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Meeting training and educational needs using CD-ROM
Anne Gooley and Stephen Towers
Queensland Open Learning Network
University of Central Queensland
Within Australia since the mid-eighties there has been considerable and continued emphasis on increased provision of and access to education and training programs for young people and the workforce in general. This thrust has been a consequence of a national strategy to improve Australia's international competitiveness and to facilitate changes in workforce practices and requirements (VEETAC, 1991; NBEET, 1992).
Access to an extensive range of education and training opportunities is relatively limited in most rural towns and remote areas because they have neither sufficient resources nor the critical mass available to develop and sustain local education and training programs for their workforce. Attendance at education and training courses at a regional centre or capital city is expensive in terms of money and time and non-attendance potentially denigrates skill levels and can affect productivity.
Provision of education and training opportunities throughout Australia can be achieved through what has been termed flexible delivery systems (TAFE, 1992).
Flexible delivery is the use of a range of client oriented learning strategies which allow training systems to become more customer driven, to expand cooperative links with industry and to respond more rapidly to client needs. Such systems tend to a range of delivery modes (self paced, resource based, technology enhanced etc) and delivery venues (such as the workplace, home, learning centres). (TAFE, 1992 p. 1)
This paper is a preliminary report on the implementation and evaluation of the use of CD-ROM delivery technology in rural communities in Queensland to provide access to interactive self paced education and training courses.
In 1989 the Queensland State Government funded the establishment of the Queensland Open Learning Network (QOLN) to facilitate the provision of courses to help meet the education and training needs of communities, business, industry and government organisations.
The network currently comprises thirty-seven Open Learning Centres (OLCs) located throughout Queensland and provides a human interface and technological infrastructure to enable the delivery and reception of learning programs across all or part of the State (Gooley, 1992).
All Centres have the same range of services and facilities as follows:
The major functions of the network are to:
- Staff: a part time centre coordinator
- Facilities: meeting and quiet study areas, audio conference room;
- Equipment and software: microcomputers, printers and modems - (IBM) compatible and Macintosh); teleconferencing equipment (Multivoice, Hybrid, Voicepoint, DUCT or a loudspeaker telephone), video player and monitor; assortment of applications software (Job and Course Explorer, word processor, spreadsheet and database) and audiographics software;
- Services: career, course, education and training information and materials; electronic mail, facsimile access (dedicated line, modem, communication software and Keylink mailbox); 24 hour access to computer facilities.
- assist post-secondary providers with delivery and supporting distance and open learning programs
- assist business, industry and government organisations to meet their education and training needs through open learning
- provide communities with access to a range of short and bridging courses.
Rationale for use of CD-ROM technology for course delivery
Community use in the Queensland Open Learning Network is fostered through the development of OLC community support groups. These groups provide information to local OLC staff about the education and training needs of the community. Depending on the magnitude and general applicability of the needs, some are met on an individual basis while others are aggregated to provide a system wide response. It is in the latter context that the CD-ROM course delivery project was initiated.
Demand for short courses, particularly in computing, had become a common request from many support groups, particularly from communities that did not have a post-secondary institution. The Network examined several alternatives to meet this demand including the use of print based materials, Computer Aided Learning (CAL) (via floppy disk) and multimedia courses. The multimedia option was considered by QOLN staff as very flexible and user friendly because it offered participants a selection of learning modes including graphics, animation and voice, whereas the other options lacked these qualities.
CD-ROM technology was identified as the most cost effective option with sufficient storage capacity for multimedia course delivery and ease of transportation from one location to another. Furthermore, the advantage of using the CD-ROM technology is that it is a comparatively inexpensive method to provide expert information to a large, dispersed and diverse population.
The main obstacle to this technology was the limited number of "computer related" courses available in the medium. Applied Learning (Australasia) was approached to provide courses and, while they traditionally serviced only large corporations, they agreed to assist with a pilot project to make courses available to the general public.
Implementation of the CD-ROM for course delivery
The major objectives for implementation of CD-ROM based courses in the QOLN were to:
To maximise the achievement of these objectives the following actions were taken:
- provide people throughout Queensland with the opportunity and freedom to undertake a variety of short courses that cater for their lifestyles or work environments
- enable community professionals, businesses and individuals to access inexpensively a range of commercially produced multimedia open learning packages.
The course topics selected were sourced from Applied Learning (Australasia) and had previously been extensively used elsewhere by medium to large sized businesses to train staff. It is noted that the CD-ROM courses that were obtained are not normally available to small businesses or individuals because of the high costs to purchase or hire courses. The objective was to generate sufficient demand throughout the Network to achieve the critical mass necessary to make the courses cost effective.
- Course topics were selected to cater for local business, local government offices, farmers/station managers and for personal/professional development needs.
- Participants would have great flexibility with respect to the style of learning - time (24 hours per day, 7 days per week), duration of each amount of learning, learning sequence (linear, topic, random or needs based), repetition, course completion time (within offering time frame).
- Course fees were to be on a sliding scale taking into account level of difficulty, duration, business application and rent/purchase cost.
A fee structure for the courses was designed to make the courses both affordable and attractive to local communities. It was anticipated that the full scale implementation would demonstrate the capacity for future course provision to be offered on a fee for service/cost recovery basis.
Course delivery level
Courses available at any one site were able to be exchanged four times a year. To increase the scope of offerings, centres in proximity or with similar needs were paired together so that alternative courses could be quickly exchanged between sites. This enabled centres to have access to eight different topics over a twelve month period for a period of four weeks with a one week break between to allow time to transfer and to test the courses.
Course and facilities booking
Participants were encouraged to book in advance for use of the computer, and suggested hours to complete each course were provided. While these suggested completion times were only indicative, they provided a useful guide for allocating times. Participants were informed that the course would only remain at the centre for four weeks and advised to complete the course within this period. Computer access was on a first come, first served basis and participants were able to repeat sections of the course as many times as they felt were necessary during this period. There were many alternatives for people to undertake courses; however a maximum time limit of two hours per session was encouraged. This time limit was in fact taken on a case by case basis.
Evaluation of the CD-ROM courses
A CD-ROM survey instrument, developed and trialled by these authors, was used to obtain opinions and views from users of the CD-ROM based courses in the following areas: computer usage and familiarity; reason for doing the course; aspects of using the CD-ROM medium; presentation and availability of the CD-ROM course. The evaluation instrument contained both structured and open ended items.
Over 200 students completed one or more of the four courses in the period from June to September 1993. From July onwards the CD-ROM survey instrument was provided to each student. The analysis which follows is based on 41 completed evaluation forms from 100 users of the courses. Data from the survey items were analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (Release 3. 1, SPSS Inc, 1988). The analysis of data presented below is based on data collected approximately halfway through the CD-ROM course delivery project.
The sample of people who participated had the following profile:
- between 31 and 40 years of age
- part time employed
- educated last at high school
It was found that 81% personally paid for the course and 19% indicated payment and/or part subsidisation from their employers. Also, it was found that 42% of the sample had already participated in a training/education course this year; 27% indicated that it was more than one year since they had participated in a training/education course.
Table 1: User reactions to doing the CD-ROM based courses (N = 41)
|Item on Questionnaire
% of responses
% of responses
% of responses
% of responses
% of responses
|The course was interesting.
|The course was a valuable experience.
|The course will help me in my job.
|The course makes me confident in using computers and other technology.
|Instructions for the course were easy to follow.
|I achieved the objectives of the course.
|Explanations/ information were easy to follow.
|Using the CD-ROM was easy.
|I was initially a bit hesitant in using the CD-ROM and other equipment.
|Using something like a CD-ROM made the course more interesting to do.
|The course needs face to face assistance to understand things properly.
|Using a computer and CD-ROM makes learning impersonal.
|After doing this course 1 want to do similar courses.
|I now feel motivated about study.
|Using the computer and the CD-ROM suits my way of learning.
Reactions to using the CD-ROM based course
Responses from users of the course about various aspects of the course and their experiences are summarised in Table 1.
It can be seen from this table that:
Students found the most enjoyable part of the course to be:
- the majority of users found the course interesting, easy to follow and a valuable experience
- completing the course had made users become motivated about study and interested in doing further courses
- while a large percentage of respondents were initially hesitant in using the CD-ROM equipment they found the equipment easy to use and soon became confident users
- the use of a CD-ROM made the course interesting
- just over half the respondents considered that the CD-ROM course did not require face to face assistance to understand the work. However, in the open ended responses a number of users did indicate that it would be useful for someone to be present for potential assistance.
Users were asked to comment on the presentation of the course and what could be done to improve it. Major responses were as follows:
- time/location flexibility for doing the courses(25%)
- actually using a computer/CD-ROM to do the course (16%).
Interestingly very few of the respondents sought to have back up tutorial support or tutorial sessions to accompany the course.
- making available more documentation for personal use during the course and afterwards (eg, exercises with answers)
- supplementing the CD-ROM package with a print package and/or other multimedia
- providing the opportunity for more practice on the computer.
Summary of findings
The major finding from this evaluation is that the use of the CD-ROM medium is a viable option for the delivery of education and training courses through the QOLN in regional and remote communities.
The use of the CD-ROM medium for such purposes has two main benefits.
In addition the use of the CD-ROM courses in thew communities has provided businesses and individuals that have developed courses using alternative delivery strategies with the infrastructure for disseminating and marketing such courses. It would seem that there is potentially a large pool of learning and information materials in government departments, training organisations, unions, business and professional societies and education institutions which can be adapted for education and training needs using the CD-ROM media.
- Through the use of CD-ROM, people living throughout Queensland, particularly in remote and rural areas, can have access to an increased range of short courses. This increased availability of the CD-ROM based courses enhances equity of access to quality training programs for rural and remote businesses and individuals.
- Completion of the CD-ROM courses promotes people's self confidence (often lacking in rural areas) and motivates people to undertake further studies possibly leading to formal qualifications.
While not conclusive at this stage, courses delivered through a CD-ROM media appear to have significantly higher usage in small rural communities than in larger regional centres. Possible reasons for the different level of usages are:
It is to be noted that business, industry and government organisations in larger communities have been interested in having the CD-ROM courses at the workplace.
- the dearth of education and training opportunities is more pronounced in small communities
- larger communities are well subscribed with providers of introductory education and training courses
- the cultural pattern associated with traditional face to face instruction is more strongly reinforced in large communities
- word of mouth plays a more important role in advertising courses in small communities.
Based on the results of the evaluation it would appear that the use of the CD-ROM medium for the delivery of education and training courses in rural communities is an effective means of providing access to education/training opportunities previously not available. The use of Open Learning Centres would seem to be well suited to such an activity as they are already being used by the community for computing activities, audio conferences, and for study and short courses.
Clearly, the fact that the courses were computer based and self instructional did not appear to be an impediment in their use. This may have been due to the fact that the majority of users were relatively experienced in the use of computers.
Evidence was obtained to indicate that the CD-ROM medium is user friendly and effective in making the education and training courses interesting and motivating to use. Almost all of the respondents indicated that they would recommend the course to others. It was found, however, that the courses could be enhanced through the provision of print and other media. This would make the provision of this course more expensive and such material could be provided as optional resource materials. The majority of the users in this trial were satisfied with the cost of the course and considered it good value for money.
Gooley A (1992). The Queensland Open Learning Network. Brisbane: Queensland Open Learning Network.
National Board of Employment, Education and Training (1992). The Australian Vocational Certificate Training System. Canberra: Employment and Skills Formation Council.
Technical and Further Education (TAFE) (1992). Flexible Delivery in TAFE: A National Framework for Implementation. Brisbane: TAFE Flexible Delivery Working Party.
VEETAC (1991). The National Alignment of Vocational Education and Training to the Australian Standards Framework. Issues Paper. Canberra: VEETAC.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the funding support of the Queensland Tertiary Education Foundation, Brisbane, that made possible the implementation of the CD-ROM based courses in the QOLN.
|Authors: John Dekkers - Professor and Head, Distance Education Centre, University of Central Queensland, Rockhampton, Queensland.|
Anne Gooley - Director, Queensland Open Learning Network, Brisbane, Queensland.
Stephen Towers - Associate Director, Queensland Open Learning Network, Brisbane, Queensland.
Contact address: Anne Gooley, Director, Queensland Open Learning Network, Level 1, 17 Mary Street, Brisbane Qld 4000. Tel: 07 225 8899 Fax: 07 224 4608
Please cite as: Gooley, A., Towers, S. and Dekkers, J. (1994). Meeting training and educational needs using CD-ROM. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 164-168. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions.
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