Organisational capacity

coonara_pic2.jpgCoonara Community House is a medium-sized Adult Community Education (ACE) organisation located in the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
Coonara runs a wide range of accredited courses in adult learning; most of them from the Community Services Training package, particularly aged care, childcare and community work. Coonara also delivers courses from the Certificate I in IT.
Coonara delivers approximately 45 000 Student Contact Hours (SCH) of accredited training per year.

A strategic vision

A commitment to embedding technology into educational delivery is in the strategic plan. In fact, it is the main focus for the next few years. Coonara wants to build their ICT capacity and use blended learning across the organisation not only in the delivery of adult education courses, but in other aspects of the community, for example childcare. They are looking into the possibility of setting up virtual playgroups online for parents who are isolated. and might gain from support online from a professional to meet with other isolated parents.
Coonara is exploring the possibility of a virtual community house to offer education online.They will need to develop relevant partnerships but have the capacity to manage it on their own and will look for specific partners to help them along.

Clever use made possible. What are the key strategies for success?

  • The organisation has appointed an e-learning champion. This is a key driver and crucial to the ongoing integration of ICTs.
  • The COM and the team leader share the vision - it does not belong to only a few staff. It needs to be owned organisation- wide.
  • Access to a key technical person eliminates frustrations.
  • The purchase of the relevant technology is a priority. Used ACFE equipment grants to do that.
  • The students see the use of ICTs in their courses as a priority: some key students are helping to drive the embedding process. This project has identified a couple of students who are working on this all the day and night - the students have embraced it and want to run with it. There have been some students who have been less keen but the keen ones have been mentors to support the less able ones. Has been quite successful. One of the mentors wants to enrol into the Trainers and Assessors Qualification to enable her to teach

Teacher readiness / capacity

One of Coonara's great strengths is their stable workforce. They reported that the tutors directly involved in the project are feeling really confident and more capable. They feel that they can embed. There is a lot more interest and the teachers are more confident, in fact even the resistant ones are moving on. They are worried but not resistant any more.
The team leader feels that the choice of tool as a vehicle to carry the change is very important – as is the reassurance that the teachers have the person to support them.

Technology Infrastructure

The staff at Coonara feel that any potential IT infrastructure problems are more related to exploring higher end applications such as Second Life, and other higher end technologies that suit the learning needs of particular student cohorts. Multimedia and virtual worlds are going to add to the requirements for more memory better video cards.
There is also the perennial problem of regular access to computer labs and having easy to set up, user friendly data shows.
Organizationally they are looking at a copier networked to a server and computers to make things like scanning information easier and more accessible.

Blended learning as a business option

Coonara feels that the integration of ICTs into all aspects of their operations is absolutely essential for sustainability.
They are seeing a growing the demand from the community. They feel that over the next couple of years it will be essential to their survival as a viable ACE organisation., to introduce more feasible and learner centred approaches to delivery.
People are doing so much online personally and professionally, that they may chose to go elsewhere if their local adult education organisation that does not offer blended options. Coonrara does not see blended learning as a niche market, ie it does not fill a gap, but is an integral part of educational delivery.

Forward thinking: local and global

Coonara will always have a strong local focus but ackonwledges the need to look at wider markets too.
They see ICTs as an integral part of being a productive member of a networked society.
As an organisation they ackowledge the possibility of having to consider both local and global markets. They are committed to maintaining a strong local focus but also acknowledge that they are more and more working in a much wider community that transcends traditional geography.