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Research Question

Will the use of e-learning tools encourage/assist students to become self-directed learners?

Who are the learners?

The learner group comprised of 10 students one of whom has an acquired brain injury, two have intellectual disabilities, all but two of the students have quite low levels of computer literacy and no-one had ever attempted
e-learning before. They were all enrolled in the Certificate II and Certificate III in Community Work. This is an entry level VET course that serves as an introduction to working in a wide range of community services areas.


What did we use?

A range of web 2.0 tools which included the use of a wiki, podcasts, chat rooms, and online forum and an electronic whiteboard in the classroom.
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Why did we choose these tools?

These tools were chosen because they encouraged communication and participation and were relatively user-friendly, but could be further developed if higher level students needed more challenges. It also introduced the concept of blended learning in a user-friendly and non-threatening and
safe environment.


Rationale

There was a diverse range of students, both high and low level literacy and computer skills.

How

First steps
  • Meeting with project support team, Lynne Gibb, Sally Dusting-Laird and Team Leader Leanne FitzGerald to brainstorm ideas on how project could be carried out.
  • Tutor attended wiki training session and became familiar with wiki.
  • Survey designed and administered to determine computer literacy levels of students
Preliminary planning
  • Researched how the wiki could be best used to engage students.
  • Discussed idea with students to guage their feelings about attemptingthe new technology in the classroom.
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First class
Tutor and mentor both introduced wikis to students in a team teaching situation.
Students had access to computers and hands-on experience 'playing' with its
features.
Teachers provifded lots of reassurance in answering questions.Teachers
emphasised 'fun' aspects.
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Answer to Research Question

Will the use of e-learning tools encourage/assist students to become self-directed learners?
Yes. Students organised excursions, downloaded assessment tasks, uploaded games, used the discussion board, google calendar all using their own initiative.

Achievements: Reach, Retention, Result, Other

Students engaged more with the tools than with their normal written materials.
Assessments indicate they retained more information.
It assisted in time management. The majority submitted their work on or before the due date. This had not always been the case in the past.
Their independent learning skills were enhanced .
Students' computer skills increased.
The tutor had more face-to-face time with students instead of catching up absentees with previous classes.

Future

What next?
E-learning will be embedded in all accredited courses at Coonara. Some units of courses will be delivered entirely online using wikis and Live Classroom in 2008.

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4 Tips for teachers

  • Allow time for students to become used to technology.
  • Respond rapidly to any student contribution on the wiki.
  • Make sure you (tutor) understand and feel comfortable with the tools before you try them with the class.
  • Timetable wiki training into course timetable.