Need an e-learning check-up?

Jeanette Swain

Jeanette has worked in education and training for over 20 years as an environmental educator, e-learning leader and in quality and compliance. She specialises in helping clients to maximise system integration, change management, reporting, learning analytics and the learner’s user experience. Jeanette has recently joined the talented team of Accredited Consultants at eWorks, a group of experts offering specialist advice across the e-learning spectrum. Here Jeanette reminds us that we all need an e-learning check-up from time to time, and that this process offers a simple first step towards change and improvement.

Is it time to question the status quo?

Perhaps you have been running a learning management system (LMS) in your organisation for some time, but have you questioned the status quo? We’re all busy – it’s easy to get stuck in the habit of rushing to get work done, without taking time to reflect on where we’re at, how we got there, and whether it’s where we want and need to be. Is the present way of working smart, scalable, sustainable? Some of the questions you may need to ask about your existing e-learning practices and processes can be difficult through existing eyes. Working in e-learning across several organisations has provided me with insight into the many approaches that are taken when it comes to online delivery. Are you taking advantage of the latest developments in this constantly evolving (aka exciting!) area?

Status Quo cartoonCredits: Status Quo by Mimi and Eunice

An e-learning check-up can help you consider new options

An e-learning check-up doesn’t need to be time consuming or laborious. It is simply about asking a few questions – then answering them honestly – any gaps, holes or issues will soon become clear. Where you don’t have the answers, it’s time to get some expert advice. A few questions that you might like to consider include:

1. What is your user experience like?

How consistent are your courses? When teachers are developers there are countless approaches to course development. Does this confuse your learners? What are the organisational strategies you can use to ensure consistency of user experience?

2. How sustainable are your courses?

Are your e-learning stars individuals with passion? What would happen if they move on? Are you utilising the skills of these staff in mentoring and coaching others? What are your continuity and professional development strategies?

3. How scalable are your e-learning processes?

The uptake of e-learning has been growing over time, but are processes such as course development, course requests, backups and storage falling on individuals? What about content? Is it accessible to other staff, do you know what and where your e-learning assets are? Can the existing processes be scaled up to meet demand?

4. Are your organisation’s compliance requirements built into your learning programs?

Is this transparent or a hybrid paper/digital solution. Are you able to easily extract compliance data? What changes could you put in place to make the LMS part of your compliance solutions

5. Is the LMS part of your business systems?

What other business systems does your LMS talk to? Is there duplication of effort across multiple systems? How can these systems or their data outputs and inputs be integrated to increase efficiency and reduce costs?

6. Is it time for a stocktake?

What is actually going on behind the numbers? Is it time for a stocktake? How do you delete old material without losing valuable assets? Are your assets accessible to all staff across your organisation?

7. What analytics and reporting tools are you using?

Are you collecting relevant data? There may be a lot of courses on your LMS, but how are they being used? Is the data you are obtaining informing your practice? How should it be? 

So how did you go? 

Answers to these questions will vary depending upon your organisation, your staff and your learners. Perhaps you need a hand answering them or figuring out what to do next? That’s okay. Or maybe a pair of eyes outside of your business or organisation would help? Continuing with the status quo might be the easy way for now, but the longevity of any organisational business system comes from ensuring that it can meet the long term aims of the organisation and embrace change in the field.

Contact Jeanette for a chat about any or all of this.

RTOs train well but assess poorly

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited ConsultantAt the recent ACPET National Conference, Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) Chief Commissioner, Chris Robinson, said that registered training organisation’s (RTOs) in the vocational education and training (VET) sector train well but assess poorly. Allison Miller, who was in the audience, discusses this candid statement, breaks down the Standards for RTOs according to assessment requirements, and offers advice about good assessment practices for the VET sector.

Non-compliance and assessment go hand in hand

Chris Robinson’s statement was based upon recent analysis by ASQA of RTO compliance rates since the introduction of the new national Standards for RTOs (Standards) earlier in 2015 (ASQA, 2015). The analysis has shown that whenever an RTO has recorded non-compliance, assessment is always an issue. These issues stem from:

  • poor assessment strategies
  • poor assessment tools
  • poor assessment practices, and
  • unqualified trainers and assessors.

An assessment is much more than an assessment tool

The Standards (Clauses 1.8-1.12) are  very explicit about how an RTO should conduct effective assessment by implementing an assessment system that ensures that assessment:

  • complies with the assessment requirements of the relevant training package or VET accredited course; and
  • is conducted in accordance with the principles of assessment

This approach should also be applied to the assessment of recognition of prior learning (RPL). Under the new Standards, trainers/assessors need to be able to:

  • Unpack a unit of competency (UoC) to match skills to their industry. That is, the assessor needs to ensure that a learner has the required skills to work effectively in the relevant industry, according to what is included in the UoC.
  • Design assessment activities and tools which meet all of the UoC requirements, the relevant industry’s needs, and all of the principles of assessment and rules of evidence (Table 18-1 & 18-2).
  • Determine how to best collect, assess, provide feedback and store assessment evidence.
  • Write supporting documentation which outlines the learning and assessment activities students will undertake to demonstrate they are competent.
  • Understand, implement and participate in an assessment validation process.

 

flickr_5843577306_06fd6132f7_b

Credit: Exam by Alberto G.

Other key components of a successful VET assessment system

Although not as explicit in the Standards, there are a number of other key components of a successful VET assessment system, such as having:

  • Several and varied assessment activities such as formative assessments which measure the learning (also known as assessment for learning) and summative assessments which measure the output of the learning (also known as assessment of learning). Summative assessments should not only be included at the end of the course.
  • Assessment activities and tools which are real and applied. That is, the student is doing the actual task in the workplace or simulated workplace environment or producing something that would be produced in the workplace.
  • Effective feedback mechanisms which help students move forward with their learning, also known as feed forward (JISC, 2013)
  • Ways of authenticating that the students are who they say they are, especially online students.
  • A variety of ways to capture assessment evidence such as text, images audio, video, checklists and third party reports.
  • Effective ways to capture and store assessment evidence so that is can be easily found, such as uploading all students’ evidence into a learning management system.

It’s not all about ASQA

Having an effective assessment system is not only about satisfying ASQA auditors and meeting the Standards for RTOs. An effective assessment system should ensure that a student has the skills, knowledge and experience to meet current workplace requirements as outlined in the UoC and according to what is currently being done in industry. This means that a trainer/assessor’s vocational currency is very important (Clauses 1.13-1.16). Trainers/assessors should be supported to continue

to work in industry either through part-time work, through work shadowing opportunities or other industry programs, to ensure they maintain this currency.

Interested in other blogs by Allison Miller?

How about:

Free online learning content to enhance your green skills

Jo NorburyJo manages a range of e-learning content services including Flexible Learning Toolboxes and the VET Commons online community. It’s good news as usual from Jo today, with more excellent resources published in VET Commons. And, even better, they are all entirely free.

New, interactive learning resources in VET Commons

eWorks has recently published five brand new, free, interactive learning resources in VET Commons. Covering a range of sustainability topics, the resources contain hundreds of pages of quiz content, assessments, images, downloadable references and multimedia – all entirely free. The content really speaks for itself.

1. Large scale solar heating/cooling systems

Everything you need to know about solar energy, how it is used to heat and cool, together with safe use of these systems and what to do when things go wrong. Part of the competency VU20472, these resources help to determine the characteristics of large-scale solar heating/cooling systems to be applied by technicians involved in servicing and maintaining them. The principles and operation of these systems, together with the unique safety aspects associated with their immediate environment are also covered.

  • Understanding solar energy: This learning object covers the fundamentals of solar heating/cooling systems, and provides an overview of solar electricity production.
  • Solar heating and cooling systems: This learning object looks at the components of large-scale solar heating/cooling systems, including thermal systems, and photovoltaic systems used to generate power that can then be used for heating/cooling.
  • Safety features: This learning object examines the safety features of large-scale solar heating/cooling systems.
  • Troubleshooting: This learning object considers troubleshooting issues for large-scale solar heating/cooling systems, including the identification of system problems and how to resolve typical system problems.

wind turbine history

2. Wind turbine operation and safety

Part of the competency VU20467, these resources evaluate large wind turbine operation and safety to be applied by technicians involved in servicing and maintaining large wind turbines at wind farms.

  • Modern wind turbines: This learning object provides an overview of wind farms with large wind turbines.
  • Wind turbine systems: This learning object looks at the systems and components in large wind turbines.
  • Safety features: This learning object looks at maintenance requirements of wind turbines, and safety issues when working on wind turbines.
  • Troubleshooting: This learning object looks at troubleshooting faults in wind turbines.

wind turbine components

3. Conduct annual functional testing of complex water-based fire suppression systems

Compliance, health and safety inspections and testing – these learning objects have you covered.

  • Compliance requirements: This learning object introduces legislative and organisational requirements, record keeping, and defects.
  • Inspections: This learning object discusses possible occupational health and safety issues during inspections, checks for compliance, inspections themselves, and recording information after completing your inspection.
  • Testing and results: This learning object looks at occupational health and safety issues involved with testing, yearly functional testing, test methods, testing complex components, documenting your results, and reinstating the system after concluding your test.

4. Applying Energy Efficient LED Lighting Principles

How they work, why they should be used, and how to maintain them – everything LED.

  • Determine requirements: This learning object will build up an understanding of how LEDs work, their potential energy savings, and how to best promote their use in lighting applications.
  • Promote LED: This learning object considers how to best promote the use of LED lighting in lighting applications.
  • LED maintenance: For this topic you will learn more about maintaining LEDs and how to create an LED maintenance plan for your client.

5. Install HVAC control systems

What are HVAC control systems and how do you efficiently install them according to design specifications?

  • HVAC basics: In this learning object, you will begin to learn the basics of HVAC, including an initial understanding of how to install HVAC control systems. HVAC controls, how split systems work, interface basic controls, and evaluating automatic control systems will also be covered.
  • Design specifications: This learning object covers HVAC central control systems – central controls, drawings, inputs and outputs, and meters.
  • Installation prep: This learning object starts to detail HVAC output equipment. While completing this section, you will begin to understand more about various kinds of output equipment, including fans and motors, critical applications, VSD control, air and water control, and wiring systems.
  • Installation: This learning object will continue to look at HVAC output equipment, including cover controls, systems, and chillers.
  • Commissioning: In this learning object we will consider how to commission a building, covering the steps you would need to take in a real-world scenario.

What is VET Commons?

VET Commons is an easy way to locate existing learning resources that are relevant to vocational education and training. VET Commons currently contains over 15,000 resources and is continuously expanding to include new material from a variety of public and commercial publishers. Search by discipline, training package or keywords for meaningful content including:

Ready to get started?

Join the VET Commons community today to access these sustainability learning resources and say goodbye to the hard work of searching, locating and technically matching content for your Moodle courses. And should you need any help, simply contact eWorks.

Top tips for making videos with a smartphone


Helen Port

Helen Bitmead has already taught us about the power of video-based learning to educate. But what if your filming budget is minimal or non-existent? Does that mean giving up on the whole video idea altogether – or is there another way? With a little thought and preparation, you might find that your smartphone is…smarter than you thought.

Everyone loves a video

The statistics on video marketing are astounding. According to some estimates 100 million internet users watch video each day, nearly 50% of internet users view at least one video online over the course of a month, and according to one researcher one minute of video has been estimated to be worth 1.8 million words. It’s not surprising, therefore, that video is such an important teaching tool. But telling a good story via video requires skill and experience. If you don’t get it right, you won’t engage your audience and nothing will be learned. But there will be times when you have a quick message to get out to your team, learners or customers and you simply can’t afford to bring in the professionals. So what do you do?

Smartphone to the rescue

‘I’ve got a smartphone with a camera; I’ll do it myself this time,’ you might think to yourself. Not a bad idea, but it needs to look at least half decent if you are representing your business. If you need to go down this path, therefore, Training Snippets has a few tips to help you avoid common pitfalls:

1. Before you start filmingmake sure you have enough free memory on your phone. This might sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many people get caught out. For one minute of video, you will need at least 200 MB of free space.

2. Make sure the camera lens is clean and the battery fully charged. Again, sounds obvious, until your battery runs out and you realise that your footage isn’t clear.

3. Choose an indoor position where there is plenty of light and it’s quiet. Stand your subject(s) on a spot or sit them on a low back chair to prevent them from moving around.

wong and corect positionin-new1

 


Position yourself
and the camera one meter away from your subject. Any further away and he will be too far from the microphone on the phone.  This will make the finished audio difficult to hear and your subject will sound like he is in an empty hall.

 

 

4. The phone should be the same heightas the person you are filming, so support your elbow on something such as a cushion or the arm of a chair. If you are standing use your free hand for support. This will help to prevent the shot from moving around too much and make the finished product look more professional.

 

5. Hold the phone sideways(landscape) rather than up and down (portrait).  If you do it this way, your video fills the screen instead of having black pillars either side with a long skinny picture – think about it as being the same shape as a television or computer screen.

6. Avoid zooming in on the phone, as this will make it too hard to hold steady. You will get better results if you move closer to your subject. And make sure the camera focus is on your subject by tapping on the person on the screen. This tells the camera to focus on the person rather than the background – you will see the focus box centre on them.

 

7. Be careful not to cover the microphone at the bottom of the phone (or the lens) with your hand.

 

 

 

 

 

8. Once you start filming keep the top of your subject’s head in shot and make sure that he speaks with a strong voice (no whispering).

 

 

 

 

9. You are now a filmmaker (of sorts)! Practice a few times until you’re happy with the results and, most importantly, have fun!

10. Please remember point number 6 – we see this one all the time.

11. And remember – some jobs are best left to the professionals. If smartphone footage will do then great, but for a polished finish you might need a hand.

Do you have more tips for smartphone filmmakers? Let us know.