In 2004 the Australian Flexible Learning Community began a public online group, "Getting Started in Flexible Learning" which was moderated by Judy Fawcett and targeted especially for practitioners who were new to flexible learning and wished to engage in a process of guided discovery. This article is drawn from the discussions that took place in the group between February and November. Many thanks to all who participated.
Two South Australian Learnscope Start-Up teams (Blue and Orange) met in 2004 to listen to a variety of Guest Speakers who talked about their own experiences in e-learning…. how they started, the first step they took, where it led them and where they are now. This initiated a group brainstorm about the small changes (baby steps) that one could make in a workplace in the immediate future, which would provide a ‘first step’ and eventually lead to bigger and more courageous steps in the journey forward to a more flexible delivery methodology. Their ideas were captured by Marlene Manto, LearnScope manager for South Australia
Here is their list (in no particular order):
- Change the organisational policy to allow students to email projects/assignments etc.
- Organise email addresses for students who haven’t got them eg. www.hotmail.com
- Trial using a chat room for a tutorial or group discussion – whether students are spread around the state or all in one room! Get feedback from them and ask for suggestions.
- Create an electronic ‘library’ on your local computer network for collected resources.
- Talk to colleagues and discuss strategies with them about finding the time to meet regularly for discussion about e-learning, and to learn the skills needed.
- Find allies for support, both inside the organisation and externally
- Undertake research – identify good resources and practice and collect existing in-house data and information
- Provide electronic resources for students as an option eg. burn existing text-based information to a CD or upload class notes to the internet or the local computer network.
- Replace large amounts of text-based resources with other media eg. web quests.
- Use more graphically-based resources, particularly for ESL learners
- Create a discussion forum for students (eg www.quicktopic.com)
- Use a tool such as Surveymonkey (www.surveymonkey.com) for course feedback, or to plan and design a client survey to find out what the client actually wants!
- Once surveys are created, share them with other VET providers.
- Develop interactive learning tools to incorporate into class-room activity eg. Hot Potatoes (http://web.uvic.ca/hrd/hotpot/) or Quandary (http://www.halfbakedsoftware.com )
- Set up a learning community to provide more communication and support for students.
- Investigate Toolboxes and utilise them (even small activities from them) in the classroom
- Find out what others are doing!
- Develop an action plan for your program…team…organisation….
- Make an appointment with Management to inform and discuss your ideas
- Make an appointment with IT staff to discuss options re technology
- Identify key people in the organisation who may be the ‘gate-keepers’ and who can assist with initiating change
- Create mailing lists for staff and students
- Start small – trial first attempts of anything with a test group of students and ask for feedback.
- Have a “Tools and Tips” event for colleagues and introduce them to new learning technologies – initiate discussion about possibilities
- Plan ‘show and tell’ sessions for other staff
- Incorporate ‘quick and easy’ ideas into classroom eg. using Powerpoint with digital photos
- Approach industry stakeholders and talk to them – they may have ideas too!
- Join an online community…just for the experience.
- Schedule regular time on the Australian Flexible Learning Community
Make time! Block out allocated time in your diary!