Android and iOS apps guide

Teachers and trainers within the VET sector will benefit from a new Android and iOS apps guide. The guide has been developed by the New Generation Technologies for Learning business activity, managed by eWorks staff, and outlines some of the considerations involved in app development for vocational education and training.

Developed using an online survey to rate different aspects of development environments, the guide, named Android and iOS App Development Explained, includes:

  • definitions of the various types of mobile apps,
  • a list of websites where the technically-minded can undertake self-training,
  • process descriptions defining how apps can be distributed to both platforms, and
  • an exploration of the reasoning behind creating a native versus hybrid versus web app.

"The business activity generally recommends that web apps are developed in order to maximise the ability to share across different mobile devices", says Business Manager Kristena Gladman.

"There are scenarios, however, where it will be beneficial to develop apps that use device-specific functions, and the guide resulting from this work is intended to help decide when that is the case", says Kristena.

The New Generation Technologies for Learning business activity is funded by the National VET E-learning Strategy, a joint initiative of the Australian and State and Territory governments.

For more information please visit the New Generation Technologies for Learning website and follow eWorks on Twitter.

Emerging Tech Trials Commence

Netvibes page to help you keep track of the 2012-13 Emerging Tech Trials.

The projects selected for the 2012-13 Emerging Tech Trials for the National VET E-learning Strategy have now started blogging! This is a great advantage both for the projects in terms of exposure and for us to stay up to date. Using an RSS aggregator like Netvibes it becomes easy to see what projects are working on over time.

Some are more active than others at this stage, but if you’re interested, we’ve set up a Netvibes page for your convenience.

"So all we need to do is build an app and share it?"

Four children sitting around a table, interacting with an iPad

One of the challenges I have found in supporting e-learning projects is to figure out how to get them to complete and at the same time how to get the best shareable benefits for future e-learning activities. Projects done for the former Framework or the current VET E-learning Strategy are required to return and share their outcomes. This is so that other training providers can benefit from their findings and/or content and to save the wheel from continually being reinvented.

At the end of the recent induction morning for the E-learning for Participation and Skills funding, one of the participants comes to me with a question. He is a techie and good at his job and his question is “So all we need to do is build an app and share it?” He wants to make sure he meets all the project outcomes requirements. I said yes, but I now realise this answer needs qualification.

Sometimes apps get built that are organisation specific, in that they are integrated to the organisation’s student management system or LMS. When it comes to the end of the project the shareable app may exist but only in a form that integrates only with their system. They can make the code available but it has to be reworked and as such may not be all that helpful to other organisations. They may as well start again. (This is a similar issue to LMS outputs in a packaged form that can be shared vs. in the form of a whole course, as a sophisticated design does not easily package.)

For mobile projects it brings up the issue of designing for mobile: should organisations create an organisational-based app on which all their other apps are custom built, providing easy access and functionality, or should they customise generic apps that anyone can use and that do not reference any database or LMS of the original creator?

On one hand, the latter is better in terms of shareable project outcomes. On the other hand, the former is better for model development outcomes where the benefit is the story of how they went about embedding the new e-learning development activity. I am not saying either is better – in the past I think we have gotten too caught up in sharing content which leads to some of the shareability problems – when in fact the best outcome is the sharing of the development model in the context of their organisation. What matters is that projects need a clear goal at the start as to what they are offering and delivering.

Delivering both shareable content and learnings is rare. Usually project teams, often new to e-learning or fixed in old ways of thinking, can only deliver either a poorly developed learning resource or a model report. The best win-win for project outcomes is when a team delivers a learning resource (ie. a packaged learning object or generic app) that is highly shareable (rather than just technically shareable) and facillates sharing of the organisational model developed in the process.

Photo: NASA Visualization Explorer (iPad app), by NASA Goddard Photo and Video on flickr.

E-portfolio Project Findings

A man wearing a hat with a camera

Mahara Give’n’Get PD workshop

An e-portfolio is a collection of electronic evidence assembled and managed by a user. Utilised in education, an e-portfolio can support entry into training, progression through learning pathways and transition to higher level courses.

Managed by the E-portfolios for Learner Pathways business activity and funded by the National VET E-learning Strategy, exemplar projects have enabled registered training organisations (RTOs) with existing mature implementations of e-portfolios to draw recommendations on how to effectively implement e-portfolios in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.

The E-portfolios for Learner Pathways website presents a list of videos of the current case studies. You can also read a description of each of the projects’ outcomes below.

Australian Financial Management Organisation (AFMA) has reported on its reasons for moving to a Moodle assessment-based e-portfolio for its learners and subsequent experiences with this e-portfolio. The team’s finding that students were more likely to complete a case study than to post workplace evidence (due to the privacy implications of financial management), highlighted the requirement to find a more user-friendly and intuitive platform.

Box Hill Institute considered how learners use and feel about e-portfolios by tracking learning analytics such as reuse, average time of visit, diversity of use and teacher adoption. The researchers found that their students and teachers want to use e-portfolios in different ways, and that paraprofessionals are the greatest users of e-portfolios – generally for the purposes of job applications and resume building. A direct link was found between teacher training and support in using e-portfolios, and success in implementing them.

TAFE NSW Western Sydney Institute gathered data and documented good practice models of e-portfolio usage that motivate and support learners to manage their learning evidence. Some students new to e-portfolios were surprised by their user-friendliness. Teachers who participated in an eLearning Facilitator Program (eLF) were very positive about the potential of e-portfolio use in teaching and learning, to encourage learners to formalise their thoughts, to reflect on their learning, and to record and share their achievements.

“We strongly believe in the capacity of e-portfolios to permit individuals to set development goals, upload evidence to demonstrate that the goal has been achieved and to reflect on professional practice,” says Director of Education Programs and Innovation Strategies at AFMA, Karen Barrett.

“E-portfolios can be powerful instruments for career development and professional reflection,” says Karen.

For more information on the findings of these trials, please visit the E-portfolios for Learner Pathways website and follow VET_Eportfolios on Twitter.

Photo: Mahara Give’n’Get PD workshop, by theother66 on flickr.