E-learning basics for bricklaying

Lay masonry walls and corners


Project overview
Traditionally, bricklaying and other trade teachers did most of their teaching face-to-face on the workshop floor, with apprentices coming in for training as the timetable directed. Bricklaying employers, industry groups and apprentices have long supported the need for a more flexible approach to delivery of training and assessment.

Holmesglen is currently focusing on the demand for sophisticated, flexible and innovative onsite training. Holmesglen actively offers flexible delivery to the bricklaying industry by providing onsite communication and interaction with employers and apprentices. However, there are no online resources for bricklaying that meet the current competencies. The project proposal is to use an existing video resource developed by Holmesglen and change to an e-learning format.

This project aims to:
  • improve learner access to online training
  • maximise workforce participation by providing learning through the use of an e-learning resource
  • skill staff and students in the use of online resources.

Lead organisation
Learning Innovation and Development (LID) Holmesglen Institute of TAFE: LID is a division that specialises in research, design and development of learning resources both online and print-based, curriculum development and maintenance, development and delivery of workplace training programs and professional development for Institute staff and external clients. This project will be led by Adi Glancy as the project manager and supported by Cristy Tessier as the project officer.

Trowel Trades (Bricklaying) Holmesglen Institute of TAFE

Project summary

This project looks to increase student access to training by designing, developing and trialling a mobile learning resource that could be used by apprentices and employers onsite, and offer flexible training delivery to the bricklaying industry. To do this an existing video resource used to support the unit of competency in the bricklaying qualification CPC30108 Certificate III Bricklaying/ Blocklaying will be made accessible to students via mobile phone and tablet.
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How will the project improve learner access to improve employment outcomes?

Target learners
Enrolled bricklaying apprentices and pre-apprentices from a range of age groups and backgrounds are the target group for this course. There will be eight apprentices enrolled in Certificate III in Bricklaying/Blocklaying, in their second year of training and eight pre-apprentices enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program incorporating modules taken from Certificate II in Building & Construction (Bricklaying). They receive credits towards their apprenticeship program.

Learning approach
The bricklaying department at Holmesglen are interested in trialling this resource to see if it could form part of a blended delivery model to support the delivery of the nationally recognised unit of competency CPCCBL3005A Lay masonry walls and corners. They are particularly keen to use the Holmesglen Learning Management System, Moodle, to do this. They see Moodle as a pathway for increased online learning.

The e-learning resource can be used effectively in a variety of delivery situations, such as onsite, at home or in the workshop.

The resource has been customised to support the teaching and learning of technical skills and corresponding knowledge required to lay bricks in a line. It is a training aid, divided into 11, step-by-step tasks. The skill is demonstrated in either video or image format. The image is a close-up, giving a clear view of the technique. The video repeats, allowing the student ample viewing time. It is supported by a concise description of the skill. Complex skills are broken down to manageable chunks. In the example below, the skill is broken down into four stages to provide students with a more detailed demonstration of the required task.

An example of a complex skills broken down to four parts (A to D) with a concise description of each part

How does this project align to the jurisdictional and national priorities?

Bricklayers and Stonemasons meet the criteria for the Skilled Occupation list. Bricklayer’s skills have been classified for high risk/high disruption/high use, indicating that this occupation is important for the effective operation of an enterprise and/or the broader economy. There is a strong match (86%) between the intended occupation of vocational education and training (VET) students and subsequent employment as a bricklayer or stonemason (NCVER Student Outcomes, 2010).

Bricklayers and Stonemasons industries are important to meet government policy priorities at both the Commonwealth and State level. These policies include national infrastructure and construction projects and re-building in the wake of recent natural disasters.

Needs of the target learner cohort
Tradespeople, such as bricklayers are expected to have a level of skill commensurate with a Certificate III/IV qualification or higher. Of those employed as bricklayers, 49% were found to possess this level of skill (ABS Education and Work, 2010). This is a decrease from the 2008 survey where 60% of bricklayers were found to possess this level of skill (www.skillsaustralia.gov.au).

Learners today have greater exposure to knowledge through a wide range of information sources; such as the Internet and television. New learners may lack depth of skills and knowledge, but learners of today are more technology savvy. This project aims to give bricklaying teachers at Holmesglen some skills to embrace e-learning challenges and changes. This is hoped to empower teachers to engage their students in using online resources and to offer flexible delivery.

Relevant stakeholders
Stakeholders in this project are:
  • employers of bricklaying apprentices
  • Holmesglen staff
  • Holmesglen management
  • the Australian Brick and Blocklaying Training Foundation (ABBTF).

Consultation with stakeholders
  • Regular meetings have occurred between Holmesglen bricklaying staff and the project team at LID to ensure the project has remained on track and is meeting the expected project outcomes.
  • The bricklaying staff member has met with employers of Holmesglen apprentices to discuss the initiatives of mobile learning and training resources. Consultations have taken place over the phone and during onsite visits.
  • The ABBTF are an industry body with an aim of addressing the skill shortage in the brick and blocklaying industry. ABBTF are supportive of innovative practice to engage learners and increase the number of bricklayers with a qualification. The ABBTF's Victorian Manager has been provided with the Wikipage link.

Intended outcomes from your project

What do you hope to achieve with the funding?

The main deliverable from this funding will be the development of a mobile learning and teaching resource, compatible with mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers.

It is hoped that this will be the start of an e-learning culture for the bricklaying department. By the end of this project, students will have the skills to access and use mobile technologies for learning. Teachers will have the confidence and ability to use e-learning resources in their teaching.

Actual outcomes resulting from this project

What was done?

The project identified four different focus areas in the design and development phase:


Developing the mobile learning resource
An existing video resource was used for this project. The Multimedia department, within LID, converted the resource into a format that could be used on a desktop/laptop as well as supporting the following mobile devices:
  • HTC Desire
  • HTC Sensation
  • Samsung Galaxy S2
  • Apple iPhone 3, 4 and 4S
  • iPad 2

After the first draft, further modifications were required to meet e-standards requirements i.e. displaying alternative links to allow access on the full range of platforms.

Setting up a course on Moodle
Students accessed the resource through Moodle. To do this is was necessary to set up a course. Students were enrolled into the Moodle course and advised of their login and password. Staff were added to the Moodle course and were given editing permission.


Training staff
The train the trainer model was applied to staff training, with one member of staff initially trained in using Moodle. (Moodle has been recently introduced into the Institute). This staff member then had responsibility for training other staff members and also students.
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Pictured above: Craig Gambetta, Trowel Trades Teacher with Shalene Wilcock, Moodle Trainer

Training students
Prior to any training, students completed a pre-project survey to gather some baseline data.

For this project, as students were accessing the online learning resource via Holmesglen’s Learning Management System we needed to find out how many students had previously accessed Moodle. The results indicated just 13% of students had previously accessed Moodle, which confirmed the need to provide students with support and training to access the resources online.

Only 7% of students had previously used e-learning as part of their training.

Only 47% of students had an iPhone or smart phone. I say ‘only’, as there is often the belief that ‘every’ young person has immediate access to the Internet via mobile phone. This result had an implication for the project as it was hoped that more of the apprentices would be able to access the resource onsite through their personal phones.

There were two parts to student training:
  • using Moodle (general information)
  • accessing and using the video resource.

All students were provided with a Moodle User Guide for support to access the resource on line. It gave students instructions on how to access the e-learning resource.

Students complete seven, one-week blocks of training at TAFE throughout the year. Training on accessing and using the video resource took place during one of these weeks and was run by the teacher.

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Students were now ready and prepared to make use of the resource on their return to the onsite environment. They were asked to access the resource to support their learning. In addition the teacher of the apprentices visited all employers onsite to explain the project, show the resource, explain the benefits of resource like this for employers and to encourage employers to either use or allow the apprentice to use the resource for training.

Benefits experienced by

Lead agent: Learning Innovation and Development
Members of the multimedia department improved their technical skills for developing a mobile learning resource in line with e-standards.

This project helped the project team to better understand and appreciate the challenges and barriers in utilising e-learning in the bricklaying trade. It was an excellent opportunity to work with, and support other departments in meeting their needs and desired goals.

Partner: Trowel Trades
This project was an introduction to e-learning for the Trowel Trades department and an experience that will hopefully open pathways to blended delivery. It has provided opportunities to discuss potential e-learning solutions with employers, and gauge a level of interest.

Only 30% of employers were familiar with e-learning and so an initial barrier to utilising the resource was identified. That said many could see benefits of apprentices using the resource, as long as there were restrictions to the use.
Rather than seeing the resource as an integrated part of their work and training, it was perceived as something to be used by apprentices in their ‘free time’ such as lunch break. 90% felt that this resource was best used as reference material and therefore home and the TAFE were the most appropriate settings.

Staff have received training and have improved skills in using Moodle as an learning management system (LMS) and have the ability to access and teach apprentices and employers how to access the learning resource.

A post-project survey was distributed to students to gather feedback and data on their experiences in using an e-learning resource for training. Results on training are shown in the graph.


As the project team, we identified the method of instruction in up-skilling the students in using Moodle and the learner resource as a possible area of weakness. Training was a group session, conducted with students looking at a projector screen of the computer – there was no individual hands-on participation. This was supported by 80% of students reporting the training they received to be average or below.

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Student introduction to e-learning resource 'Laying bricks to a line'


Student feedback with reference to onsite access to the e-learning resource

In terms of onsite access, 70% accessed the resource onsite. For most apprentices this was between one and 5 times. Access was for personal learning and in only 40% of cases was the resource actually used for training. 63% of apprentices felt that the resource was a positive tool and reported improvement in onsite skills. 100% would like to see of these e-learning resources available.

In summary student benefits included:
  • improved skills in using Moodle as an LMS
  • familiarity with e-learning
  • availability of an e-learning resource 24/7
  • accessibility options; such as desktop or smart phone to access the resource.

Reflections and Suggestions

Having reflected on our experiences in completing this project, we suggest that the following areas are considered in completing a future project.
  • E-learning Standards must be complied with. HTML5 does not currently meet E-learning Standards and Flash players do not play videos on Apple products (iPhones, iPads). Adding alternative links to play videos was required.
  • There were fewer students that expected with iPhones and other smart phones. It should not be assumed that all young people have access to the Internet via mobile phone.
  • Training students to access and use the e-learning resource should be hands-on. Students in this project received a group demonstration and only a few students had a mobile device to try for themselves. Training should be completed in a computer room.
  • The teacher site visits were hugely beneficial and an excellent opportunity to engage with employers about the potential in using e-learning and to gauge interest. This really helped the project team and teachers understand the challenges and barriers in utilising e-learning in the bricklaying trade.


Sustainability of project outcomes
  • The e-learning resource will continue to be used as a training aid by staff and students to support the development of competency for CPCCBL3005A Lay masonry walls and corners.
  • Staff have developed the confidence to develop their Moodle course and provide greater resources for access to their learners.
  • The Wikipage explains the project and is accessible to the public. The e-learning resource will be made available for national use.

This is a an Access to Skills project output, developed by Learning Innovation and Development (LID) Holmesglen Institute of TAFE and Trowel Trades (Bricklaying) Holmesglen Institute of TAFE with seed funding from the National VET e-learning strategy.

We are happy to discuss this project with anyone interested in developing a similar project methodology.
- Adi Glancy, Project Manager and Cristy Tessier, Project Officer

For more information

Learning Innovation and Development
Ms Adi Glancy
Project Manager
Phone: (03) 9564 1813
Email: adi.glancy@holmesglen.edu.au

For more information on the Access to Skills program:
Phone: (08) 9229 5200
Email: accesstoskills@dtwd.wa.gov.au
Website: www.flexiblelearning.net.au