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.

Quality assessment with LMS Gradebook

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAllison is passionate about providing learners with the knowledge and skills that they need in order to succeed in the world of work. And part of good teaching is quality assessment. Today Allison considers the one of the best ways to manage the assessment process – LMS Gradebook.

Improving the quality of assessment in VET

Excellent Feedback Thumbs Up Review Like ApprovalThe Australian Government’s “Improving the quality of assessment in VET” agenda aims to identify reforms needed to improve the conduct of assessment in the Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

This has come about as a result of audits and strategic reviews undertaken by the Australian Skills and Quality Authority (ASQA) which identified that Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) train well but assess poorly. This is because whenever an RTO is found to be non-compliant at audit, assessment was always an issue. While there are many components to a quality VET assessment system, one key component is effectively managing the assessment process itself.

Enter the Learning Management System (LMS) Gradebook

One of the best ways to manage the assessment process is by using a Learning Management System (LMS) Gradebook. Interestingly, this is the case even if the training program isn’t an online course. The LMS Gradebook replicates a traditional gradebook or marks book, where there is a list of learners’ names down the left hand side, and along the top is all of the assessment activities that need to be assessed. The matrix in the middle is then populated by your learners’ work, their results and your feedback.

What’s so good about the LMS Gradebook?

There are many ways the LMS Gradebook can improve assessment processes, such as:

  • All assessment information and criteria, together with the learner’s work, is all located in the one place, which you and your learners can access from anywhere and at any time.
  • The Gradebook enables consistency and quality as all learners across a training program are given the same assessment information and criteria.
  • Learners can provide comments about their work which the assessor can take into account when marking their work.
  • As soon as you mark your learners’ work and provide them with feedback in the LMS, this information is automatically populated into the Gradebook, and the learner is notified by email that their work has been marked.

Using the LMS Gradebook means that you have a record of all your learners’ work (evidence), their results (your assessment judgement) and your feedback all in one place. This means you can easily access this information to:

  • manage the assessment validation process
  • know where learners are up to in case a trainer leaves (or wins lottery or becomes ill), or
  • a learner disputes their results.

LMS Gradebook also helps improve assessment activities

As an LMS offers a range of individual and collaborative activity options that are linked to the Gradebook, you can draw upon a range of assessment methods such as:

  • assignments
  • quizzes
  • forums
  • instant messaging
  • groups activities: Database, Glossary and Wiki
  • importing external / customised tools / objects.

The types of assessment activity options available will depend on which LMS you are using and whether your LMS has additional ‘plug-in’ options.

Most standard files types are accepted by an LMS Gradebook, so you can accept a range of evidence types such as images, audio and video.

And it can even help improve learner’s work while reducing cheating

On the World Wide Web, finding and copying information or accessing other learners’ work and using it as your own is very easy to do. By using the LMS Gradebook with anti-plagiarism software you can discourage cheating and plagiarism as learners’ work is checked upon uploading. This software can also encourage learners to review their work properly for any glaring blocks of text which could be viewed as plagiarised before submitting it.

Sound like what you need?

Contact eWorks to find out more.

 

How sustainable are your e-learning courses?

Jeanette Swain, eWorks ConsultantJeanette has worked in education and training for over 20 years as an environmental educator, e-learning leader and in quality and compliance. She is also a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog. Further to Jeanette’s Need an e-learning check-up? blog post, it is now time to take a closer look at the sustainability of your courses.

How sustainable are your courses?

In this blog post, I would like to expand on point two in my eLearning check-upHow sustainable are your courses? The questions I suggested you ask of your organisation were:

  1. Are your eLearning stars individuals with passion?
  2. What would happen if they move on?
  3. Are you utilising the skills of these staff in mentoring and coaching others?
  4. What are your continuity and professional development strategies?

What is sustainability?

From a business perspective, sustainability refers to the endurance of systems and processes. In terms of eLearning courses in your organisation, sustainability is about the systems and processes that support your eLearning effort. There are several organisational approaches to providing eLearning:

  • In some cases, eLearning is tied tightly to individual effort and can fly below the radar.
  • In other cases, organisations (especially those where education is not core business) have a team approach.
  • Other organisations provide course content online is part of the job role of all teaching and training staff. In this case they tend to have a digital learning strategy and a ‘whole of organisation’ approach. This model is growing rapidly, as more organisations become aware of the power of online delivery, and expect their staff to have the skills to contribute to it.

1. eLearning individuals

Are your eLearning stars individuals with passion or do you have defined roles within your organisation? If the majority of course design, development and online teaching falls on individuals without a formal eLearning role, then I would suggest that this ad hoc approach is not sustainable!  The obvious risk is the individual leaving the organisation without a transition plan.  Less obvious risks include;

  • course quality and consistency impacting on the User Experience
  • organisation compliance processes
  • copyright laws and regulations
  • ensuring that the individual is maintaining and meeting the business rules of the organisation.duplication of content, difficulty in sharing.

2. eLearning teams or departments

If you have an organisational team or department responsible for eLearning are they multidisciplinary? If you are working in the accredited education space do you have a broad set of skills on your team? At a minimum you should ensure that you have skills in the following areas;

  • learning design
  • content creation
  • assessment
  • copyright
  • organisational compliance requirements, and

There are sustainability issues with this approach also, however. If training staff are provided with a ’ready-made program’, do you have their buy-in, or could time and money be spent developing eLearning programs that are not utilised effectively? Other issues may include eLearning teams lacking skills in Training and Assessment or taking liberty with learning content due to lack of support from subject matter experts.

3. Whole of organisation approach

The most sustainable approach to eLearning is a whole of organisation approach. This would take the form of a digital learning strategy. Developing a digital learning strategy provides the opportunity to set the vision, objectives and strategic priorities for eLearning in your organisation. It is an opportunity to redefine the expectations of your learners and your trainers and to ensure that the organisation is focused to defined goals. A digital learning strategy should encompass:

People

  • Your staff needs, including how you train, support and encourage their ongoing development.
  • Your learners’ needs and expectations of eLearning.

Systems

  • Ensuring your IT systems are robust and able to support growth.
  • Ensuring your policies and procedures support your strategy.
  • Integration of key business systems.

Profitability

  • Reducing the costs of eLearning through preventing duplication of tasks. That is, requiring tasks to be completed online and on paper.
  • Streamlined student induction and support.
  • Bulk purchasing of digital content and IT hardware.
  • Searchable content available organisation wide.
  • Focused professional development of staff.

Is it time to develop your digital learning strategy?

Whatever your approach to eLearning sustainability, now is a good time to consider what you are doing well and areas that need improvement. If you are thinking of developing a digital learning strategy or undertaking an eLearning check-up Jeanette can give you a hand.

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!