I am fortunate enough to work with VET professionals to develop and implement methods for using elearning as part of a blended delivery program. It’s always a challenge when putting together a professional development session to ensure that there is a good blend of theory and hands on work to ensure that the participants go away with a solid understanding of the content of the session and how to use that content in their specific context.
I was asked recently to put together a blended delivery session that would engage TAFE lecturers from a variety of portfolios for Polytechnic West lecturers from Balga and Thornlie campuses. I really wanted to build a blended delivery session that made participants use personal learning networks, technology and had a game based element to it. What evolved was a very interesting and well received session that was engaging and really made the participants understand that technology can support all training packages.
The brief outline of the session was “So you are keen to engage your online students but do not like the thought of just getting them to sit at a computer. This face-to-face session will work through ways to motivate your online students to ‘experience’ the real world and not to rely just on spoon fed online information.” Being held on two campuses I made sure that sessions ran as close to concurrent as possible as my co-presenter and I wanted to split the participants into small groups with the groups being a mix of representatives from both campuses. The participants were placed in teams prior to the session commencing – based on the roll, however the groups mix was tweaked in the session when it became apparent on the Thornlie campus that we had a mix from a third campus.
Participants began the session in a computer lab at both campuses with a short presentation and briefing from me and my co-presenter about what we were going to do in the session and the key learning objectives. The participants were then given a physical live task to perform at each campus, and needed to work as a group across both sites to achieve the end goal. Participants were given access to a virtual meeting room space in Blackboard Collaborate and could also use mobile devices to communicate with the other site. The workshop ended back at each “basecamp” for debrief and to un-pack the learning from the activity.
It was important to make the physical activity an authentic learning activity which was a learner centric learning design that supports a higher level of learning by participants. I used a mix of both synchronous – Blackboard Collaborate and asynchronous – sms messaging and Google documents, which enabled collaborative learning (Laurillard, 2008). This supported a dynamic learner centric learning process for the participants (Herrington & Parker, 2013), which is essential for adult learners.
As the professional development was for adult learners who benefit from real-world relevance (Herrington, Reeves, Oliver and Woo, 2004) the live physical activity linked to the Employability Skills Occupational Health and Safety area of training packages as well as a ‘get to know the campuses’ orientation. This ensured that the participants were not doing an activity just for the sake of it and could see the context in that related to training packages and their training.
The activity was a Scavenger Hunt around the two campuses with focus questions that the groups had to work together to answer, within a 40 minute time frame. Cunningly the Scavenger Hunt was designed so that general knowledge would take them so far and they actually had to physically move around the two campuses to get the information to complete the questions.
The teams firstly had access in the physical classroom to Blackboard Collaborate and worked through as much as they could together and formulated a plan of action; they identified what questions might relate to each campus and then worked out a way to chat to each other outside the class. Some of the mobile technologies teams used were: sms messages, Facebook instant messages, Twitter and one team setup a Google document live to add findings to. During the session I acted as an instructor, a guide and an evaluator (Hanghøj, 2013) to enable to participants success in game play and facilitated groups through to a successful conclusion of the activity.
Once they had collated the answers they nominated a team member to fill out a survey monkey quiz that replicated the scavenger hunt questions, which enabled the two presenters live to demonstrate how the answers and statistics show in this system. The team then had to email the presenters that they had finished. Two prizes were awarded:
- First team finished
- Team with most correct answers
The participants thoroughly enjoyed the game element to the session and as part of the session debrief unpacked how this type of activity could inform their future training. The blended element of the delivery, though technically challenging having two big groups online working at the same time, it was extremely rewarding for the participants.
Hanghøj, T. (2013). Game-based teaching: Practices, roles, and pedagogies. In S. de Freitas, M. Ott, M. Popescu, & I. Stanescu (Eds.) New pedagogical approaches in game enhanced learning: Curriculum integration (pp. 81-101). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-3950-8.ch005
Herrington, J., & Parker, J. (2013). Emerging technologies as cognitive tools for authentic learning. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(4), 607-615. doi:10.1111/bjet.12048
Herrington, J., Reeves, T., Oliver, R., & Woo, Y. (2004). Designing authentic activities in web-based courses. Journal of Computing In Higher Education, 16(1), 3-29. doi:10.1007/bf02960280 Retrieved from http://link.springer.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/article/10.1007/BF02960280
Laurillard, D. (2009). The pedagogical challenges to collaborative technologies. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4(1), 5-20. doi:10.1007/s11412-008-9056-2