ASET logo
[ EdTech'88 Contents ] [ EdTech Confs ]

Designing learning delivery systems to improve access, quality and productivity of TAFE courses

Bob Miller
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".

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:
Diagram 1

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.

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.

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.

Teacher centred
Group paced
Student centred
Self paced

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: New technologies have now blurred the edge between these two choices and created a continuum along which many options for providing access lie.

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: 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.

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: 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.

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

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.
Diagram 3

Diagram 3: Satellite and terrestial delivery of interactive television

Diagram 4

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:

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:
  1. management and use of resources in course delivery.

  2. instructional design, development and production of the full spectrum of media including video and print.

  3. use of computing in the delivery of learning including computer interactive video disc.

  4. use of communications technology both terrestrial and satellite.
Negotiations through the Adelaide College Business Enterprise are in progress for the marketing of the centre's first interactive video disc.

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.

[ EdTech'88 contents ] [ EdTech Confs ] [ ASET home ]
This URL:
© 1988 The authors and ASET. Last revised 11 May 2003. HTML editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 24 Apr 1998 to 30 Sep 2002: