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Designing learning delivery systems to improve access, quality and productivity of TAFE courses
SA Department of Technical and Further Education
In the past, those concerned with learning delivery and the design of learning resources have largely concentrated on two broad areas:
While both are essential areas of endeavour they have generally been undertaken outside of mainstream course delivery in Australia. Consequently those concerned have been relegated to the design and production of supplementary learning resources and incidental programs or seen as someone who can "make the equipment work".
- Instructional design and the desire to improve the understanding and application of design rules in the development of learning materials and programs, and
- Keeping abreast of new technologies and their application in education. These efforts have often been driven by the desire to avoid proposing solutions to instructional problems that seem to be old fashioned.
If the expertise developed over the years in instructional design and the application of technology in education is to be capitalised on in the future it must be exercised in a vastly different manner to that which has occurred in the past.
It is essential that instructional design and technology be addressed in relation to the delivery of mainstream courses and in conjunction with other parameters that contribute to the design of a learning delivery system.
A. Delivery system design parameters
In order for valid decisions to be made regarding the design of a learning delivery system a number of parameters must be considered jointly. These are:
Interactive consideration of these parameters against an overall background of cost and productivity will facilitate the modification of expectations in each area from the desired to the achievable. This pragmatic approach will result in the design of a learning delivery system that will:
- Learning outcomes
- Learning methodologies
- Access to learning experiences
- Technologies available
- Ensure the maximum achievable student access and learning outcomes.
- Use the most appropriate range of methodologies and technologies currently available.
Diagram 1: Delivery system design parameters
1. Learning outcomes
In what ways will students be different at the end of their course than they were when they started?
Most educators would now agree that this is a first order question in the design of learning programs. These outcomes of learning have been described variously, with each description indicating different emphasis. Educational goals, terminal objectives, behavioural objectives and competencies are descriptors that have been used to indicate the nature of the desired learning outcomes statement.
Predominantly these learning outcome statements have been used in TAFE to define:
Very little recognition has been given to the relationship between the methodology incorporated within the learning program and the learning outcomes achieved.
- instructional content
- skills to be acquired
- sequencing of learning tasks
- media selection
- assessment of student performance
The success of TAFE is often judged by Industry in terms of the competency of exit students in the skills required by Industry. These skills are reflected by the learning outcome statements made in relation to the content of each course. However, a new demand is being voiced within Industry for learning outcomes that are not content based, but that reflect broad transferable skills. These skills are generally expressed as:
While these skills require further analysis it is clear that questions of learning methodology are important considerations in designing learning programs to achieve these outcomes.
- problem solving
- knowing how to learn
- communication with others in the work place
- taking the initiative
- knowing how to access and use information
- working as an effective team member
2. Learning methodologies
What is the best method of enabling students to achieve the desired learning outcomes?
This question has at best received variable consideration, with the emphasis being placed on the individual teacher's need to consider the methodologies they employ. This lack of system wide consideration of methodology in the delivery of TAFE courses has led to pockets of development in the use of alternative methodologies. In turn these pockets of development have generally been driven by one enthusiastic zealot and based on total commitment to one particular methodology. The variety of methodologies that exist can be placed along a number of continua, each of which indicates a particular aspect of the methodology concerned.
In this way a particular methodology could be described as teacher centred, self paced, prescribed discovery. This methodology would be typified by students undertaking a prescribed experiment, by following specific instructions at their own pace, where the result was unknown.
The left hand extreme of each continuum is perceived by some as evidence of poor quality course delivery and the right hand extreme as good. In reality both have a place in learning delivery systems when chosen in conjunction with consideration of learning outcomes, access and technology.
3. Access to learning experiences
Questions that must be addressed in relation to student access to learning experiences are:
Consideration of these questions has generally been restricted in the past because there were only two choices:
- What is the desired level of access, to which students, where and when?
In answering this question issues relating to the time and location of course enrolments, classes, and course completion should be addressed.
- What are the prerequisite competencies (both content and learning skills)?
What provision is to be made for students to gain the prerequisite competencies if any?
Statements made with regard to the minimum entry qualifications required by students to gain access to specific TAFE courses are often based on assumptions made about content based competencies. Often no attempt is made to specify learning skills required by students before they can undertake a particular course. This aspect of access will become increasingly important as new learning delivery systems are considered.
- What is the cost?
Apart from the overall consideration of cost and productivity a number of student related cost factors should be considered. For example, the cost to the student of course and material fees, travel and accommodation costs, and the psychological cost of foregoing other activities while studying. The cost of some student support services is also access related.
New technologies have now blurred the edge between these two choices and created a continuum along which many options for providing access lie.
- External studies
- On campus face to face
New concepts of providing access at the work place and taking learning to the learners are challenging traditional concepts in the delivery of TAFE courses.
In order for these new concepts to be achieved they will rely heavily on the ability of new technologies to provide greater and more varied levels of access to learning experiences than previously available.
4. Technologies available
When asking the question Which technologies are the most appropriate for a particular delivery system? it is essential to treat all technologies, old and new, as having a potential role. Choices should be made on the basis of the ability of each technology to:
Consideration of available technologies and their characteristics may in turn modify, expected outcomes, methodology and access. Consideration of the full range of technologies available may result in the use of a mixture of vastly different technologies in order to facilitate the methodologies required for different learning outcomes within any learning delivery system. The past tendency has been to treat each new technology as replacing all that went before it. Some of the factors that have promoted this trend are:
- facilitate the desired methodology
- enable the required learning outcomes
- achieve desired levels of access
These factors have resulted in TAFE using an all or nothing approach to the use of new technologies. In this way the design of learning delivery systems has been technology fashion drives. This approach has led to a determination of learning outcomes based on what the latest technology will achieve. Scant consideration has been given to the effect of not achieving those outcomes that the latest technology automatically discards. This failure is most evident where computer based training is the sole delivery medium used to train personnel who have a significant customer relations aspect to the job they are eventually to perform.
- increasing sophistication
- high initial costs
- use of cost alternative approaches
- desire to be seen to be up with the latest technology.
B. Innovating new learning delivery systems
The task of adapting to a new learning delivery system can be stressful to both students and staff. Crucial to the success of any innovation is the sense of commitment to, and ownership of the innovation by all concerned. It is therefore important that the design, development and innovation of a new learning delivery system be carried out through an inclusive process. The aims of this process being the generation of a fertile environment in which a new learning delivery system can grow.
For those wishing to successfully manage the process of innovation within TAFE the beginning must be the identification of the characteristics of the group within which the innovation is to take place, and the recognition of these within the innovation process.
A useful starting point in the identification of these characteristics are the teacher 'subculture' key themes established by F. H. Wolcott in Teachers vs Technocrats, 1977. It is proposed by Wolcott that teachers act in many ways as a 'subculture' and have five main recurring themes in the way in which they regard themselves. These are:
These themes will require adaptation, before they reflect the TAFE lecturer subculture. (Lecturer subculture being defined as those who undertake teaching duties with TAFE colleges). The addition of other recurring themes will result in this list of key themes being more useful in determining appropriate innovation strategies within TAFE. For example:
- Teacher autonomy
Teachers wish to retain their autonomy and insist that they know what is best for their students. This aspect of the teacher subculture is seen clearly in insistence on flexibility and the right to choose between options.
- Teaching is sacrosanct
Teaching, or what is seen as teaching by the teacher subculture, is of the utmost importance and any attempt to interfere or alter that role should be brought into question immediately.
- Only teachers understand teaching
It would appear that the teacher subculture categorises educators into those that are in the classroom and therefore understand teaching, and those that are no longer in the classroom and therefore do not understand teaching. It is often heard said by teachers that "he's been out of the classroom too long, and lost contact with what teaching is all about".
- Teaching has a solid tradition
A number of teachers are progressive in their teaching methods but many are resistant to even minor changes. As noted in Berman "Educational Innovation from College" (Educational Technology, 9(1) pp 31-32 June 1969) the old cliche "teachers teach as they are taught" is certainly valid in many cases.
- Teachers are vulnerable
The teacher subculture seems to be nagged by feelings of vulnerability and often refer to themselves as defenceless, powerless and unappreciated. Wolcott suggests that this vulnerability is based partially on the fact that it is difficult to coalesce teachers into a united front and therefore individually they feel threatened. The degree of teacher commitment varies widely and teaching can always be improved. These factors along with the frequent lack of real rewards combine to make teachers feel vulnerable.
In determining the recurrent themes or characteristics of the TAFE lecturer subculture, it is important that members of this group are involved in the process. In this way new insights and hidden factors will emerge that could have caused the future innovation to fail had they not been considered. Once a comprehensive list of recurrent themes is established the process of designing an innovation strategy can begin.
- TAFE lecturers know what industry wants
The TAFE lecturer subculture perceives itself as a member of both an educational profession and an industry. Through their association with Industry, the lecturer subculture believes that lecturers best understand what industry requires of TAFE.
C. Recent developments in SA TAFE
In SA TAFE our efforts in the innovation of new learning delivery systems have resulted in a number of developments.
1. Learning Centre Networks
The establishment of TAFE Learning Centre Networks in local rural communities equipped with a range of communications, computing and video technology has been consolidated and continues to attract students. Statistics gathered in Light College have indicated an initial increase of approximately ten per cent in productivity through the use of new technology and learning materials available within the college learning centres. Clearly this is only an initial increase and the potential is much greater. Plans have been finalised and facilities established to enable Noarlunga College of TAFE to provide access to TAFE courses for residents of Kangaroo Island. Joint Education Department and TAFE Learning Centres have been established on Kangaroo Island and are linked to Noarlunga College through communications technology. Further plans include the establishment of Learning Centres within the catchment area of both the Riverland and Murrayland Colleges.
Diagram 2: TAFE Learning Centre Networks
2. Interactive television
Two proposals for the use of interactive television within the delivery of TAFE courses have been prepared and await funding approvals.
- Satellite delivery of interactive television for components of a course in Aboriginal Community Management. This proposal would utilise the services of Imparja RCTS to deliver a live television signal originating in Adelaide to remote isolated rural communities. Audio interaction from remote "class members" would take place via Telecom's switched network using Duct terminals and facsimile units at each site.
Diagram 3: Satellite and terrestial delivery of interactive television
- Terrestrial delivery of compressed interactive television through two megabit links utilising Telecom's terrestrial network and codecs located at each participating site. This network would link the existing Learning Centres within Light College with the potential to link with a number of private enterprise sites for the delivery of courses to the workplace. Both proposals have some common elements and would be capable of interconnecting with each other through the Telecom network.
Diagram 4: Terrestrial delivery of compressed interactive television via 2 megabit Telecom links
3. Interactive video disc
Work on the second computer interactive video disc program (Manufacturing and Decision making) undertaken by the Centre for Applied Learning Systems is nearing completion Packaging and presentation for the first program developed (Aussie Barbecue) has been completed. Consideration is now to be given by the Board of the Adelaide College Business Enterprise to contracting the services of the Adelaide Innovation Centre to undertake the commercialisation of the expertise that exists in the design and development of interactive video disc programs. This contract will specifically enable the establishment of business plans and agreements to:
- market the Aussie Barbecue interactive video disc
- joint venture with other commercial enterprises in the design, development and marketing of further interactive video disc programs.
4. Resource based learning projects
Increasing emphasis has been placed on the role of Learning Resources within the mainstream delivery of courses within South Australia DTAFE. The use of resource based learning approaches (open learning) has been fostered by the activities of Adelaide College in developing external studies material and more recently the Tea Tree Gully College project. This college is planned to operate on an open learning basis and funds have been made available for the continued development and purchase of open learning materials for this purpose. While ~ number of colleges have undertaken some learning resource development the use of materials from Adelaide College, Tea Tree Gully and other colleges interstate in conjunction with communications technology and local tutors have been the basis of the success of the Learning Centre Networks established to date. It is clear that continued developments planned in this area will greatly improve both the quality of learning and access to TAFE courses in the future.
5. Centre for Applied Learning Systems (CALS)
The Centre for Applied Learning Systems has been established as a major source of expertise in the use of a wide range of technologies in the delivery of TAFE courses. This centre houses more than 70 staff with expertise in:
Negotiations through the Adelaide College Business Enterprise are in progress for the marketing of the centre's first interactive video disc.
- management and use of resources in course delivery.
- instructional design, development and production of the full spectrum of media including video and print.
- use of computing in the delivery of learning including computer interactive video disc.
- use of communications technology both terrestrial and satellite.
|Author: Bob Miller RDA, Dip T., Grad Dip Ed Tech is Superintendent (Learning Resources) for the South Australian Department of Technical and Further Education.
Please cite as: Miller, B. (1988). Designing learning delivery systems to improve access, quality and productivity of TAFE courses. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (Eds), Designing for Learning in Industry and Education, 117-125. Proceedings of EdTech'88. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech88/miller.html
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