Case study: Learning for Employment
Victoria June 2013

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 GippsTAFE 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


The lead organisation for this project is Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE (otherwise known as GippsTAFE). GippsTAFE is situated in Gippsland, south east of Melbourne, Victoria, and is made up of six campuses, each with a unique focus that is tailored to the community that campus serves. Five campuses are located in regional areas and one is in metropolitan Melbourne. In addition to its Australian operations, GippsTAFE is active within the international arena where it is involved in the delivery of training programs in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Malaysia.

GippsTAFE provides technical and vocational education offering a diverse suite of programs, using a range of different delivery strategies, all designed to meet the expectations and needs of the community and businesses of the region.


Yooralla, the partner organisation in this project, is one of Australia’s largest and most proactive organisations working to support people with disability to live independent and fulfilling lives.

Yooralla values the right of every person, irrespective of age, gender, financial circumstance or level of disability, to access high-quality services that will allow them to achieve their goals.

Their services are developed in partnership with people with disability and, in many cases, clients’ families and carers. They cover every aspect of living, both practical and aspirational, whether the people who require them are born with or acquire a disability as the result of accident, ill health or age.

1.2 Knowledge and experience

GippsTAFE is a renowned user of e-learning technologies and blended delivery methods. Educational programs use the learning environment that is best suited to the needs of the particular course and student cohort. The organisation is student focussed and committed to creating an environment that challenges and inspires learning.

GippsTAFE’s commitment to developing flexible educational solutions is shown by the existence of the GippsTAFE Innovation Department. This department manages and maintains GippsTAFE’s e-learning infrastructure and has a long history of working closely with teachers to collaboratively design innovative e-learning solutions. Their highly qualified and experienced personnel work closely with GippsTAFE teaching departments to introduce innovative practices and provide support for teachers as they become familiar with new technologies.

Yooralla is a very experienced organisation in the area of disability and has been working with people with disability since 1918. Their expertise in this area is a valuable contribution to this project. The individual experience of their staff in the area of e-learning is quite varied but given that GippsTAFE has considerable expertise in this area this partnership is a way for the two organisations to learn from each other.

2.1 Aim

The aim of this project was to design, deliver and evaluate an innovative program for young learners with disabilities in South Gippsland, Victoria that would develop their skills with mobile technologies (iPhones and iPads) to assist them with both living and working. The use of e-portfolios (Mahara) would be explored and learners would work towards gaining credit towards three units in Certificate 1 Work Education.

Participation in the program would give the learners the opportunity to develop the capability to use the tools independently in the community to engage with available services and resources, including public Wi-Fi.

The learners would also be engaged in programs run by disability agencies in South Gippsland, including Yooralla, the partner in this project. These agencies will be actively involved in the project through staff training and a community forum showcasing of the learners’ achievements.

2.2 Objective

The key objective of this project was to develop a program that would be more engaging for learners as well as improving their quality of life and their ability to interact with and work in the wider community.

The development and improvement of employability skills such as literacy and numeracy was a key focus. As part of this project we needed to identify suitable apps to use for this purpose.

By making the use of the iPads an integral part of the program learners would also have the opportunity to become familiar with using this technology.

3.1 Starting the project


The first step in this project was the purchase of the iPads. Being aware that funding cuts to the TAFE sector had a huge impact on the budget at GippsTAFE the team leader in charge of the Leongatha campus put forward a convincing business case for the acquisition of the iPads and followed the process through to ensure the equipment was available for the first scheduled session in February 2013.

As well as the iPads a docking station was purchased to provide:

  • an efficient way to charge the equipment
  • a safe and easy way to move the equipment around
  • a secure (lockable) place for storage
Storage Unit for iPads

We also needed to purchase headphones to use in the classroom so that learners could listen to the sound from their own iPad and not be distracted by others or have to turn the sound off.

Another piece of equipment we needed was a cable to connect an iPad to the whiteboard display unit so the teacher could show their iPad to the group. This is called a Lightning to VGA adaptor. You need to make sure you have the correct connection for your particular iPad.
Lightning to VGA adaptors

Recruitment of Learners

Lisa Kuhne was the teacher assigned to this project. Prior to the training commencing she met with the partner organisation, Yooralla, to explain the proposal to their staff and liaise with them to ensure the program met the needs of prospective learners.

A key point to remember is that each individual person with a disability has their own goals and learning plan and they, or their parents or guardians, are able to choose how to allocate funds to achieve the outcomes they want. This means that a “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate.

The program was advertised via the disability support agencies and Lisa conducted information sessions for prospective learners and their parents/guardians to explain the program and answer questions.

Once the learner group was identified the enrolment process commenced. Due to the varying abilities of the learners appropriate support needed to be provided to ensure enrolment forms were correctly filled in. The current requirement that all people enrolling at GippsTAFE produce photo identification was a problem for many of the learners as they do not have a driver’s licence or passport. Many had to apply for full birth certificates and proof of age cards before the enrolment process could be completed.

Developing the Program

Following discussions with Yooralla the GippsTAFE team identified appropriate units of competency to include in the program. Three units from 22128VIC Certificate 1 in Work Education were identified as appropriate for this program, they were:

  • VU20438 - Develop an individual vocation plan with support
  • TLIG107C - Work effectively with others
  • VU20439 - Develop personal management skills for work

Another issue that needed to be addressed at this time was when to timetable the training so as not to clash with other programs the learners were involved in. Availability of rooms on campus at GippsTAFE was also a factor that needed to be considered.

The teacher also began to develop session plans based on the targeted units of competency and researched a range of mobile applications to identify those that might be suitable for this training and the learner cohort. Lisa referred to the findings from the project Wirelessly Connecting Youth for Future Success a project funded under the National VET e-Learning Strategy to find out about the processes they followed and the mobile application that they used.

Once the learners who would take part in the program were identified their individual goals and learning plans were analysed to ensure the program would meet their needs.

During this program development phase the project team met to ensure that the program that was being developed would not only provide an excellent training opportunity for these learners that would meet their individual goals but that the program would also meet the requirements of the E-Learning for Participation and Skills project proposal.

Preparing the Equipment

Prior to the first teaching session the iPads needed to be set up and appropriate apps needed to be installed. To do this an iTunes account was required, in this case the teacher began by using her own iTunes account but this is not an ideal situation and we would recommend setting up a separate account for a program such as this. All the iPads were setup under the same account and used the same iCloud account so that apps could be shared across all the devices.

Following the initial iPad setup appropriate apps needed to be installed on each iPad and the iPads were all tested to make sure they connected to the GippsTAFE Wi-Fi network.

We believed it was very important to make sure that there were no technical issues, particularly during the first few training sessions, so that the learners would have a trouble free introduction to their new learning environment and the unfamiliar equipment.

3.2 Running the project

Once the training began it was pleasing to see how easily the learners adapted to the iPad technology.

Introducing the iPads

The first few sessions were important for laying down the foundations for the use of the iPads with the group. The learners worked with the teacher to establish some rules and guidelines for the sessions and using the equipment including simple things like clean hands, no drinks with the iPads and respecting another person’s property.

Click here to see a copy of the Happy Classroom Rules.

As an introductory activity the learners took photos of themselves and set these images up as backgrounds on the iPad they were using. This was a way of identifying who was using which iPad so that the teacher could keep track of each learners progress and make sure the appropriate apps were available for each learner when individual needs and interests were identified.

The Pre-Project Survey

Undertaking the pre-project survey was a challenge for this group of learners given their diverse levels of ability. Even accessing the survey was difficult. Because most did not have an email address we could not send them an email where they could simply click on a link so they had to type the URL into the browser to bring up the survey page. We simplified this step by creating a 'tinyurl'. Once everyone was on the same page some were able to move through the survey independently while others needed one on one support. It was found that the best approach was for the support workers to help each learner complete the survey individually rather than do this as a group activity. The surveys were completed during the first few training sessions of the program.

Learner Support

This group consisted of 10 learners of varying ages with a range of disabilities and different interests and levels of ability. With this in mind it was important that there be adequate support for the learners so that the sessions could run smoothly. For this group there were the GippsTAFE teacher, a Yooralla support worker, and two volunteers, one a parent and the other a Certificate IV in Disability student from GippsTAFE. This means there were 2.5 learners for each support person in the room. There is no doubt that this high level of support has contributed to the success of the program. Of the support workers two were male and two female which was a good balance for this group of learners.

Another point to consider is that the GippsTAFE teacher, Lisa Kuhne, has been working in the disability area in South Gippsland for a number of years in a range of roles so had met and worked with most of these learners previously. Lisa believes that this meant she could spend much less time getting to know the learners and that the necessary level of mutual respect already existed between her and the group. She feels that this meant training could begin and proceed more rapidly without the learners feeling the need to test the boundaries during the early sessions of the program. She commented that with a different group or a different teacher more time would need to be allowed to establish rapport between teacher and learners.

Technical Issues

Technical issues have been minor. Access to the GippsTAFE Wi-Fi network has been very reliable throughout the program. The iPads have proved very reliable.

The iPads

This program has identified a number of significant advantages for the use of iPads with learners with a disability:

  • The interactive nature of the apps used, increased learner engagement
  • Use of apps could be individualised, for example one learner became stressed when using a maths app that allowed a limited time to answer each question and finish a level so an alternative app was found for her
  • Apps that provided levels for learners to progress through, increased motivation for most learners, progressing to higher levels gave them a sense of achievement
  • Learners functioning at a higher level were able to search for and find apps that provided them with a bigger challenge
  • Behavioural issues were reduced as the learners were able to work at their own pace at a level appropriate for them and so experienced less frustration
  • Using the iPads on the GippsTAFE Wi-Fi network meant the learners did not have to login for each session so there was no problem with forgotten usernames and passwords
  • The iPads are small and unobtrusive they allow the group to keep their focus on the teacher and do not detract from the group dynamics
  • The portable nature of the iPads meant they were easy to take when the group went out into the community
  • Could also use iPad for group activities on the whiteboard eg: The app “What’s that word?” was used as a group activity with students taking turns to spell words
  • Wearing headphones with iPads allowed students to concentrate and “tune in” to what they were learning without being distracted by other learners in the class
  • New apps could be sourced regularly so that students did not become bored with what they were doing to achieve their goals.

Despite the advantages of using the iPads there were some challenges that need to be addressed. An important aspect was the need to document learner progress and evidence of engagement. Both Yooralla and GippsTAFE were required to gather this type of evidence which needs to be more than 'being marked present' in a roll. In order to gather evidence learners participated in activities based around worksheets. These types of activities also gave the learners the opportunity to practise the skills they were developing in a different context. Using apps that tracked learner progress was another way to gather evidence of engagement. It is important to remember that each learner had individual goals and learning plans so tracking learner progress and gathering evidence need to be done on an individual basis as well.

There were some regular duties that needed to be done each week to maintain the iPads. The screens need to be wiped after each session using specially purchased screen wipes, the battery levels needed to be checked to ensure they would not run flat during the next session and the apps needed to be updated when necessary. The teacher also checked which apps were installed and deleted those not needed and added new ones as required. One or two new apps were put on each iPad most weeks so that students had something new to keep them engaged.

E-Portfolios (Mahara)

We have yet to introduce Mahara to the Yooralla cohort as part of this project. On reflection this cohort of students was very different to the cohort we originally wrote the project application for. Lisa has identified three students in the class that she plans to introduce Mahara to in semester two but we unsure if the remainder of the class will benefit from the use of Mahara.

Excursion into the Community

An important aspect of this project was exploiting the mobile capability of iPads. An excursion to a local coffee shop was a highlight of the project. The learners enjoyed the experience of being out in the community and were able to have coffee and cake while undertaking a range of activities on their iPads. This excursion provoked discussion about where students can access wifi in their local community and where they can access technology.

Mycalie and Tamara enjoying the excursion to Henrietta's Cafe

It is worth noting here that for this group of learners their weekly sessions on campus at GippsTAFE provided greater access to the wider community than they had prevoiusly experienced.

Disability Staff Training

A session was conducted with staff from Yooralla to introduce them to using iPads and discuss the use of this technology with learners with a disability. Prior to this session some of the staff at Yooralla had not had any experience with the use of iPads so this was a great opportunity to try them out. The subsequent discussion, which included information about the progress of this project, was very positive and indicated that there will be a more opportunities for their learners in the future. Some of the staff have now decided to undertake further training and are looking into the possibly of purchasing iPads for the service.

3.3 Wrapping up the project

Community Forum

The community forum was conducted on May 21 and was attended by parents and members of the South Gippsland community. The learners had the opportunity to showcase their achievements and it was a great way to raise awareness of the needs of people with a disability particularly with regard to developing independence and employability skills.
It was pleasing to observe the pride these learners showed as they demonstrated how they used the iPads at this forum.

Dale demonstrating an app on the iPad

Emily D explaining the program to forum guests with teacher, Lisa, in the background.

The forum was also an opportunity to showcase this program to other young people with disabilities. In fact two Yooralla clients attended to see what the training was all about as they are considering joining the group in semester two.

Skills Learnt
Much of the training that was delivered as part of this project was aimed at developing learners’ literacy and numeracy skills. An adequate level of literacy and numeracy is a fundamental need for all learners who want to live and work within the wider community. As well as working on their literacy and numeracy skills the learners developed technical skills relating to the use of mobile technology that will be helpful for them in the future.

The learners also developed increased confidence by being out in the wider community for the weekly sessions on campus at GippsTAFE. While there they were able to interact with other students during break times.

The staff at Yooralla were exposed to the use of mobile technology for learners with disabilities and were able to see how this technology could be successfully integrated in to a training program for their learners.

GippsTAFE staff had the opportunity to investigate the use of iPads with a group of learners with special needs and learnt valuable lessons that will be able to be shared with other teachers across a range of teaching areas.

Click here to read teacher, Lisa Kuhne's reflections on the project.

The Program Continues

Both GippsTAFE and Yooralla believes this project has been a great success and it is expected that this group of learners will continue to participate in this training for the remainder of the year.

Talks are currently underway with another organisation to set up a similar group to undertake similar training. This would happen in Semester 2.

There is also a possibility that another group will be set up for learners with complex communication issues to explore the use of mobile technology as a means of developing and improving learners’ communications. This program may focus on the use of iPad Minis because their smaller size makes them more portable.

Evidence of Engagement and Learner Achievement

As the project drew to a close Lisa worked with the staff at Yooralla to ensure each learner’s progress was accurately tracked and documented and that they are on track working towards their goals. Reports on learner progress were written and distributed to parents/guardians. Some strategies used to gather evidence were:

  • Photographing or taking video of the learners completing work on their iPads
  • iPad screen shots showing learner progress on appropriate apps
  • Downloading work completed by learners on the iPads
  • Emailed reports from apps that provide summary of learner progress and achievement
  • Paper-based worksheets

Sharing the Learning

As part of this project there was a training session for the staff at Yooralla, the partner organisation. This was a great opportunity to share the skill and knowledge that was developed during the program.

The community forum that highlighted the achievements of the learners was a great way of sharing the learning with the parents of the learners and the wider community. In addition, this forum was featured in the local newspaper so the information was available to the wider community.

The results of this project will be shared with the Foundation Studies course team as a whole and it is hoped that similar programs could be set up with other groups of learners with a disability.

Lisa has also been asked to share the learning from this project with local schools in the area.

The Innovation Department will conduct a webinar to showcase this learning to teaching staff across all GippsTAFE teaching departments to share the experience and knowledge that has been gained.

The project has also been featured on the GippsTAFE Innovation Blog as a way of sharing this learning with the wider educational community.


4.1 Main project outcomes

The main outcome of this project was that a group of 11 young learners with disabilities, from South Gippsland, were engaged in a program to develop a range of employability skills with a focus on literacy and numeracy. Some of these learners had become disengaged after undertaking more traditional types of training so the opportunity to use mobile technology in the form of iPads proved to be a successful way to reengage them and help them continue their learning journey.

As well as working on improving their skills in a range of areas the learners became familiar with the use of mobile technology and developing this technical skill also contributes to their learning.

One of the key successes of the program has been that the learners have remained focussed on their learning activities during the sessions and there has been less disruptive behaviour leading to an improved group dynamic. We think this is because the training can be more easily tailored to the needs and abilities of the individual so they are less likely to become frustrated. Learners do not need to wait until others finish a task before they can move on. The range of abilities in the group varies enormously. For example when it comes to maths one of the learners struggles to answer a question such as 2+1 while another can easily do calculations such as 16X8.

Add the project outcomes video here.
4.2 How the outcomes were measured

The outcomes of this project were measured by the attendance of the learners. It was observed that there was very little absenteeism and the learners were keen to come to GippsTAFE each week for the iPad sessions. Discussion with Yooralla staff confirmed that the learners were engaged by the program and were enthusiastic about attending.

Click here to read feedback from Yooralla.

During the sessions it was observed that learners were engaged in learning activities for longer periods of time and were less disruptive when using the iPads compared to more traditional learning activities.

The development of new or improved skills by the learners was measured by observation and their progress through apps with multiple ability levels. Analysis of their individual goals and learning plans also helped measure their individual progress.

Probably the key measure of success for a program such as this is that the learners are choosing to enrol for Semester 2 indicating that they are finding the training engaging and that their parents/guardians are pleased with their progress.


5.1 Key successes

The key successes of this project are the individual achievements of the learners.

Click here to read about the achievements of the learners.

5.2 Suggested improvements

This program would be improved if the learners had more frequent access to the iPads. At the moment the training is conducted once a week, one improvement would be to run sessions more frequently. If learners had their own mobile devices or if Yooralla had a set of iPads the use of this technology could be integrated into other aspects of their training and they would be able to practise their skills more frequently leading to better retention of their learning.

Lisa also advises that starting the enrolment process well in advance, due to the difficulty in organising photo identification, would be advantageous.

We also plan to investigate the use of Apple TV technology so that the iPads can be mirrored on the whiteboard wirelessly rather than needing to use a cable.

6.1 Knowledge Transfer

This project was a voyage of discovery for all. Here are some of the key things we learnt.

Using iPads to deliver training to young learners with disabilities works. It increases their level of engagement and allows them to undertake activities that are suitable for their ability level. There is also the opportunity for them to move to new levels as their skills develop.

We found that it was important to use apps that were appropriate to the learners’ individual level of ability rather than worrying that the graphics might be too “babyish”. The learners were very supportive of each other in this respect but in a different group this could be an issue to consider.

This group found the iPads easy to use and because they are not bulky they are unobtrusive and still allow the learners to feel part of a group and focus on the teacher when necessary without being distracted by bulky screens and other equipment.

6.2 Mentorship

Lisa has created this list of tips for other organisations and teachers who may wish to run a program similar to this. Here they are:

  • Start enrolment process earlier so there is time to gather ID
  • Start with a few apps and add to this each week so that learners are not overwhelmed to begin with and they have something new to engage in each week
  • Spend time in each of the apps before you use them in class so that you can answer any technical questions in class
  • Set up the administration part of the app before taking them into class – this can be time consuming but makes for a smoother class
  • Take photos each week for evidence of engagement
  • Teach students to take screen shots when they have completed tasks for evidence
  • Look for apps that have a reporting mechanism
  • Be mindful of American apps where the language may be different eg: money notes / bills
  • If using apps with voice you may need to spend time arranging the speed of voice so that it is easily understood
  • Look for apps with levels so that students can move through at their own pace
  • Use a combination of apps and teaching styles in each lesson to cater for all students
  • Purchase headphones so that each student can be listening to their own app
  • Spend time getting to know each student

Below are a collection of reflections and feedback from participants in this project; there is also a list of classroom rules developed by students and what learners achieved throughout the program.

For more information on the project:
Lynn Huguenin
Innovation Department Project Officer
Phone: 03 5622 8546

For more information on the National VET E-learning Strategy: