Blended learning @ Flemington



Research question

Will our advanced students who have many family commitments continue attending classes if we support them with online education?
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Who were the learners?

10 Multimedia 1 students and 10 Office Skills 1 students.

What did they study?

Community students, all adult learners, many ESL students, mainly women, very multicultural. The Multimedia and Office Skills classes are designed to teach computer skills to employment level.

Why did we choose this class?

Some of our best students are women who have young children.
They miss some classes and fall behind, so they get discouraged and they don’t come back to class.
Can we provide support to these students through blended education so that we may retain them?

How did we do it?

First steps

We had a number of preliminary meetings to consider the objectives, our timelines and the impact on our currrent courses, teaching resources and the rest of the organisation.

First class

We developed a standard 2 hour session on multimedia and office skill topics that was suitable for repeated delivery as a tutorial. We designed and tested tutorials, fiirst as handouts in class, then as homework handouts and finally online.

Reflection: answer to the research question

We have been able to retain our students beyond our expectations.
In fact student retention has improved across all computer classes, not just the targeted Multimedia 1 and Office Skills 1 classes. Importantly our waiting lists have increased, so that we have a waiting list for term 1 next year, which is completely new. The project seems to have caused increased expectation on the part of our students that they should be continuing with classes and progressing on the course pathway, even if family or other circumstances force them to miss out during some periods.

Achievements

Reach

We increased the number of students who were interested in the courses, mainly thanks to a higher profile in the community through positive student experiences.
We now have full classes across all computer levels, a waiting list for classes, and we are maintaining our good reputation in the community.

Retention

We have achieved full classes, while maintaining good individual student progress results. We have good participation in our homework class. Many students wish to participate in additional classes and continue on the computer pathway. Computer classes are now well integrated with other courses in the centre, chiefly ESL, English courses and community cooking classes.
Download the attached document to read about the outstanding retention outcomes FRWP achieved as part of this project.

Results

High individual student progress results have created a climate where students expect to progress. There is high attention level in each class and regular requests to teachers to advise students on their IT projects. Employment is regularly achieved by some students, and many have attributed this directly to our computer courses. Many job networks now send students to our classes for training or re-training.

Other

Teacher capacity has increased considerably. We are now able to consider more complex projects.

The future

Presuming adequate resources are available we expect that we will develop many more tutorials on line, and we would like to spend time on a system to standardise an update tutorials in line with industry developments and student requirements.
We are investigating devoting more organisational resources to server and network administration, to fully implement VPN for all student levels.
We will need an improved administration system to manage our waiting list.
We expect that we will have additional emphasis on progress through our computer pathway and further integration with other courses in the centre.
Already there is increased publicity regarding value of courses as employment training, and this can be expected to increase further.

3 Tips for teachers

1. A successful computer & IT project requires coffee, more coffee and tears.
2. Much planning is essential in the early stages, with much consideration to timelines, resource allocation and the time to be devoted to issues like software testing and learning new systems.
3. Good hardware and software is important. Research on hardware configuration and software use should happen early and this needs to be included in the timelines and resource allocation. Changing a hardware or software scheme is very difficult once a project is in progress. Planning for local area networks, server configuration, access control and security are all areas where time is well spent.