Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vocational e-Learning for Business

Greetings from my office, where I am taking part in the last of a weekly series on-line forums with about 25 people around Australia. This week the topic is "WHERE can I find a training partner to support my business?". 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 Nita Schultz and Brad Beach, are talking about their work on how training organizations can help business with e-learning. They are authors of "The role of RTOs in partnering
with business and industry to embed e-learning
", published by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (31 May 2011).

Brad pointed out that e-learning was a way to make use of industry experts without them spending their time traveling to courses. He also described how the e-learning environment can be used to keep in touch with students and for them to have an alumni after the formal events. I asked Brad about the cost of keeping materials up to date and he responded that good design can allow for updates.
Table of contents

Table of contents i
Executive Summary 1
Literature Review 1
Key Findings 2
Introduction 3
What is e-learning? 4
Literature Review 4
Are you ready for a partnership? 4
Getting down to business 7
Who needs to do what and when? 8
Maintaining the partnership 11
What about the outcomes? 12
Insights from currently funded industry sectors using e-learning 13
Key informants 13
Negotiation of e-learning partnership 18
Implementation of e-learning partnership 20
Maintenance of e-learning partnership 23
Evaluation and review of e-learning outcomes and partnership 27
Key Findings 30
What does an effective business RTO e-learning partnership look like? 30
Is an effective e-learning partnership very different to other business and RTO
partnerships? 30
What action can an RTO take to foster and sustain industry enterprise e-learning
partnerships? 31
References 32
Appendix 1 – Full copy of responses for responses to the maintenance questions ..... 34
Maintenance of e-learning partnership 34
For more information 37
Australian Flexible Learning Framework 37


Executive Summary
The 2008-2011 Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework) strategy continues to build the capability of VET practitioners in the context of embedding good practice in registered training organisations (RTOs) and
businesses (also known and referred to as employers, enterprises and firms).

This paper considers a range of literature and good practices demonstrated in effective business and RTO e-learning partnerships

Literature Review

The literature review examines a range of Framework publications and the recent National Quality Council publication Working in partnership A guide for RTOs, enterprises and industry groups (Cleary 2010). The research suggests all effective partnerships are underpinned by:

• a demonstrated readiness by the RTO and the business to engage in partnership arrangements and an enthusiasm for e-learning solutions
• negotiations where the expectations of the business and RTO are clearly articulated and roles and responsibilities detailed, documented and signed-off
• supportive social and economic structures
• regular open and honest communications
• appointment of one key contact in the RTO with strong project management skills, high degree of customer focus and delegated authority to quickly make decisions relating to the partnership
• the RTO accommodating the changing business needs by organising training and assessment around business’ workload pressures and using authentic workplace tasks and skills development
• actively engaging business personnel in the training and assessment evaluating the outcomes of the training and assessment and reviewing the partnership.
• Every stage in effective partnerships between RTOs and industry business is premised on building trust and respect, having commitment to a common goal, working together to develop the training program, ongoing dialogue, flexibility in training and assessment arrangements, sharing ideas and developing a common language.

RTO champions and industry champions leading the industry sectors using e-learning were invited to consider the features of effective business and RTO partnerships described in the literature, in the context of their industry sectors. Survey questions and discussion starters drew on the features of effective partnerships described by Cleary (2010); readiness, negotiation, implementation, maintenance, evaluation and review.

The role of RTOs in partnering with business and industry to embed e-learning Commitment, collaboration, trust and respect are words repeatedly used by industry and RTO champions as characteristics of effective partnerships.

Mutual trust and respect built as a result of the collaborative actions of industry, business and the RTO in the e-learning partnership. In the minds of industry e-learning champions, the core ingredients of a trusting and respectful relationship were honesty in all communications, acting with integrity, the RTO showing a keen interest in the business and industry, finding innovative solutions to specific business needs, being responsive and meeting timelines.

RTOs met the businesses’ expectations in preparing for the partnership by reviewing internal capabilities to offer an e-learning solution to meet each business’ specific needs, researching the industry and the business and demonstrating commitment to an e-learning solution. Industry and RTO e-learning champions were unequivocal about the importance of unambiguous, detailed documentation underpinning the implementation, maintenance and evaluation of the partnership. Businesses expect to know what their specific roles and responsibilities are up front and performance measures to be mutually agreed. While businesses want a say in the design and implementation of the learning they do look to the RTO to interpret their needs and offer solutions and in some cases the businesses depended on the RTO to provide that advice.
Industry and RTO champions agreed that collaborative decision making, agreed outcomes, protection of intellectual property, the appointment of key contacts and embedded quality processes are catalysts to effective e-learning partnerships.

Key Findings

The features cited by Cleary (2010) as essential to effective partnerships
were rated as equally important by industry and RTO champions leading the 2008-2011 Framework funded industry sectors using e-learning.

However, the business may need guidance from the RTO to better understand the skills that need to be developed and the available training options for e-learning solutions.

To foster and sustain business e-learning partnerships RTOs need to have an attitude that is highly focused on service to the business, ensuring all communications are answered promptly and fully and by making the effort to build personal relationships with business personnel.

All industry champions interviewed for this paper agreed that respect is earned.

RTOs supporting the currently funded industry sectors have built the respect of the industry sectors and business partners by being action driven, making realistic promises to industry stakeholders and delivering on these promises. RTOs tangibly demonstrating commitment to, and collaboration with the industry sector, build trust and respect that translates into sustained partnerships. This may translate to the RTO becoming the provider of choice for the business partners. ...

From: The role of RTOs in partnering
with business and industry to embed e-learning
, Nita Schultz and Brad Beach, Australian Flexible Learning Framework, 31 May 2011

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