VET Toolboxes versus learning objects: what you need to know

Bernadette Parry, eWorks Client Support CoordinatorBernadette Parry is the Client Support Coordinator at eWorks. Her role involves juggling all sorts of client-focused tasks including start-up TrainingVC training, advanced Moodle training and support desk services. Due to an overwhelming response to our Toolboxes sale, we have extended the sale to offer a selection of VET E-learning Toolboxes at half price until Christmas. Think of it as our little Christmas present to you. So now seems like a good time to talk about the difference between VET E-learning Toolboxes and Learning Objects.

Is there any difference in the learning material between the Toolbox and the learning objects?

VET E-learning Toolboxes are integrated learning programs incorporating a number of units of competency that support the delivery of a qualification. The learning is generally scaffolded as a workplace scenario where the learner takes on the role of an employee, creating a ‘real-life’ learning environment as much as possible. These self-paced online courses are ‘ready to go’ and can be undertaken anywhere and anytime – with or without an internet connection. Each Toolbox contains a Teacher Guide and Technical Guide to support implementation, and is available on a CD-ROM for installation on a server, or for use on a standalone computer.

Toolbox Learning Objects are downloadable smaller self-contained components of content. Learning objects generally support an element or unit of competency rather than the delivery of a qualification. A Toolbox may be disaggregated into three or many learning objects depending on its coverage. You might like to think of learning objects as being ‘chapters’ and Toolboxes as complete ‘books’. The learning objects are compliant with SCORM content packaging standards, to enable them to be interoperable with a learning management system (LMS).

Is there any difference in the look of the Toolbox and learning objects?

A Toolbox works like a small website and the navigation is integrated into the interface design. The pages of a learning object are navigated using a dynamic menu created during the SCORM packaging process. The look of the learning object menu is defined by the styling of the learning management system (LMS). The style of the content pages is the same as those in the Toolbox.

Harness the Sun Toolbox

Are Toolboxes and learning objects suitable for use on iPad?

Both Toolboxes and learning objects would need to first be uploaded to a server so that you could access them via your iPad browser. In recent years Apple has ceased to support Flash on the iPad and this has meant that some content will not appear. This is generally restricted to interactive activities only. Any content from the Series 14 Toolboxes (identifiable as the Toolbox number starts with 14.) has been tested on iPads at the time of development. Those that used Flash have provided a fall back (non-Flash alternative) to any interactions. Three especially popular Toolboxes have also recently been updated for use on iPads. It is worth checking that the content you want to use works on your device by viewing the previews in the National VET Content collection first.

Are learning objects and Toolboxes available offline?

Toolboxes can be purchased on CD, in which case they will not require an internet connection in order to run. However, a CD drive and an internet browser (such as IE, Chrome, Mozilla Firefox) are required to run the content. Learning objects are SCORM content packages which are designed to be used within an LMS (which would be on a server). Although learning objects also contain standalone content package players so that they can be used outside an LMS, there are limitations such as the browser and version of it.

Should you buy a Toolbox or download a learning object?

It depends. While learning objects allow you to pick and mix elements to incorporate in your own learning plan or program, Toolboxes are a self-contained resource that has been contextualised by using a workplace scenario with relevant industry support materials. Downloading a learning object can give you a feel for a Toolbox topic, but for a packaged learning program that supports the delivery of a qualification, a Toolbox is the way to go. And with a selection of Toolboxes currently half price, you would be mad not to go for the whole shebang.

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, helping them to deliver approximately 190 qualifications and supporting over 2,000 units of competency from a wide range of nationally-endorsed training packages. Three Toolboxes have just been updated and the learning objects added to the National VET Content repository. Take a look today.

Why are Toolboxes being updated?

The main purpose of this round of updates is to make Toolboxes viewable on iPad by removing Flash, a format that E-standards for Training does not recommend for delivery of learner content in the VET sector.

The development of Toolboxes has been managed by eWorks with ongoing funding and support from the National VET E-learning Strategy since 2000. This funding ensures:

  • a program of maintenance of content in the repository to ensure consistency with current versions of training packages, and
  • technical maintenance of the Toolboxes.
Homepage of the Interactive Ochre Toolbox (907)

Screenshot of the homepage of the Interactive Ochre Toolbox (907)

How was it decided which Toolboxes would be updated?

A detailed review process was undertaken to determine which Toolboxes should be included in the maintenance project. The review consisted of:

  • an opportunity for Toolbox users to vote for their preferred Toolbox update
  • an analysis of reported Toolbox functionality issues, and
  • an analysis of Toolbox sales, usage and website analytics.

Based upon this review it was decided that three Toolboxes would be updated and the learning objects added to the National VET Content repository.

What do the updates mean?

Upgrading to HTML5 and removing Flash has several benefits in addition to facilitating viewing of Toolboxes on iPad:

  1. The Toolboxes are more accessible (with the new HTML5 accessible media player).
  2. The Toolboxes can be better maintained technically moving forward.
  3. The Toolboxes can be split into free learning objects.

Which Toolboxes have been updated?

  • The 907 Interactive Ochre Toolbox has been significantly updated to support its use on iPad, and has been disaggregated into seven new learning objects available for free via the National VET Content repository. The rebuild included updating all content to meet the current technical standards, including accessibility.
  • The 14.02 Build Green Toolbox has also been updated to allow these resources to be used on iPad. The two learning objects are free to download from the National VET Content repository.
  • 602 Community Services Toolbox has been newly packaged into twelve learning objects. These objects are also free to download from the National VET Content repository.
Learning object of the Build Green Toolbox (14.02)

Screenshot of a learning object from the Build Green Toolbox (14.02)

What’s next?

A review of the Horticulture Toolboxes, (605 Amenity Horticulture, 304 Horticulture, 507 Conservation and Land Management, and 408 Turf Management) was undertaken to map to the current Horticulture Training Package – AHC10. This review will result in updated teacher guides, content and technical compliance of these Toolboxes in the 2015 maintenance schedule.

Distribution and access will be improved by the implementation of further advanced searching and browse functionality on the National VET Content resources. Direct access to content and discoverability from learner management systems will also be improved as a result.

Questions, comments, queries or concerns about Flexible Learning Toolboxes and the National VET Content repository? Contact us.

Vote for your favourite Toolbox to be updated!

UPDATE: The vote is now closed. Thanks to all participants! We’ll announce the winner of the competition on Twitter and in our newsletter, and will get in touch with him or her directly.

Do you have a favourite Toolbox you’d like to see updated? We’ve compiled a list of our most popular titles and would like your vote.

Four Toolboxes will be aligned to the relevant current training package and updated to meet the recommended technical standards for content development from E-Standards for Training.

Everyone who votes and then tweets about it using #ToolboxVote goes into the running to win a free Toolbox of their choice.

Once you’ve voted, tweet about it using the button below for a chance to win a Toolbox!

Voting will be open until Sunday, 14 September, at which time the winner will be notified by email. Good luck and thanks for participating!

Splash, Toolbox of the Month

The Splash Toolbox has been created to support the flexible delivery of the Certificate 1 in Water Sustainability. It provides a pathway into the water industry for, in particular, young people who are seeking an opportunity to gain experience of the industry while developing a set of valuable employability skills.

The Toolbox is designed for delivery either as a whole training course, in small sections, or as single units of competency. It can be used to assist in face-to-face teaching or for remote or online learning.

The Toolbox provides multiple learning pathways, which enable targeted delivery to suit learners’ needs.

The Toolbox has been designed according to these three main objectives:

  1. Practical tasks where the learner is encouraged to take responsibility for his/her own learning. Learners are given guidance to complete a practical task and access the appropriate resources to carry it out.
  2. Flexibility, providing you with more options for using the Toolbox to suit the different needs of your learners. Collaborative activities are included as part of the Toolbox content, including discussion topics and teamwork activities.
  3. Different learning pathways are offered, with learners being given the opportunity to complete structured activities or to progress straight to the project depending on their levels of prior knowledge.

Who is Splash for?

The diverse nature of the candidates undertaking this qualification may include students undertaking VET in Schools programs or people involved in other forms of pre-employment or early-employment programs.

A second learner cohort is mature-aged learners who may be seeking a formal qualification to align with volunteer work that they are doing. For this reason the Toolbox is structured so that learners with experience can proceed directly to the tasks or the practice activities followed by the projects, without first progressing through the Prepare sections. Learners with experience also have the option to check their suitability for recognition of prior learning (RPL) by following the express pathway link.

To purchase the Toolbox, or for the complete list of Flexible Learning Toolboxes, please visit the National VET Content website.