Tuesday, April 19, 2005

SWT analysis of learning gap

Justifying the choice of the topic to be used for the mlearning pilot is the next step in the process of producing an elearning solution for an identified learning gap. This gives me the chance to look into the pros and cons and any other glitches that will come up in developing a mlearning solution for the learning objective.

The proposed mlearning project to be piloted will offer the following:-

  • A support system for the completion of a workplace unit standard
  • Content will be distributed in the form of a workbook
  • Templates (hard copy not electronic) will be provided for the gathering of on job evidence
    This evidence can take the form of photos, recipes, job sheets, rosters, verification sheets from supervisors etc
  • Fortnightly contact will be made with the apprentice to work out where they are at with the collection of evidence towards proving their growing competency in the skill required
  • Once a term (4 times a year) contact with the apprentice’s employer to assist them in understanding how competency standards work and to report on their apprentice’s progress
  • Formative assessments (multiple choice) will be distributed fortnightly to ensure the underlying knowledge requirements of the unit are being met
  • Summative assessments (theory and practical) will be completed on block course

The above is based on an instructional philosophy that situated learning in the workplace will work if it is supported by appropriate support systems. The principles of cognitive apprenticeships will be used during fortnightly contact with the apprentice to nudge them into better networking and consolidation of theory to practice. Social constructivism is encouraged so that the workplace takes an active role in helping apprentices complete their competencies.

Strengths of the proposal include:-

  • Strong links between what is learnt at work and what needs to be completed for competency based assessments
  • Good opportunities for apprentices to apply theory of baking to actual work practice
  • The advantage of building up good rapport between tutor and apprentice
  • Bringing employers into the picture and helping to establish a community of practice in this area
  • Base data on how mlearning and portfolio gathering works can be gathered
  • A pool of tutors who will have worked with the system and developed expertise in the teaching method

Weaknesses of the proposal include:-

  • Lack of workplace support for the use of mlearning eg. The workplace does not allow mobile phones to be used in the workplace
  • Need for apprentices to still have to put up with quite a bit of paper work and several different tasks to be completed (eg paper based portfolio, mlearning formative assessments, mlearning ‘tutorials’ via tutor contact with the apprentice, summative assessments that are completed off job)
  • Time needs to be taken to train staff to undertake cognitive apprenticeship contact via cell phone

Technical challenges, of which I probably only have a small understanding of, are:-

  • Different models of phones with varying capabilities and telecommunication suppliers
  • Dependence on an ‘outside’ firm to provide support systems for mlearning
  • Technical glitches in the system
  • Lack of comprehensive coverage in many rural areas on NZ (so an apprentice living in a small town might have good cell phone reception at work but nil access at home if he / she lives well out of town)

My ideas are firming up but there is still much to be investigated and thought through.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Identifying a learning gap

Serendipity has provided me with the next process to use in working out the most likely learning activity /outcome that could be used to set up a pilot mlearning project. The next topic on the Grad Cert applied elearning course was to identify, substantiate and present a learning gap that could be solved using an elearning solution.

Potential learning gaps could be identified as being a:-
  • Content fit or new content area – a new topic to teach so it is worthwhile putting some effort into exploring flexible delivery options or blended delivery
  • Dynamic content – a course that has rapidly changing / developing content
    Conceptual difficulty – something that is difficult to teach in a f2f situation (eg. Handling customer complaints) or takes a long time to set up (eg. Certain experiments or simulations) or where concepts that fit the ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ category.
  • Access issues – could be equipment that will only allow 2 to 3 students at a time to view a demonstration, or very expensive / state of the art equipment that unsupervised learners cannot be let loose on or equipment / ingredients / processes that are difficult to obtain easily for hands on exercises.
  • Efficiency issues – a learning concept put onto multimedia might allow students to have multiple attempts at trying out new skills without embarrassment, challenging students with tasks that provide them with the opportunity to work out / construct their own knowledge at their own pace etc.

At the moment, it would be good to try out a unit standard that combines some concept learning with competency in a practical skill. Situating the completion of competency in the workplace will also make it more suitable for piloting as a mlearning project. Therefore, the learning gaps could do with access and efficiency issues with some conceptual difficulty thrown in to provide a major challenge for learning design to work through.

At the moment, there are many unit standards to choose from that will fit the above criteria. One option is to choose one that is small enough to run the pilot with but not so small that it takes too short a time to run. I will also need to work out how many apprentices might be working through the unit to be used so that a viable number is provided for the pilot to be tested out with. I would like to have a group of at least 10 to work with but up to 20 will be even better.

The next step would be to work out the strengths, weaknesses and technical difficulties for the above, so tune in next week for how it pans out.