But first…. let me take a selfie

Okay, have I got your attention now?

If you are a regular visitor to this blog you are probably wondering what on earth does this have to do with e-learning? Good question but before I answer I wanted to share with you some interesting statistics.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) at the end of June 2013 there were 12,358,000 internet subscribers in Australia, representing an annual growth of 3%. At the same time the ABS reported that there were 6.2 million mobile broadband connections in Australia.  The ABS also said that wireless broadband is the most prevalent internet technology in Australia. It accounts for half of all connections. Of these 6.2 million connections people are connecting via dongles, tablets, DSL, satellite and dial-up.

That is amazing don’t you think!

The next thing I found of interest was the number of users by age group (yes nearly there …. but first, let me take a selfie LOL).

The ABS found in 2012-2013 that the largest group of internet users were in the 15-17 years age group. Ninety seven percent of people in this age bracket were internet users. Close behind them were the ages 18-24 and 25-34, this continued to drop down (surprisingly not by much though until we get to age 55-64 where approximately 78% were internet users. In the 65 and over age bracket this figure dropped down to approximately 42%.

[if I could I would have that annoying record scratching noise here to get your attention, I would]

Hang on a second what did you say? ….. check out those age groups!…. Now who do you think would take the most selfies?

Now that you are thinking along those lines, let me get back to e-learning (or what I commonly refer to as the use of technology in education).  People love to use their smart phones and tablets and of course we know they have camera and video capability.  They also have the capability to record interviews, comments etc.

So how can you make your training more appealing to younger audiences…. but first, let me take a selfie

A strategy that has worked for me in the past  is to encourage learners to take photos and videos that can easily be added to an e-portfolio of evidence, report or presentation.  This can form part of their assessment evidence for a formal or informal training program.  Collecting evidence is especially appealing to young audiences… and increasingly some of us oldies too! It puts some fun back into learning and if combined with social media can provide quite a rich learning experience.

There are numerous apps on devices to capture these images and if you need to pretty them up too (just remember what it is the learner is there to learn, engagement is one thing but over emphasis on technology is another).

So why am I inspired to write this post.  Well I came across this catchy song and I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Some of you will automatically know the song I mean and well others may not so here’s your chance to hear it.

I will leave you with these words….. but first, let me take a selfie

I also found this cool blog post about the history of the selfie craze by @archivesmous. Hope you enjoy it!

Great news, I have moved into the analysis stage for the first survey

Happy New Year all, I trust you had a well earned break and you are now celebrating how amazing 2014 will be.

I thought for my first post in 2014 I would share my own news: very excitingly  I have moved into the analysis stage for the first survey in my research for my Masters in Education.  I will still post all things e-learning but I will also share with you my research journey along the way.

So to start I will explain my research approach (and for your sake without the theoretical aspects of why).

To broaden my understanding and in an effort to prepare a practitioner survey that would ask relevant and reliable questions I scanned current literature and engaged in online conversations about e-learning across several social media networking sites over a period of 2 years.  More than 96 individual online conversations (such as LinkedIn and Facebook group discussions) were documented to capture key words, themes, problems and solutions for the topics discussed. The data collected did not identify the writer in anyway, it simply highlighted the main theme of the discussion and the key arguments presented.

Once I felt I had a clear picture of the trending topics and key arguments the data was analysed to identify what might be appropriate categories for the main issues discussed.  if you are interested in the categories you might like to visit my research blog http://www.tumblr.com/blog/gail-vet-tchr-methodology

I wasn’t surpsised that quality e-design and learner engagement were quite topical during this time. The categories were used to formulate a list of possible survey questions for this research. Once the list of possible questions was formulated each question was carefully considered to ensure it would contribute to the aim of the research, hypothesis and questions asked.  In the end a total of 50 questions were included in the practitioner survey. The survey was distributed to my personal online networks.  This included Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress.

I am now ready to start surveying students of online learning.  Even if you are a teacher who has undertaken learning using technology or totally online please feel free to complete the student survey (much shorter than the practitioner survey) https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/6NXKBDL.  I would love to hear about your experiences.

Future posts will expand on what practitioners revealed in the survey but for now I can reveal that I received 51 usable responses representing a cross section of the VET sector.

Secondary Education (high school)  2.08% Higher Education  12.50% Public training provider  47.92% Private training provider  22.92% Not for Profit  12.50% Enterprise training provider  6.25% Government  14.58%

Eighty six percent of the respondents claimed to be experienced VET teachers with varying experience with e-learning.

The survey moved into the respondents perceptions of e-learning starting with their own beliefs on how important it was for a teacher/facilitator of e-learning to actually have experience as an e-facilitator. Overwhelmingly 98.04% of respondents said it was important to have experience and only 1.96% said it was not.

Personally, I think this is a good start.  Stay tuned for insights into what the e-learning practitioners had to say about e-learning in future posts.

Back in touch soon.

Using social media in the classroom

Lately I have heard from quite a few VET teachers who have tried to use social media in the classroom and eventually given up as the students have not participated or even enjoyed the experience.  You might be thinking… ‘Why would I want to use social media in the classroom or workplace training anyway’?

I believe that if used effectively social media can enhance your traditional training strategies and your online/e-learning programs, but like anything your approach must be well thought out and revelant to the context. 

In my experience I have found that social media can provide opportunities for learners to collaborate outside of the classroom or learning experience, it can assist learners to develop independent learning skills as well as providing opportunities for learners to document informal learning.

A common scenario

Consider a two day workshop where learners in an organisation come together to learn a specific skill… after the two days the course is over and there is no additional support or opportunity to reflect on learning and no evidence that those involved in the training have been able to apply what they have learnt to the workplace (this is an area I am particularly interested in and will form part of my thesis and future blog postings).

Social media could be used in this scenario to continue discussions outside of the learning environment (if appropriate), to provide further discussion and collaboration between those involved in the training, provide additional opportunities for reflection and document how the learner has applied this new knowledge and skill to the workplace. 

Social media may also assist individuals to capture evidence of informal learning activities relating to the training and their own career aspirations. 

In this post I will draw on the tools I most commonly use with learners; however, I would really love to hear how you use social media in the classroom…. make sure you leave a comment before leaving and feel free to send links to examples for how you have done this.

Let’s start with wikis…. they have been around for quite some time, they are not new ….. but still a great tool to use with your learners. 

Wikis are a fantastic tool to use if you want to promote collaboration between participants and more importantly if you want your participants to actually build the content on the wiki (my advice here is to set some clear guidelines for the wiki and encourage your learners to be the experts).  Wikis can also be used as a course or online booklet to enable you to quickly distribute pre and post course reading material.  Even after several years of not using a particular wiki http://cert-iv-taa.wikispaces.com  I  am still receiving emails and requests to join. 

To keep track of your wiki activity and to keep your discussions going I recommend that you use the notify me feature and regularly review page content.  To get started with wikis visit  www.wikispaces.com.

Make sure your learners (they will need to be members) have editing rights….. my warning here is…. make sure you set clear guidelines for the wiki’s use and the content that should be developed so the site stays on track and is relevant to your course. 

If you haven’t used a wiki before try linking the goals of the wiki to the learning content and assessment activities. To make sure everyone is involved ask each learner to take responsibility for at least one topic or area of content.  You will find this activity will be most successful if linked to an assessment activity rather than creating a wiki …. just because it is a good idea :-).

Next let’s look at blogs.  A blog is a great tool for reflection and provides an opportunity for learners to build knowledge, capture informal evidence (in words, pictures and videos) and link to well known websites on their topic.  Blogs can support both face to face learners and online learners.  Depending on how the blog is setup each individual student is responsible for maintaining their own blog site and posts; however carefully designed activities can also encourage other learners to make comment on each other’s posts.

My teaching area is Business and Administration.  Many of the subject areas in the Business Services training package encourage the learner to keep a self-reflection journal… a blog may well be your perfect tool. I find it really helpful to have a list of activities that build on the content of the learner’s blog throughout the course.  I have found it less helfpful where learners are given assessment activities that expect the learner to keep a self-reflection journal and do not provide an outline of what is required.  As with wikis you should provide clear guidelines for their use and align the use to set activities that encourage reflection and the building of knowledge.

Blogs can also bring out the creative flair within your learners.  If you are teaching writing skills for example or even photography you have a great tool to assist learners to get out there and well…. just write or build a portfolio.

Facebook is one of my favourite forms of social media…. but can you really use it in the classroom? 

I find facebook an excellent way to support student learning.  It has a built in chat feature, message feature (great for sending out course announcements and reminders) and it provides an opportunity for your class to be an open or closed group.  Teachers/facilitators can send out links to readings, videos (youtube and teachertube have multitudes of recordings that might be helpful to promote discussion and demonstrate skills) and favourite websites before or after the session to encourage the learners to engage with facebook outside of standard classtimes. 

Like everything the use of facebook should be well planned.  If you haven’t tried facebook consider how you can use it as a lesson planner.  For example, once you have determined the number of sessions and the topics covered in each session, you can then send out a session post prior to the session with information about the upcoming topics, details of any pre-session reading, assessment events, viewing of videos etc.  Use the event feature to build in assessment dates and activity due dates so your learners have very clear guidelines on what is happening and when assessments and activities are due.

Finally let’s consider twitter. Now I can hear some of you growning already :-). I acknowledge twitter can be one of the more difficult forms of social media to administer in training… but it does have its place.

So let me give you a simple way to use it…. think up a useful hashtag eg: #twitinclass and encourage your learners to tweet about any new content or information they consider important during your face to face class or virtual session.  The goal of this activity is to  encourage your learners to focus on the session content and improve their listening skills as well as their tweeting skills.

After the class set some homework.  Point your learners to a URL, youtube video or content within your learning management system and ask them to tweet key themes and/or anything they need further explanation on in the next session. 

As the teacher/facilitator you can also use the same hashtag to tweet reminders, news and links to helpful websites.  Make sure you are proactive doing this as your students will lose interest if there is minimal activity.

At the end of the training you can also offer to support your learners for a certain period of time by asking them to tweet how they are applying their learning to the workplace and where they are experiencing any difficulties.

I am sure you agree, people love to talk about themselves.  I find the activities that provide opportunities for learners to tweet about their own experieces, opinions or where they agree or disagree with the learning content generate the most activity.

Hopefully this post has generated some interest and you are now considering where social media could enhance your own delivery. If you are only just starting out my recommendation is to use the technologies your students are already using. For example, many of your student own a smartphone and they may well have both facebook and twitter already on their phone.  If so and they like using these applications, this could be a good starting point…..

If you have found this post useful please consider expanding this conversation and sharing your experiences.

You should also stop by and visit my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/UsingTechnologyInVet

“Does technology have a role in improving workforce capability?”

 I am currently reading research papers that discuss VET issues, its role and purpose.  At the same time I am considering the answer to the question “Does technology have a role in improving workforce capability?”

VET is a major driver for economic prosperity in Australia and I am wondering what is required by the VET workforce to meet this expectation.  I am also wondering what, if any VET’s issues can be overcome through training.   To answer this question one must first have some sort of understanding of the issues currently affecting VET.

Some of the issues are:

  • Changes to VET funding models: there is a real push for funding to be based on outcomes and course completions
  • Bureaucracy within the VET sector, especially in the structure of larger, public providers… does this have an impact?
  • Poorly designed funding models
  • Poor response times from training providers.  VET needs to be flexible enough to respond to changing market needs at the time those needs are required to be addressed.
  • VET practitioner’s are ageing, how do we capture their knowledge and skills? Should this be included in succession planning?
  • Should there  be increased consideration of financial barriers that prevent those who need training from entering the VET sector?
  • What is the role of the National VET regulator and how much funding will it require to achieve the expected outcomes

So what are the VET issues where can training help (well maybe, read on):

  • Quality teaching and the isssue of the CIV being the minimum teaching level.  We can offer training to increase the number of practitioners with the qualification, however the debate needs to continue…. Is the CIV an acceptable and appropriate minimum qualification for VET practitioners?  Given that many of these practitioners are dually qualified should we require higher than the CIV?  How much emphasis should be attributed to the educational qualifications of VET practitioners?
  • VET researchers suggest that some larger public providers are still approaching the professional development of staff in an adhoc manner.  Shouldn’t professional development be driven by strategy?
  • More thought needs to be given to strategies that will attract and retain quality practitioners?  This comes back to funding and salary issues.
  • Australia is experiencing skill shortages in many areas.  This is no different in the VET sector.  Current skills shortages that exist include trainers with specialist skills in mining; aged care; language, literacy and numeracy; indigenous studies; and e-learning.
  • Some VET managers do not necessarily have leadership or management experience.  Many have moved into their business role from teaching positions.  This is certainly an area that can be improved through training. 

My key thought now is ‘Does technology have a role to play in skills development of VET practitioners, management and leadership training for managers and possibly even the skill shortages in specialist  areas in VET?’

Can technology play a role in providing knowledge  to VET practitioners who require about their industry?  The use of technology in training is only one way to contribute to the development of the workforce capability of the VET sector.

There are other roles technology can play, such as pushing out information about VET issues and VET changes.  For example:

  • knowledge practitioners require about their industry
  • changes to AQTF
  • changes to training packages
  • legislative changes such as OHS and child protection

What role do you see technology can play in the development of the VET workforce?

I have a new direction


I am currently working in a different role and my blog will not only include relevant posts on e-learning and e-learning strategy it will now also point to existing research and resources for VET workforce capability and development.

This is a very exciting change in direction and I welcome your contributions to my posts and VET discussions.


Have you ever wondered if using a smartboard really engages your learners?

Have you ever wondered if using a smartboard really engages your learners? I know I have and I really believe it depends on how you are using them with your students.

Consider the following YouTube video:

Ask yourself, how is the use of this equipment different to how I would teach if I was using a blackboard?

Does this difference in functionality, really like make a difference to my learners?

If you are still not sure, read this very useful article by the Washington Post.

Maybe this YouTube will give us some better ideas on how to use them….

If you need some help using the notebook software to create your lessons watch this useful YouTube, I found it really helpful.

Remember the point of the technology is to help your learners learn. Create lessons that are fun, interesting and engaging. If you have some tips for us, please feel free to post them here.

What to do with multi-tasking learners

I read an article today http://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/632/the-human-factor-delivering-training-to-multi-taskers hoping to get some tips on how to train multi-tasking learners. Unfortunately the article didn’t give me anything new however I think it has great value in generating a good discussion which I suspect was its intention.

I agree that learners do not want to read learning objectives, but I am also not sure the author of this article was asking the learner to read them.

Good course design requires the teacher/trainer to develop a set of learner outcomes (or learning objectives) that make it clear what the learner must do to obtain skills and knowledge. These learning outcomes are measurable actions that are incorporated into the design of course materials, activity tasks and assessments. They can guide the teacher/trainer to design appropriate content that is relevant to the level being studied. If written well they provide a benchmark to ensure that training is at the correct level and that assessments are not over assessing (yes I know another issue entirely) or under assessing.

Unfortunately the article didn’t address the issue of multi-tasking (which was the reason I started to read it in the first place) so I was a little disappointed.

I am also a multi-tasking learner. Increasing engagement with the learning interface is a good strategy.

In my class (face to face and online) I consider the tasks the learners are undertaking during my class (in particular the multi-tasking activities I hadn’t planned on) as well as considering the technologies they are interacting with (such as texting, chat, web searching, facebook etc). Where possible I then try to build some of these activities and technologies into my course design, learning activities and assessment tasks. This has worked really well for me and the students really seemed to enjoy the experience.

Read the comments (see the above url) and let’s keep this discussion going and since this is a discussion opportunity also consider http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1205669/Is-multi-tasking-bad-brain-Experts-reveal-hidden-perils-juggling-jobs.html.