Case study: SA106 Learning to Learnbedford-logo.jpg

South Australia June 2013

Bedford Training



The digital story (below) has also been developed by the project team to give you more information about the project.



This case study was developed by Bedford Group with funding and support from the national training system’s e-learning strategy, the National VET E-learning Strategy (Strategy). The Strategy provides the VET system with the essential e-learning infrastructure and expertise needed to respond to the challenges of a modern economy and the training needs of Australian businesses and workers.

1.1 The Team
Bedford changes the lives of people with disability or disadvantage through employment, training and independent living programs. We provide supported employment in diverse business areas and in the community through our job services program, Career Systems.

We are a registered training organisation, offering accredited and life skills programs to people with diverse needs across South Australia including tailored case management through our dedicated youth services team.

People achieve remarkable outcomes at Bedford. Meeting work responsibilities, formal training, personal sporting achievements, acquiring new skills and gaining independence by moving into a home of one's own, are just some examples.

The team began with four people:
  • Paul Gaertner, Training Manager and (subsequently) Melanie Dancer
  • Rebecca Deans, Special Project Co-ordinator
  • Jenni Wright, Trainer
  • Helen Meynell, Administrator
  • Support from IT Department

Within about a month of receiving funding, the team was three people, the Manager, Trainer and the Administrator. With the departure of the Special Project Co-ordinator, the gap was initially felt. However with support from all over the world and the use of funding to ‘buy in’ expertise, the project has been able to proceed.
The Good Guys at Edwardstown partnered with us and provided iPads at a reduced price, and Internode provided Wi-Fi access at a discounted price. We acknowledge the support of those two organisations.

1.2 Knowledge and experience

BedfordMoodle.jpg
For the Learning to Learn (L2L) Project, the team wanted to develop a virtual campus using Moodle as the tool. Using Moodle enabled all of the units and learning resources to be available within the Training Virtual Campus (TVC). Coupled with the use of iPads and apps, the TVC became a learning hub for the participants.

E-learning had been a passion of the project team for more than a year. Software had been purchased and a pilot project conducted. The software allowed units to be published as ‘stand alone’ meaning they could be delivered to participants on a Compact Disc (CD) and used with computers whether they had internet access or not. Any embedded videos were also on the CD so that participants had access to them, as well, without internet connection. Having the units available in this way was important because the pilot involved participants in remote areas where there was little or no internet access.

Research had been conducted on the availability of programs to encourage adult learning. While there were many programs for children, even up to high school age, there was little on the internet for adults returning to the workforce or for those with learning barriers, particularly in Australia.

The project team had very little experience with high speed broadband in a training context. Broadband access had only been used for in house training in Information Digital Media and Technology. For that reason it was great to have the expertise of the Information Technology staff at Bedford in the early stages of the project. Bedford at Panorama has a high speed wireless internet connection through Internode, so the metropolitan group were allowed visitor access, which worked well.

2.1 Aim

From the Project Profile:
Learning to Learn is a program to help people disenfranchised from study or work gain confidence to lead them into further pathways for study or work. The project will use technology to engage participants and develop skills and discipline required for classroom training and to understand how they can use these skills to support their own lives. Disadvantaged learners and those that have been disengaged from work or study will be involved in the program.
The most significant outcome will be to provide a pathway for participation into further study and/or the workforce. This can be directly measured through ongoing mentoring once the project has finished. The units of competence will be assessed using measured criteria. Evaluation will be completed by learners, mentors and trainers, and partners such as Career Systems.

2.2 Objective

BedfordiPad hands.jpg
The key objective of this activity was to use innovative e-learning technologies, including those using high-speed broadband (where appropriate) to deliver e-learning projects and strategies that improve individuals’ access to gain pre-vocational skills, skills in priority employment areas and/or to pursue educational pathways to gain higher qualifications.

Another objective was: The technologies and resources used for participation and engagement that fulfilled our need to teach practicable and applicable skills based around emotional literacy.
We found that participants learned a lot about themselves and found it most interesting.

Discussions centred around their learning styles and what meaning that had for their future learning.

Of the eight participants who started the L2L course, only two have not yet completed the required presentation. Three participants have gone on to further study:
  • One has gone on to a welding course
  • One has begun a Certificate III in Business Administration
  • One has commenced a Certificate II in Information Digital Media and Technology

Two other participants who did not complete the course because of various reasons are still keen to complete and will do so with the support of their employment consultants and the trainer.

Considering that the most significant outcome was to provide a pathway into further study or the workforce, and taking into account the barriers to learning experienced by some of the participants, this is an outstanding result. The employment consultants who had clients involved are also pleased with the results. They have worked closely with the Bedford team to support us and their clients. Their fantastic support is acknowledged.

3.1 Starting the project

BedfordiPad icons.png
In the background there was work to be done mapping the accredited units to the emotional intelligence training and the activities of the TVC.

There was also the design of the TVC to be considered, both the structure and the activities it would contain.

Various people with a range of interests evaluated about 100 apps. The evaluation narrowed down the range of apps to about 20 that we would use or make available to participants. The evaluation of apps was a significant step in allowing other staff to become familiar with the technology as well.

  • Getting connected to the NBN
At first, we had decided to deliver the project in a metropolitan area (Panorama) and a regional area that was going to be in the Riverland. However, within the Riverland area there were challenges associated with participant access to the internet. Even with the provision of a WiFi ‘hotspot’ for the office in Berri it was realised that participants had transport difficulties to access the office. With this in mind it was decided to relocate the training to Kadina where participants had greater access to the local library for Wi-Fi connection and fewer transport issues.
We checked with Kadina Library; yes they had internet connection and it was free. We discovered however that the local library in Kadina only allowed 54Mb of download for each participant! What that meant was only 10 minutes for face to face internet access between participant and trainer, or about an hour of working on the resources in the virtual campus, particularly as the resources involved videos.
We checked if the NBN or a hot spot was available in Kadina, with a view to changing venues and found neither was available. We also tried negotiating with the TAFE, who could not allow access to their Wi-Fi as our participants were not enrolled at TAFE.

What we found on the NBN site was this:

Kadina SA 5554 Area information
This is the NBN rollout activity in your area.
  • Fibre | Construction to commence within three years - we will commence construction in your area from Sep 2014 in phases with last construction scheduled to commence in Dec 2014*.
It is estimated that the average time from construction beginning to NBN services being available is 12 months.

There was no hot spot in Kadina at any of the businesses either. The team thought about giving each person their own ‘dongle’ for Wi-Fi access but that solution would involve issues where the internet might be used for other than training purposes.
BedfordPocketWiFi.png
The participants continued to use the local libraries at Kadina and Moonta and also two of the employment consultants in the area allowed use of their computers by the participants. We increased the number of trainer visits to Kadina to spend time with the participants and overcame the Wi-Fi access problem for those times by purchasing a ‘pocket Wi-Fi’ (pictured) with prepaid broadband access.

The pocket Wi-Fi allows access to the internet by up to ten devices without any cables. It just sits in the room and uses either the 3G or the 4G network. Even with seven iPads connected, the speed of access only slowed down once.

It certainly will make a difference to the Kadina area once the NBN is available!

  • Software and hardware
We evaluated both an Android tablet and the iPad. The decision to use iPads came down to the availability of free education apps. Only Apple had suitable Apps available free of charge in the App Store. Most of what was available to Android were for young children and we were working with adults.

  • Upload and download speeds
No significant problems with speeds, whether upload or download. There were some issues at Kadina, but these were resolved as shown in the ‘Getting connected to the NBN’ section.

  • IT support
Our IT team were very supportive of the project. As well as being present at meetings to advise and assist, they arranged for a Wi-Fi connection at Aldinga to assist the participants from that area. Internode was kind enough to provide this at a concession price.

  • Internal organisation issues
Apart from the fact that we lost two team members, there were no other internal organisation issues. Adequate time was allowed for development of the TVC, training and extra travel to the regions. Once we had an Acting Training Manager, support was given in catch up meetings.

  • Mobile delivery using tablets or smart phones
The iPads performed anything required of them. Participants found them easy to learn to use and most wanted one of their own! While there were some anticipated issues with return of the iPads, none arose.

  • Participant issues
The participants at Kadina who were attempting to use the Wi-Fi access at libraries in the area had the most significant issues initially. Face Time (allows video connection between people) on the iPad is the best way to keep in touch with participants. The fact that participants only had 54Mb of download meant that we could only chat for a maximum of ten minutes.

This was overcome by making more visits and taking with me the pocket Wi-Fi for internet access.

3.2 Running the project
We wanted the TVC to be interesting and engaging. To this end, research showed that the ‘flipped classroom’ model would be most appropriate. ‘Flip teaching (or flipped classroom) is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with participants instead of lecturing’. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flip_teaching).

Two people inspired this form of learning, Jackie Gerstein and John Moravec (Moving beyond education 2.0, Education Features 2008). Jackie sent activities and information that could be used for the project. Below is Jackie Gerstein’s model from her book ‘The Flipped Classroom: the full picture’.

Bedfordflipped classroom.png

The plan was that participants would spend time online and in the community learning, then the face to face time with the trainer would be spent in discussions about their learning. The aim was to give the participants an insight into their own learning style through the ‘Know Yourself, Choose Yourself, Give Yourself’ model of emotional intelligence.

The model worked to some extent, particularly where participants were learning about themselves and creating a presentation or journal about their learning. The participants could choose any way of presenting their information, although we recommended a couple of apps they could use.
One of the issues that arose in the early part of the project was encouraging participant engagement. It seemed to present a very slow start to their learning.

Our learning from this is to allow more time for the induction and introduction phases. We had only allowed one day with the participants to familiarise them with the technology and introduce the L2L course on the Training Virtual Campus.

Looking back, we can see that it would be beneficial to allow at least two days for this part. Participants would then have a week in between to ‘play’ with the technology before introducing the ‘study’ part. What this would do is enable participants to become familiar with the iPad and its apps before introducing the TVC. If there were any questions, these could also be brought up in the intervening week.

  • Broadband speed slowing impacting on delivery
Apart from the small amount of download allowed at libraries, there have been no issues with broadband speeds, even when using the pocket Wi-Fi.
  • IT support

Bedford Princess Anne computer.jpg
IT support was outstanding. Meeting with Bedford’s IT team at the beginning of the project was extremely helpful as they provided excellent advice and information.

The TVC is hosted by e-works in Victoria. Their team have spent significant amounts of time working with us to ensure the TVC is just what we want. They provided good training at the beginning of the project in the use of Moodle and their ongoing support has been outstanding. The project could not have been completed without their valuable assistance.

Visit from the Chancellor of the University of London, HRH Princess Anne, to the School, 8 May 1986 (Flickr.com)

3.3 Wrapping up the project
  • What skills were developed by your team?
The skills that were developed included set up and running of a Moodle site. In fact, this was probably the most important skill learnt as far as ongoing sustainability of the work carried out and increasing it further.
Working with participants at a distance has also been a learned skill. We had thought that it might be difficult to contact participants and maintain interest in the course. While this was a little evident at the beginning, once they became familiar with the technology (particularly the TVC) both trainer and participant enjoyed the FaceTime experience very much. There was also significant contact by email, and by iMessage (another app available on the iPad).

  • Will there be a future cost saving to your organisation?
Once we have more of our courses uploaded to the TVC, there will be significant cost savings to our organisation. Many of our participants are at some distance from our office in places such as the Riverland, Mt Gambier and Port Lincoln to name a few. We also have an office in Sydney now. We can see that there are many possibilities for using the skills and technologies provided by this project funding to further the work with participants who are isolated for various reasons.

How will your project:
  • be supported beyond the funding period?
By September we plan to have at least one accredited course up and running through the TVC. This is now seen as more than a viable option for our organisation, rather as a necessity. While there are quite a few organisations that support online learning for higher qualifications, there are few that provide lower qualifications such as Certificates I and II or the Learning to Learn aspect.

We are in the process of applying for a further grant to have a task group of participants evaluate the current project. They would then be involved in the design and delivery of a more youth focussed TVC that would enable us to work with school aged participants.

  • be transferred to other parts of your/your partners organisation/s?
In discussions with our HR team, we can see that parts of the induction process for new staff could be implemented on the TVC.

  • be expanded to other participants, cohorts or jurisdictions?
We see the TVC being used for many other participants, both within and outside the organisation. A funding application to evaluate the current project with a task group of young people from schools is being prepared. Also, we can see that supported employees of Bedford could access training in this way as well as others who are not quite ready for classroom or Certificate II level learning.

  • benefit your organisation in the future?
The benefits to our organisation are in the use of the TVC with our participants who are isolated for various reasons, whether by distance, disability or disadvantage. Apart from the cost benefit of reducing travel times, that will also increase safety for staff. We will also be able to reach people who would otherwise not have access to learning because of those factors.

4.1 Main project outcomes
The real project outcomes only fell a little short of our ideal. Participants for the most part did not complete all of the accredited units. However, their learning about themselves and the interest in how they learned was significant. The fact that three of eight went on to further study and two others who had difficulty completing want to go on and complete their work is an excellent result. When the barriers that participants presented with are taken into consideration, the results are even more encouraging.

Our learning about how to better engage participants at the beginning will assist us to achieve even greater outcomes.

4.2 How the outcomes were measured
Outcomes were measured by the rate of completion of the Learning to Learn course. We also took into account participant presentations and feedback from both participants and employment consultants.

5.1 Key successes
  • Participants going on to further study: this is significant given the barriers to learning that some participants presented with.
  • Use of technology: as our first venture into the use of Moodle and using technology for distance learning, we consider this to be significant for the future of training for our organisation.

We also see that we will be able to use other devices such as mobile phones, as well as delivery to the ordinary desktop computer or laptop.

5.2 Suggested improvements
A big learning for us is that almost everything takes more time than at first thought. Better to allow more time than be squeezed for time towards the end of the project. Some of these time constraints are due to the project team being smaller than first planned, however next time we would allow more ‘just in case’ time!

We have previously mentioned that we would spend more time with participants at the beginning of the course to familiarise them with the technology and the TVC.

Another improvement will be to the TVC. It is not yet to the standard where it looks like a website and not a Moodle. Part of the work we will do with others involves this upgrade to our site.

6.1 Knowledge Transfer
The Learning to Learn course is available to anyone to implement. There are documents, activities, videos and a host of other training resources contained in the package.

6.2 Mentorship
We can see how other organisations could use such a project to provide access to an interesting and engaging learning space for participants who have various barriers. We would be happy to provide any further information or assistance that we can.
The iPad is a wonderful tool for learning. Outside of the actual project we introduced iPads to a group of participants with a variety of disabilities. They had found out how to open up the iPad and use it to take a photo within a few minutes.


Resources
There is a moodle course available in .mbz format. Please contact elearning@skills.tas.gov.au for a copy.

For more information on the Bedford Training Virtual Campus
Jenni Wright
Trainer
Bedford Group
Phone: 0412 136 510
Email: jwright@bedfordgroup.com.au

For more information on the National VET E-learning Strategy:
Email: flag_enquiries@natese.gov.au
Website: http://flexiblelearning.net.au