Tuesday, June 21, 2011

e-learning for workforce development

Today I took part in the second of an weekly series on-line forums with about 25 people around Australia on this week the topic was "HOW can e-learning help with workforce development?". This is part of the excellent work by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, a federal/state government initiative. The events are run on-line using run using the Elluminate product.

This week, as well as listening to a live-to-air presentation with on-line slides, we also worked through some pre-recorded Flash based slides with audio and answered some questions. This made for a slightly complex setup, especially for an ad-hoc group of participants. The Flash presentation was supposed to appear in the Elluminate window, but I found I had just a blank square (I suspect that Elluminate does not work so well under Linux as MS-Windows). But the trainers had allowed for this and provided a web address so I could open the representative in my web browser separately.

To add to my confusion the live sound from the trainer came through my headset, whereas the prerecorded material came via the speakers in my laptop (perhaps because I have changed the audio settings). Some of the problems other students had with audio breaking up I did not experience, perhaps because I set Elluminate to run at 56 kbps (not propaganda speed) and set Flahs to play at low resolution. This reduces the communications and processing load, but still gives an acceptable presentation.

To enter answers to questions there was a separate workbook, in the form of a word-processing document. This made for slightly disjointed process, as I had to flip between Elluminate, the Web browser and the word processor. But it did have the advantage that I could use the native features of each.

Entering answers into a Learning Management System can be annoying, for example, if I can't get the spell checker to work. It is a pleasure to watch how an experienced on-line trainer handles the complexities of getting a group of people to go through an on-line training module and keep top the timetable.

Here is a summary of my answers to the questions:
  • Obstacles to e-leaning in the workplace:Academic prejudice against e-learning. Lack of training with e-learning techniques.
  • When and where e-leaning:In formal course times as part of the normal semester works well. Can also be used in an ad-hoc way.
  • Travel and the benefits:More the case of not being where the training facility is. That is with mobile staff. Can save administrative time, worrying about getting to and from classes.
  • What motivates industry to participate in training: Meeting mandatory qualification requirements.
  • Importance of learner support: Being in the IT industry have good technical support. But still have difficulty getting things like Elluminate and the Flash player to work on my Linux computer.
  • Learners comfortable with e-learning: Most experienced with IT and relaxed. They will appreciate not having to attend “lectures”. They like it.
  • Learners prepared for e-learning:
  • About 10% drop out in the first few weeks as they cannot cope with having to do work every week.
  • Motivation of learners: Get a better job.
  • How many learners are there? I expect to have classes of 100 students.
  • Learners locations: About one third India, one third China and one third spread across Australia and the rest of the world.
  • What particularly motivates learners: Practical exercises relevant to jobs they can get.
  • How will the learners benefit: Get a qualification they can use to get a better job.
  • Previous training experience influenced attitude to learning: Boring lectures and irrelevant paper based examinations.
Some useful links were also provided:

  1. Enabling workforce development: Insights from industries using e-learning report

  2. Role of RTOs in partnering with business and industry to embed e-learning
  3. Guidelines for supporting e-learners for support
  4. Enabling workforce development: Insights from eight industry sectors using e-learning
  5. Enabling workforce development: Learning sequence

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