Internships and why they are so valuable

Mazzy Star is currently studying a Graduate Certificate in eLearning and is a multimedia all-rounder on her way to become an eLearning designer and developer. Her passions include technology, education and digital storytelling. For the past seven months Mazzy has been undertaking an internship at eWorks. Here she talks about her experience.

The value of being an intern

A few years ago I embarked on a career change that involved returning to higher education on a full time basis to complete an interactive media degree.  I learnt a whole bunch of new skills and uncovered an aptitude for digital creativity. In my final year the question of how to translate all this new knowledge into a career became a focus for me. I was keenly aware that more people are gaining higher educational qualifications than ever before, so competition for graduate level positions would be fierce. To prepare myself for this transition I approached a number of organisations about undertaking an internship and eWorks answered the call.

So … what is an internship?

An internship is an opportunity to work with an organisation in your chosen field to:

  • apply those freshly minted skills
  • network with people doing the job you want
  • work out if this is really the direction you want to head in, and
  • if this is the employer for you.  

It gives you a glimpse into how your studies actually work in the real world and provides some breathing room while you make mistakes, find your feet and build your confidence.

The payoff

Being an intern has been an invaluable experience for me and I recommend it to anyone launching a career, whether starting out in the workforce or taking a left turn mid-life. I had the opportunity to work with a lot of great people who graciously provided me with time to quiz them about their roles and experience as well as lots of interesting conversations about eLearning that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else.  

Some of the biggest advantages of undertaking an internship have aided me professionally:

  • Clarity on pursuing a career in eLearning design and development.
  • Application of skills from formal study and identifying gaps and weaknesses.
  • Training and guidance from highly skilled staff who are doing what you want to do.
  • Networking with eLearning industry professionals in a variety of roles.

How to get an internship

If you’re looking to do an internship yourself you can locate them through employment websites, internship placement organisation or your university careers department. Alternatively, if you’re like me and keen to get moving, you could source your own internship. Here are a few steps to get you started:

  1. Define the type of role/s you want to work in.
  2. Research organisations that have that role and employers you would like to work for
  3. Keep a spreadsheet with contact details of all the organisations you decide to contact – website, phone, address, email, contact person
  4. Craft a brief email detailing who you are and why you want an internship with them and send a personalised version to each organisation on your list
  5. If you do not hear from them, send a follow-up email after a week.

You may be pleasantly surprised by the number of responses you get. I ended up declining a number of offers as I was juggling full-time study and part-time work and had limited time available. You may be able to take on more than one internship at a time, to maximise your exposure to a variety of different workplaces.

Final thoughts

It would be easy to think that, ideally, your internship converts into paid employment – either with the employer you interned with or another similar organisation. And it will…eventually, but financial reward or employment should not be your primary focus of this experience. Instead, think of your internship as your own personally developed unit of study, curated to meet your individual career aspirations, not to mention valuable work experience added to your CV. Most importantly, remember to enjoy it.  I am grateful for the time I’ve spent interning for many reasons. Ultimately it has provided me with clarity of purpose and confidence in my abilities, and that – as they say – is priceless.

Thank you Mazzy!

It has been an absolute pleasure to have Mazzy working with us here at eWorks. Not only has she made an enormous contribution to our team, products and services, she has provided us with an opportunity to walk our talk. Fundamentally the eWorks team is a group of passionate educators. Yes we enjoy exploiting the latest technology to facilitate learning, but the ultimate goal is exactly that – learning. Thank you Mazzy!

Learning spatial awareness: virtual reality and 360-degree video

Howard Errey is a psychologist with an interest in innovation. He works as a Senior Coordinator, Digital Learning, for the College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University and blogs here. Here Howard shares a fascinating journey into the world of virtual reality and 360 video to offer an immersive learning experience.

The Problem

At RMIT we have a common problem in a number of subject areas. Educators in areas such as Property Construction and Project Management, and Architecture and Design, need to provide building site experience for large numbers of students – in some cases hundreds per class. The practicalities of turning up to a major building site with large numbers of students for reasons such as safety, make these site visits increasingly difficult to organise.

Credit: droidcom Berlin 2015 by droidcom Global

There have been National VET projects in the past that made admirable progress with such problems. Stefan Schutt and his team at Victoria University set up some great 3D design projects at The Lab with former National VET E-learning Strategy and Australian Flexible Learning Framework funding. Back in those days SecondLife was all the rage and it gave an immersive learning experience with a sense of fun. It is great to see that The Lab (and its wordpress site), which provides computer training including 3d modelling for young people with Autism Spectrum disorders, is still going so strong.

What RMIT have been doing

With staff from our E-learning Innovation Incubator, we approached the problem with 2 hypotheses:

  1. that we could easily create 3D virtual reality objects for an immersive experience, and
  2. that using 360-degree photography and video would make a useful addition to that experience.

Firstly, with the availability of Oculus Rift (OR) developer kits, it seemed obvious that 3D objects could be built that recreate realistic experiences. In 2014 we employed students from the RMIT Centre for Games Design Research to show staff how to build objects in 3D software engines such as Unreal. This generated a lot of enthusiasm. The challenge we discovered was enabling staff enough time and computing power to make this easy.

In 2015 we tried a different approach. At that time students in these subject areas learned to build 3D designs in Google Sketchup and Revit. We decided that it would be pretty cool if we could make it easy to take a design from one of these programs and turn it into a 360 immersive experience in the OR. We again employed a student from the games lab, who this time developed a series of workflow documents and videos. Using IrisVR, 3D designs can be dragged and dropped into the program which turns them into a 360-degree version. It’s not quite as simple as it sounds (this software is still in early development) but it is now something students can do with their work. The next challenge is providing powerful enough hardware, perhaps in the library, where students can have the computing power.

What about Cardboard?

Given the challenges of design for the OR and the low cost, why not just use Google Cardboard? As a baseline this makes a lot of sense as development costs of learning objects (similar to Google Expeditions) are also low and potentially fast (more on this below). OR has a number of advantages, however, will be widely available at a low price point soon, and shows potential such as distance collaboration in shared virtual spaces, so it needs to be kept on the radar. In particular, whereas in Cardboard you view from fixed points, OR has the potential for the experience of moving through 3D simulated environments.

There is a great thing about Google Cardboard. By getting teaching staff and students to physically put together the goggles, with their hands, from a pre-cut kit you can purchase for under $10, a number of remarkable things occur. Firstly, there is a sense of self mastery in making something that is reasonably easy. It continues to pleasantly surprise me the shared delight that arises, when a group of staff or students get hold of cardboard, put it together and then share what they experience. Secondly it provides a small but powerful innovation experience. Something changes in the brain. Compiling something new from different small parts (a cardboard ‘box’, lenses and your phone) is a small scale model of rapid prototyping). On a larger scale, Cardboard models how Google Apps in Education works – not as a complete (or expensive) system such as an LMS, but rather showing that you can put together different small parts (in particular the Add Ons in the Google Apps ecosystem) to make something new. It is both a small example as well as a metaphor that anchors Google ‘thinking’ as well as innovation in the mind. They’re not stupid over at Google.

Credit: cardboardx by howard61

360 Degrees

This is where recent developments have also made creating objects easy. With our project we thought that creating 360-degree photos and videos of building sites would be a simple and a low-cost entry to creating immersive experiences.

For 360-degree still images, the Google 360 app on your phone lets you point your phone around an environment and it automatically stitches together the spherical image. A nice example is here. For video we initially looked at GoPro cameras. There were a few solutions we saw online, in particular 3D printing a mount that holds six cameras filming simultaneously. The challenge is to then stitch together the six videos, which seemed complex and expensive, and the GoPro stitching solution was not yet available.

In the meantime, the latest Ricoh Theta S camera was released during the project. This camera provides an experience similar to the Flipcam video camera, in that it simplifies a single function seamlessly into one device. The Flipcam was so good that Cisco bought it and closed it down because the live streaming potential presented such a threat to their core business model, but that’s another story. With two opposing bulb shaped lenses, the Theta S creates 360-degree video at the press of a button. Plug it into the computer and upload it into YouTube, which converts it to a 360 format ready for viewing in Cardboard. The whole process takes about 15 minutes. Our first example, a walk around the office, is here, which we recommend viewing in Chrome. You can click and drag the mouse on the screen to move around the spherical view as the video plays. Although the Theta S camera is high resolution, we learned that the resolution is spread around the 360 degrees, which does not make it super clear. It is still an awesome, useable starting point for learning how to work with 360 video and, at under $500, well worth the experiment for what you will learn.

What we learned

  • It is worth persisting with the OR. While technically challenging it provides the current conceptual lead for developments in 3D immersion.
  • Think students first. If we can manage to build something, they can, provided we design and scaffold the learning.
  • Create a minimum accessible standard of experience and technology for students. I can hear Bronwyn over at E-Standards for Training nodding in agreement!
  • 360-degree video is a privacy nightmare, which can be overcome with planning and awareness. The issue is that everyone in any given area gets filmed.
  • You need a selfie stick! With 360 video you need a way of carrying it around without your face and body getting in the way. Carrying it at a consistent height is also an issue easily solved by dangling a piece of string to the floor. Who would have thought I would be involved in an innovation project with selfie sticks!
  • Work with your IT department. You need a place to store and manage large video (and other) files. Make sure the computers have the specs you need. At present we are hoping RMIT turns on YouTube as part of our Google Apps in Education, for its 360-degree hosting and streaming capability.
  • Work with your marketing department. They may have their own interest in the photo and video media or 3D objects you create, as well as access to potential resources.
  • In general work across your organisation rather than in your silo. We involved teaching staff and students across four schools within the College of Design and Social Context, IT and marketing as mentioned. It can be like herding cats to get diversely placed people into the one conversation but well worth it when you get there, for the interest and solutions that can arise.
  • One thing we didn’t learn – how to edit 360-degree video without paying someone a lot of money. No doubt we will address this in the future. Let us know if you have any suggestions!

This blog post is published under a Creative Commons Attribution (cc-by) licence.

Using a mobile app to increase student engagement

Elise Baldwin - Sciences and Humanities Product Manager at Cengage Learning

Elise Baldwin is the Sciences and Humanities Product Manager at Cengage Learning – a leading educational content, software and services provider. She has been happily working in the training sector for over 5 years – both in publishing and educational sales.. You might have met Elise during her sales stint on campus or more recently, at various digital learning conferences around Australia. Today Elise shares a lovely online learning success story – the use of MindTap learning technology at Deakin University to improve learning and increase engagement.

What is MindTap?

MindTap is a personal learning experience that allows students who are completing online modules published by Cengage to access a range of features such as due date reminders, flash cards, and practice quizzes. Students can choose from the courses they are taking and use MindApps to access everything in one place – assignments, study guides, notes, eBooks and results – and other tools customised for that specific course.

Abstract

Using MindTap learning technology to study Human Physiology at Deakin University improved learning and increased engagement. Students participated in a trial of MindTap over two weeks as part of a work placement project, using Sherwood’s Human Physiology MindTap.

Associate Professor West’s challenge

Assoc. Prof Jan West wanted to find new and innovative ways to use technology in the classroom, to provide her students with high quality interactive material to learn and to improve their understanding of concepts. She was faced with trimester time constraints, the need to cater to different styles of learners in her classroom, and requirements to teach students from varying academic backgrounds with different levels of subject knowledge.

Changing requirements for teaching

Deakin University is reviewing all teaching via a course enhancement process and academics are encouraged to explore technology to enhance the curriculum. Cengage Learning’s specialist digital support team established a trial module for around 20 students for MindTap Human Physiology. Assoc. Prof West used the trial as part of a professional placement core unit for biological science and biomedical science students, where students complete an 80 hour placement. Student work included study, focus groups and student intercept surveys to provide direct feedback about their experience of learning with MindTap. The trial also helped Assoc. Prof West discover how students learn and what electronic technologies they find useful.

Credit: Blow Your Mind by Camilo Rueda López

The trial

Each student had access to Chapter 9: Cardiac Physiology eBook and activities including interactive content and study aids for that chapter such as Aplia MindApp and CNow MindApp virtual labs. Assoc. Prof West required her students to work through the functionality within the MindTap course and to write and submit a report, reviewing the different components of the MindTap module. Students were asked to comment on all the features within MindTap and whether they believed MindTap helped them to understand concepts in the textbook chapter, based on a pre-test they did earlier in the trimester to determine what kind of learners they were.

What students said

Student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. When asked about the overall experience, 53% of students said they ‘loved it’ and 47% ‘liked it’, commenting they “just loved it and I like doing everything with my laptop. I found it really suitable for me.” In terms of ease of use, 88% of students found it ‘very easy’ or ‘pretty easy’ to use MindTap. Students commented that MindTap was “extremely easy to use and manoeuvre through the site. Great to have everything in the one place”. Nearly all students commented on how much easier it was to study with all resources in the one learning path and 65% said they would access via their phone.

They also gave feedback that helped them to better understand the concepts, with 82% responding ‘Yes! I feel confident I understand’ and that MindTap “was very flexible in how I could study, so I could choose the study methods that were most convenient for me to learn.” When asked if they would recommend it to a lecturer, 70% said ‘yes’. Comments included “It would be a great way to interact and a funky new way to engage students as well as learning new content.”

What now?

Assoc. Prof West is assessing her plans for 2016 and considering giving all students enrolled in the second year physiology units access to MindTap via the Learning Management System. She has invited Cengage Learning to present at the Deakin University-wide Teaching and Learning retreat in June 2016. She says “MindTap engages the students and allows them to have fun with their learning. I see MindTap as a useful tool to assist students understanding of the basic physiological concepts prior to coming to class. There are many new concepts and lots of new terminology for the students to learn. I currently provide enrichment tasks – online quizzes, study questions, case studies and YouTube clips to assist their learning. The benefit of MindTap is that it can all be packaged into one space and we can “Deakinise” the modules with specific case studies. The graphics and the apps available in this resources are also of a very high quality. There is an increasing number of students not using paper based items for their learning so this would be of benefit.”

Accessing Cengage resources

Teachers can now access popular courses from Cengage Learning through the VET Commons ready-made plugin. Join the VET Commons community today to access an extensive range of valuable teaching resources, many of which are entirely free.

Am I the only parent concerned about the lack of STEM learning in primary schools?

Darcy Nicolson is a learning and technology expert at eWorks. Passionate about lifelong learning, Darcy focuses on improving the use of media and technology to enable better personal development and learning outcomes. As a dad, he was pleased to learn at the recent MoodleMoot 2015 that he is not the only parent concerned about the lack of STEM learning in primary schools.

My top five takeaways from MoodleMoot2015

This year I was lucky enough to attend MoodleMoot 2015 Australia with not one, not two, but all of my colleagues from eWorks. Being an e-learning solutions provider the eWorks team is passionate about lifelong learning, so the entire team attended the conference as a professional development activity. I had a great time and met a lot of interesting people coming at learning from all sorts of angles. Here are my top five takeaways from the event:

1. Tinkering with Arduino could one day pay off?

Scott Huntley (@MillerTAFEScott) spoke on his experiences and plans for small internet/wireless devices and how they could be used in the education space. I have been playing with Arduino for a couple of years now to assist in temperature control for my craft brewing and had a great chat to Scott on the first morning from a random ‘Is this seat taken?’ meeting. Scott has a massive bag of tech goodies and we have discussed working on something together in the future. What we need now is a well-defined problem/solution pairing – hopefully I will get some IoT inspiration in discussions with eWorks’ clientele! Stay tuned for a joint session @ #Mootau16. Other cool tech included sessions on automated testing using Behat and hearing Martin Dougiamas report the Moodle working group outcomes from meeting at the Moot.

2. I’m not the only parent concerned about the lack of STEM learning in primary schools.

Adam Spencer was funny, intelligent and most importantly really open about himself and his experiences being the ‘good at maths’ kid at school. His discussion on the links between finding prime numbers and computing power was a great way to measure the ability of digital technology to provide a lever for the human mind to advance our knowledge. But most of all I related to his concerns on the lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in our schools, teaching his daughter to play chess, and being the kid who chooses the geeky path at an early age.

3. Big data analysis will involve good data collection

There is a lot of discussion in educational technology circles about the power of big data analytics which is already transforming finance and marketing. The first step for Moodle admins is making sure that their Moodle is capturing the right data and this was covered in the excellent presentation by my colleague, Jo Norbury. Jo covered this from a compliance angle in ensuring engagement was tracked for audit reasons, but level of learner engagement is an early performance indicator to any other metric – results, retention and so on. Passing an audit is critical but many of our clients also want early notification on disengaged students to provide extra help and lower drop-out rates. If you’re not sure how to measure learning and provide evidence to auditors quickly and easily Jo can give you some pointers.

4. Stop getting caught up on the term Technology

Don Hinkleman had a great take on blended learning and the combined power of face to face with online being more than the parts (1+1=3). He posed the term face to face technology referring to person to person educational practices, drawing attention to the fact that the term technology is broader than the digital trends we tend associate with it. Don also revisited the term ‘bricoleur’ – being a tinkerer – which I also related to Agile Scrum, given the build the task > configure technologies > adjust on the fly > assess and rebuild process of a bricoleur/blended teacher.

5. Move over MOOC, SPOC is the new kid.

To teach is to learn twice over Joseph Joubert said, and with the release of MoodleCloud, Martin and the team at MoodleHQ have empowered anyone to make a Small Personal Online Course (SPOC). MoodleCloud is free for up to 50 users and is a full Moodle with 200mb of space, it’s a great starting point. I have bagged a domain and plan to work with my daughter to create minecraft.moodlecloud.com.

After more wise words from Darcy?

Read his blog post on deploying video in digital learning or contact him directly for a chat.