Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Week 3 - eLearning guidelines

OK, I've decided to try and get this week's tasks done as well before the op. I probably won't feel like getting back to this for a couple of weeks, so trying desperately to at least get started!

Like Michelle I've been trying to figure out what area of my work I would be best looking at for evaluation. To be honest I might come back and review these ideas again but here are my thoughts so far...


I teach in the tourism and travel area. In 2010 we will be starting two brand new National Tourism and Travel qualifications, based much more on the real world (thank goodness) than on manually writing tickets and other out of date information that we have been forced to teach in the old qual!

In the travel industry work based training is taking over. Numbers studying at pre-employment level at polytechs has reduced dramatically since 2001 (consider UCOL used to have 7 on the Tourism and Travel staff - last year we went down from three to two!)

My Issues:

How do we keep our students relevant and current in a constantly changing world? It is hard enough for qualifications to keep up and of course we are constantly updating our knowledge, in an eLearning environment will this be even harder to achieve?

When you add budget constraints to the mix, it becomes increasingly difficult. For example to purchase a training version of a CRS (Computer Reservation System) eg Galileo/Amadeus or Sabre is very expensive, and so students work on the one we can afford, not necessarily the best one!

I have been playing with blended delivery/eLearning for several years, and have so far developed several "destination" unit standards on the LMS that UCOL currently uses, BlackBoard. These are rather large units (10 credits each at either Level 3 or 4) and I have used it I believe to some success in the classroom, getting students to do some research which a travel consultant would normally do with a view to answering the questions in their assignment in a more practical way than just teaching in a f2f situation. In end of course evaluations, students have said they enjoyed this method of learning instead of from a book or watching videos, and I have made improvements along the way based on some comments on these evaluations.

At UCOL we have been told that by the end of 2009 (although it may be stretched to mid 2010) we will be switching to Moodle and BlackBoard will cease to be used. I have been given a sandbox to play in in Moodle, and my manager has indicated that she would like me to have everything changed over to Moodle in readiness for the brand new qualifications starting in 2010. However the content of the new qualification is still not available (it is with NZQA now) so although I have a good idea what will be in the new qual, how on earth do I use eLearning to its best ability?

2 eLearning Guidelines relevant to the Tourism and Travel field - and why I chose them

SD 3 Do students gain knowledge relevant to employment and/or current thinking in their field?

I need to make sure that any material used in eLearning/online delivery is relevant to today's travel industry. However travel changes every day, and keeping up with current practice is pretty difficult especially when budget constraints have to be considered! How will I ensure that students are always receiving a quality product?

ST 8 Rather than just recalling facts, does the course help the student digest, reflect on and review new learning?

We have been given the indication that the new qual will be based more on project work than regurgitation of content (yay) so that is another challenge for me - to use eLearning to meet this need of the student. I will have to ensure that the methods used are varied and appropriate.

As I said at the beginning, I may review these when I reflect on them in a week or two once my hospital stint is over, but any feedback would be much appreciated!

Week 2 Quality and Evaluation

First of all thanks to everyone who has sent me lovely messages either on the blog, or via Facebook. The operation has had to be rescheduled to this Thursday 19th March as I had a slight temperature so they wouldn't go ahead. For the first time in a week I feel well enough to turn on the laptop so I thought I'd try to catch up at least on a couple of week's work!

The importance of evaluation to me

To me evaluation is all about performance - how is a course doing, what can be done better. It's about asking opinions from the participants of a course, these can be in the form of questionnaires, surveys etc.

The following definition of evaluation from evaluationwiki.org to me says it in a nutshell...
evaluation involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of programs, policies, personnel, products, and organisations to improve their effectiveness

Looking at the strengths and weaknesses of a course or programme is the only way to assess quality, and how to make it better...

Evaluations types familiar to me and why...

Observations and Checklists
In the Tourism and Travel field I work in we have to assess many elements of the subjects through observation of computing skills (like booking an e-ticket) or a roleplay serving a customer. In our f2f situations these are recorded for moderation. For some of our students who are working in industry, as a workplace assessor I have visited them to observe these skills in their job. Checklists had to be completed for these observations, both for UCOL and for our National ITO the Aviation, Tourism and Travel Training Organisation (ATTTO).

In this area I have mainly used end of course evaluation handouts to find out what students have thought of a subject in terms of its usefulness, quality, relevance etc.

Focus Groups
In the past I have been a member of a tourism consortium consisting of other NZ polytechnics where we evaluated the courses we all delivered, and worked together to have similiar assessments and teaching standards

Feedback in a Discussion Forum
I haven't used this as a tutor, but I have as an online student, doing this Graduate Certificate paper.

The Importance of Quality in eLearning

Quality is so important in education. As the mother of a 10 year old I sometimes struggle to understand some methods of how kids these days are being taught. I am probably a primary teacher's nightmare as I am often asking questions such as - "how effective is this new method of teaching?" "What will he learn from this?"

As a tertiary tutor trying to develop some of my subjects in an online environment, I have to ask those very same questions!

As Joy noted in her blog, in a f2f situation we are constantly evaluating each class, how its going, whether we need to move on, or spend more time on a particular topic, as feedback is readily available. Online however we do not have that immediate opportunity to find out how things are going so the importance of ongoing evaluation to ascertain quality is invaluable.

Students often struggle in an arena where there is reduced support, either from the facilitator or from student services etc. I know as an eLearning student I really struggled with some of the initial papers, and only for the fact that in one paper the tutor worked at UCOL I would probably have dropped out!

In a f2f situation we can often pick if a student is struggling but in an online environment, this is more difficult. If an eLearning course is not deemed good quality, or they feel they are not getting enough out of it, students will just drop off, resulting in poor success rates.