top tips for using BigBlueButton

BigBlueButton (BBB) is an open-source online classroom package. It provides the latest classroom features and tools in eWorks’ TVC learning management system. Here we respond to some of the same queries that come through eWorks’ support desk from time to time. Originally published in 2014, this blog post well and truly stood the test of time.
Read more

6. The who and how of online course development

So you have decided to develop your own online course materials. Good for you! But before you commence, it is important to know what you need in order to achieve this successfully. There are a number of decisions your management team needs to make before you start employing people to start work. If you are thinking about developing your own online course materials, this blog post will help you avoid some common issues and pitfalls.
Read more

7. Language, literacy and numeracy skills – how technology can help

Did you know that one in two adult Australians are below the internationally recognised level of literacy and numeracy to effectively function in the workplace and beyond? What are the implications of this shocking statistic for the VET sector, and how technology can help to address the issue?
Read more

8. Six easy design tips for your e-learning projects

Six easy to understand and implement e-learning design tips from an expert designer. Published in late 2015, the fact that this blog made it into our top ten for the year really says it all.
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9. How to beat the e-learning resistance

Some excellent advice about making online courses…wait for it…educational. Written based upon firsthand experience, with an emphasis on good learning design, this blog teaches you how to make e-learning work.
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10. Using Mahara to demonstrate your professional currency

If you’re not sure about revised professional development requirements for VET teachers in the Standards for RTOs 2015 – or even if you think you are – this post will bring you up to speed.
Read more

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