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This paper describes the instructional design approach and initial outcomes of an initiative involving the US professional association, the Institute of Transportation Engineers and DeakinPrime, the B2B (business to business) division of Deakin University. The key objective was to provide task-centred continuing professional development for transportation professionals worldwide.
As instructor-led training becomes less popular in the US due to travel and associated costs, individuals and employers are seeking more efficient ways to address their development needs. It was apparent that the field of traffic engineering could lend itself to effective online teaching and learning particularly if the technology could be used to stimulate worthwhile learner interactions.
Four courses are delivered online through a learning management system with an e-commerce front end and worldwide availability 24x7. Both parties view this partnership as a long term one and the project is ongoing. Additional courses will be released over the coming years, subject to funding availability.
DeakinPrime is the corporate arm of Deakin University, whose expertise delivering distance-learning programs is world-renowned. As the university's B2B division, DeakinPrime specialises in providing customer-focused training solutions for clients.
Recognising its responsibility to respond to the challenge of promoting professional practice and lifelong learning to its members, ITE decided to implement a cost-effective and educationally sound online solution. DeakinPrime's desire to enter the US marketplace and its educational expertise complemented ITE's enthusiasm for the project and their industry knowledge-and a partnership was formed. The ITE established a program content advisory board composed of senior people within government authorities, academia and the commercial sector to guide the project.
An e-learning readiness survey of a random sample of ITE members was conducted. We had predicted that the main potential participants would be either entry-level graduates or middle managers. However the market research showed that the courses would also appeal to experienced transportation professionals seeking a refresher course in a specific area or experienced engineers new to transportation generally or to a particular sector.
A catalogue of courses around essential themes and at varying levels would be progressively developed. The initial themes would be: Traffic Capacity, Traffic Safety, Traffic Control Devices and Transportation Planning.
The courses would be delivered in a totally online format with minimal academic support. After registration on the LMS (learning management system), people could use the e-commerce option to enrol and pay by credit card for immediate access. The courses would be suitable for study in either one continuous session or multiple sessions from work and/or home. Participants who successfully complete the final multiple-choice test accompanying each course would be issued with a Certificate of Completion and be eligible to claim a specified number of engineering Professional Development Hours (PDH) units.
Knowing that adults are just-in-time, discovery learners, we knew they would want to be able to apply their learning to current problems or work-related goals (Beaudoin 1990). Consequently, constructivist principles were considered the most appropriate to support the creation of a learner-centred environment, as they would support experiential learning processes that could build meaning, mental models and personal mastery (Jonassen et al. 1995, Senge 1992).
A constructivist rather than a behaviourist approach would support a learning environment, which: 1) offers multiple representations of reality; 2) empahsises authentic tasks in a meaningful context and real world setting; 3) encourages thoughtful reflection on experience and 4) would foster context- and content dependent knowledge construction (Jonassen 1994).
A guided case study approach was chosen as an effective way to teach the judgement skills necessary to deal with complex, contradictory situations common in real life (Horton 2000). In this way we hoped our courses would seem like 'serious play'-a concept described by Rieber, which offers a means for developing meaning and motivation in a holistic way.
The actual steps required to perform a specific task were identified and they formed the flow sequence for each course. Leading subject matter experts would guide participants through the key steps involved in the workplace tasks. The parallel streams of content were colour-coded: Green for Knowledge and Red for Practice and written in passive and active voice respectively so that participants could readily navigate and select their preferred learning pathway. See Figure 1.
Figure 1: Screen grab from TP01 case study introduction
The American Society of Training and Development's criteria for good e-learning state that it should: 1) fit the learner's needs, style and pace; 2) engage the learner actively; 3) transfer knowledge; 4) permit practice; 5) allow for interactivity; and 6) provide follow-up. Our approach would address the first five of these criteria. It was beyond our control that the client chose not to offer tutor support in the initial phase.
In order to focus the courses on industry best practice we decided to align them with an appropriate engineering model. We adapted the popular quality improvement model-PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) to create an eight-step, task-focused engineering improvement model that aligned well with how transportation engineers approached their professional work. This model was used as the instructional design framework (see Figure 2) against which the scope and structure of each course was mapped. Depending on the scope of each course different parts of the model were covered. For example in TS02, Steps 1-5 were addressed whilst in TC02, Steps 1-6 were addressed.
Figure 2: Engineering and instructional design model
Our client and subject matter experts were on the opposite side of the world to the project team, which meant that most work had to be done asynchronously. Production delays were unavoidable as even simple queries, which could have been resolved with a quick phone call, had to wait until at least the next day.
The design/development process required a continuous cycle of communication, discussion and feedback between the subject matter experts (SMEs), the client and the project team at DeakinPrime (DP). In truth, probably most SMEs were skeptical about their role and the relatively short timelines at the outset. DP's instructional designers had the additional challenge of mentoring these experts about the principles and practices of distance learning before scaring them entirely with the possibilities of e-learning! However the SMEs survived the process-most even enjoyed the experience enough to offer to work on subsequent courses.
Despite apparent geographical difficulties the design and development process was reasonably efficient. Email proved extremely useful and was our main communication medium. Periodic teleconferences, often at strange times of the day, were used to resolve complex issues and keep the project on track. From our experience, an initial face-to-face meeting was extremely beneficial, especially given cultural and language usage differences.
To add further complexity to the project, the courses were the first to be hosted in DeakinPrime's new learning management system (LMS). The system was being commissioned in a just-in-time manner in tandem to this project. For those familiar with the marketing promises versus operational realities of LMSs generally, you'll probably agree that the childhood proverb is most applicable - when they're good, they're very very good but when they're bad, they're horrid!
DeakinPrime now has a tangible e-learning presence to promote locally and in the US marketplace. The project has given DeakinPrime's online design/development/delivery capabilities a significant boost. We even feel that we have finally starting to move off the x-axis of the exponential curve. Our IDs are excited by the possibilities of using Flash to create stimulating learning interactions.
Enrolments to date have been less than initially expected-approximately 150 unit enrolments. There are probably several reasons for this disappointing result. September 11 has impacted on the psyche and confidence of many people and the economic consequences are still being felt. In addition, instructor-led, classroom training is still the dominant training paradigm. It will take several more years for e-learning in general and this specific project to become a mainstream training option.
This conclusion is supported by research by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD). The percent breakdown between classroom and e-learning around the world is shown in the following table.
|Country||Classroom (%)||E-learing (%)|
|Source: ASTD 2002|
Their findings show that Australia is at the low end of take-up worldwide. ASTD predicts that although e-learning has been in a static period for the last few years, it is poised for large growth. They estimate e-learning will capture 21.6% of the US market by 2003.
Back in Australia, project team members have reflected on their experiences in order to improve our online design and development systems and processes. DeakinPrime is seeking to transfer this knowledge to its 20+ instructional designers through a tailored in-house professional development program.
American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) (2002). State of E-learning Industry. Keynote address by Mark Van Buren at Asia Online 2002 conference, Singapore.
Bates, A. (1991). Interactivity as a criterion for media selection in distance education. Never Too Far, 16, 15-19.
Beaudoin, M. (1990). The instructor's changing role in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 4(2), 21-29.
Jonassen, D., Davidson, M., Collins, M., Campbell, J. and Bannan Haag, B. (1995). Constructivism and computer-mediated communication in distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 9(2), 7-26.
Jonassen, D. (1994). Designing Constructivist Learning Environments(CLEs). http://www.coe.missouri.edu/%7Ejonassen/courses/CLE/index.html [viewed 29 May 2002, verified 13 Aug 2002]
Horton, William (2000). Designing Web Based Training, Wiley & Sons, Canada, p.227.
Peterson, G.D. (2002). Engineering Criteria 2000: A Bold New Change Agent. http://www.asee.org/precollege/bold.cfm [viewed 28 May 2002, verified 13 Aug 2002]
Rieber, L. (2001). Designing learning environments that excite serious play. Proceedings ASCILITE Conference 2001, University of Melbourne.
Rothwell, W. & Sredl, H. (1992). The ASTD Reference Guide to Professional Human Resource Development, Roles and Competencies, 2nd edn, Vol II, HRD Press, MA.
Senge, P. (1992). The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Random House, Australia.
Preview site for TS02 Safety Analysis: Signalized Intersections. http://www.korum.com/ite/TS02/default.htm [verified 13 Aug 2002]
|Author: Vicki Angliss is the General Manager - Development with DeakinPrime, the B2B division of Deakin University in Australia. Her role includes fostering new partnerships and developing new educational solutions to fulfill clients' needs and expectations. Vicki taught in the tertiary education sector before concentrating on instructional design and program management. She is leading DeakinPrime's transition towards the e-learning paradigm with the development of an online learning philosophy and implementation capabilities. Vicki has a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Master of Education (Open & Distance Learning) from the University of Southern Queensland. She is a member of AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) and ASTD (American Society of Training & Development). Email: Vicki.Angliss@deakinprime.com
Please cite as: Angliss, V. (2002). Trafficking excellence: A best practice approach to continuing professional development for transportation engineers. In S. McNamara and E. Stacey (Eds), Untangling the Web: Establishing Learning Links. Proceedings ASET Conference 2002. Melbourne, 7-10 July. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/2002/angliss.html