AS070 Construction M-learning Capability


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Background

There are only 7 RTOs that have the Advanced Diploma of Building and Construction (Management) on scope around Australia, with most only servicing a local market. There is very limited opportunity to access this qualification in Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and north Queensland. As such there are limited opportunities for individuals to access the qualification generally. Learners are generally either cadets or site supervisors, foreman or project managers who have difficulty getting away from the site to attend training. Courses are run in cities and larger regional centres, however, those in rural and remote Australia cannot access such courses. Many learners cannot arrange time off work, or are simply too far away from training centres to access such programs. In addition, due to OHS and site induction requirements, it is difficult for trainers and assessors
to access site, also limiting access.
  • Lead organisation
Transformed Pty Ltd

  • Partner(s)
Stephen Monkhouse Building Consultant

Project Summary

How will the project improve learner access to improve employment outcomes
This project will develop and test methods to facilitate mobile learning on construction sites using portable devices such as iPhones and iPads. The project will have two key elements:
- Mobile learning allowing the ability to undertake learning
- Capturing of photographic and video evidence as part of an e-portfolio

The project will develop a prototype application that operates on both iPhones and iPads as well as interacts with an open source LMS (Moodle), e-portfolio software (Streamfolio). In addition a business process will be developed that supports the application so that it can be easily adopted by other RTOs. The project will be focussed on one unit of competency from the Advanced Diploma of Building and Construction (Management) and be applied in a construction context. This will allow individuals to learn and collect evidence for RPL and assessments whilst on the construction site.

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How does this project align to the jurisdictional and national priorities?
Through the presentation of information in document, video, audio and photographic formats making the training more effective and caters for a wider range of learning styles. The assessment module will also allow for simple and rapid collection of evidence for assessment tasks and RPL. New, streamlined learning models are required in construction particularly given the large training requirement organisations will face as a results of the harmonisation of OHS legislation which will occur on 1 Jan 2012. In addition, there will be a large demand for higher level building qualifications when the national building licencing arrangements will commence in 2013, as commercial builders and site supervisors in NSW, NT, WA & SA will need to attain qualifications and licence, where they haven’t been required to hold them previously.

This project helps to address the national skills shortage in building and construction and demonstrates to the industry how e-learning and mobile learning can be applied – this is particularly important given the construction industry’s reluctance to adopt e-learning solutions. The project also provides the potential to be applied to addressing national skills shortages in other industries.

Consultation with stakeholders

Traditionally, site safety is taught in a classroom where individuals learn about the underpinning principles of worksite safety. Learners then apply these principles through work placements. However, the learners are not sufficiently experienced in translating the theory learned into practice. In discussions with stakeholders, such as the ACT and Region Construction Industry Training Council, it became apparent that there has been little effort expended in examining alternatives that can be supported by technology,even though technology is being adopted readily in the sector.


Most classroom training is undertaken either full-time during work hours, or in 3 hour blocks after hours over 2-3 years. Courses are run in cities and larger regional centres, however, those in rural and remote Australia cannot access such courses. Many learners cannot arrange time off work, or are simply too far away from training centres to access such programs.

Feedback from learners as well as industry bodies, such as the Housing Industry Association and the ACT and Regional Building and Construction Training Council
indicates that the traditional classroom environment is not attractive to mature aged learners. In addition, employers also find that classroom-based training does
not necessarily translate into the workplace. In addition, many learners in the construction industry have a kinaesthetic learning style. The proposed project helps to cater for these needs.

Intended outcomes from your project

What do you hope to achieve with the funding?

This project will develop and test methods to facilitate mobile learning on construction sites using portable devices such as iPhones and iPads. The project will have two key elements:

- Mobile learning allowing the ability to undertake learning
- Capturing of photographic and video evidence as part of an e-portfolio.
The project will develop a prototype application that operates on both iPhones and iPads as well as interacts with an open source LMS (Moodle), e-portfolio software (Streamfolio). In addition a business process will be developed that supports the application so that it can be easily adopted by other RTOs.

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Actual Outcomes resulting from this project

What was done?

1. Researched software and technologies supporting m-learning
What we found is that there are limitations with all software and technology in terms of their universal accessibility. Most of these issues relate to different device operating platforms being incompatible with particular formats. So, for example if you have an iphone, you can't view Flash content and other unsupported content. Similarly, if a learner uses an android phone or mobile device, they will also have issues viewing some content whose focus is the iOS operating system.

The challenge was to find ways to design the course to maximise accessibility, i.e. learners can access their course, upload content, interact etc, regardless of the device or operating system they use.
  • Moodle- We used Moodle as our learning management system because this is the platform we use for all our e-learning and also it is the most utilised LMS on the market. Moodle has a theme that can be applied so that when a learner access a course via a mobile device the theme will be activated. Moodle also has an iPhone application, but it does not work with iPads. However, we provided our learners with that option. The Moodle app (My Moodle) enables learners to upload content such as photos, video and voice to their private files on Moodle.
  • Content development- initially flash content was developed but had to be abandoned due to incompatability issues. We ended up developing content using HTML (via Moodle), videos via YouTube, Screenr presentations and Sliderocket. These offer universal access, with some limitations depending on the device being used. However, these tools provided the best coverage.
  • Interactivity- The Moodle platform enables interactivity through the various mobile devices, so for example, learners can send and receive messages, answer and submit assessments, upload content, view content etc.
  • Mobile applications- several applications were suggested to learners to better enable them to capture content for their assessments and upload to Moodle (via repositories). See under reflections and suggestions. The issue here was that unless a learner has an iPhone they would not be able to upload directly to Moodle. A learner would need to be able to upload and edit content and then upload to Moodle. The best solution for this was Google. Google has all the tools a learner needs to capture, edit and share content. Google also has the largest market penetration than any other solution. We felt that it is best to utilise tools that people are already familiar with rather than introduce something new.

2. Developed a model for learning using idevices- refer also to presentation below under reflections and suggestions.



Click on the above link for full document

Here is an excerpt:
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3. Developed online learning and assessment resources on Moodle for BSBOHS603B Analyse and evaluate risk.

Screenshot of course on iPad

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4. Ran the course with learners from the construction industry
Our learner cohort included approximately 16 learners from various organisations in the construction industry. We found that learners were very interested in being able to use their mobile devices as these are tools they use regularly in their working life and are very familiar with. Additionally, we found learners enjoyed using their mobile devices more than using a PC or computer.

Benefits experienced by

Lead agent
  • Ability to receive submissions quickly and respond quickly
  • Ability to track what learners were doing
  • Trainers/assessors also able to access courses via mobile devices



Learners
We found that learners used a combination of their computers and mobile devices. Some preliminary feedback was that learners:
  • enjoyed the format (once they got used to it)
  • found it easier to submit their assessments
  • felt more motivated to complete and wanted to do more

Demo video



Reflections and Suggestions

This is presented in a journal format so the reader can follow the process and thinking behind issues and reflections.


1. Flash content not compatible with iOS (namely Ipad and Iphone).
20/2/2012- I spent some time developing content on our LMS for this project which included interactive Flash content (developed through Articulate programs such as Engage and Presenter) only to find out they could not be played on Ipads and Iphone. Apple does not recognise Adobe Flash player (a licensing issue/disagreement).
Here are some links to discussions and information online:
http://www.articulate.com/forums/general-discussion/21104-articulate-ipad.html
http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/adobe_delivers_flash_video_to_iphone_ipad/
http://www.richcontentdaily.com/articles/342/the-future-of-e-learning-content-after-adobe-kills/

Ok so I’ve been doing a stack of research and found that this is probably the hottest topic in the e-learning web development field at the moment (it’s been interesting reading articles and opinions) and its a problem that everyone is struggling with (considering that 90% of e-learning is created using flash!)

So there are few solutions...

I have found one tool (very expensive) which offers the ability to create rapid e-learning for both flash and Html 5 for playback on all devices:
http://rapidintake.com/

I also found another tool for creating content for both flash and Html- but limited in terms of narration etc- they have other programs as well but only for html 5/mac users

http://www.aquafadas.com/en/motioncomposer/

So the solution in the meantime (excluding buying our solution)

  1. Design- think about how to design and present courses using mostly non-flash components, ie. Video, screenr, and other streaming/cloud stuff, plus podcasts , web page formats etc.
  2. When offering a flash package, offer an alternative for Ipad and Iphone users.
  3. The alternative will be a video (probably Youtube) of the interaction- YouTube has quite a bit of flexibility for adding annotations, music, notes, links etc.

Other options
There are a number of tools available for developing HTML5 content- but they are mostly for Mac users- but I will look into this a bit more.

Also, there are a number of apps that can be downloaded onto Ipad and Iphone that will play flash videos and content, but their effectiveness is limited (and most cost money). We will do some testing with these to see if they can be used.

Here is a link to some of these http://appadvice.com/appguides/show/adobe-flash-on-the-ipad

27/3/2012
Over the last month I have continued my research and testing for solutions and have found the following:

Iphone and Ipad apps for viewing flash content
The best app I found was iSwifter. This works quite well and enables viewing of flash content by streaming it to the viewer. However, the learner would need to download the paid version to enjoy uninterrupted viewing (the free version only allows 10 mins at a time) and I noticed that embedded videos from YouTube and embedded web content in the scorm package does not show.

Content development
In terms of content I finally settled on putting content directly into Moodle and utilised YouTube videos, links etc. Also, I converted a number of the scorm packages I created into YouTube videos. Firstly, I recorded and narrated them through Screenr, then published them to YouTube. Screenr does this for you.
This turned out to be a nice solution.

Note: I discovered that Screenr recordings give the best playback on idevices as they load quickly (most important),and play nicely in full screen; as compared to YouTube which loses resolution when videos go to full screen.

Future content development
I have started to develop content using SlideRocket for our other online content. This provides a flexible platform for creating attractive and interactive presentations/content that can be played on idevices , pc and mac. Only limitation is that you don’t get full functionality through android devices (but slides can still be viewed).
Recently I have also come across Adobe Edge (through Adobe Labs) A- a HTML5 editor for developing content- however, this is a much more complicated solution and is still currently in development. This is a good tool that will require a steep learning curve.

Other findings

My Moodle for mobile devices
Having completed content on Moodle, I applied the My Mobile theme on Moodle for mobile devices. This was a plugin I downloaded and installed from Moodle docs. This plugin and theme works well and provides a nice interface for navigation etc.

Uploading files into Moodle from idevices
One of the functions we require is that learners can upload documents directly from their idevice into Moodle.
We have discovered a couple of apps that are specifically designed for the construction industry enabling them to conduct audits and take photos and then have them output to PDF and email. The only restriction here is cost. These apps cost approximately $20 each- it would be preferable to find a more cost effective solution. However, we will recommend them to learners.
I have put assessments (activities) on Moodle that require uploading of files. We want learners to be able to take photos and make comments on their work sites for uploading into Moodle.
After some testing we discovered that this does not work with idevices. A work around for this is that learners can use an online repository such as Google docs which has been enabled on Moodle.
The learner can then save their documents to Google docs and upload from there into Moodle.
Additionally, there is a neat app called Google Edit (Free) that enables learners to create a document or presentation including taking photos and adding them instantly to their document and add comments etc.. The document can then be saved to Google docs or emailed. The free version only allows 6 pages.

We will recommend this app to learners to use this for this project as the assessment task requires learners to identify risks in their work site.
To ensure this works we need to provide good instructions for learners identifying what they need.
Additionally, learners will need to download a free app like PDF reader to open documents.

Future recommendations
After much research and scanning of available apps on the market, I was unable to find a generic app for education that enables learners to build and maintain an e-portfolio, have it linked to the LMS (i.e.Moodle) and then be able to share the documents contained within it.
I did try using a plugin called Exabis e-portfolio but it was confusing and difficult and still didn’t work with idevices.
I also tried using the Moodle app. But once again, after uploading a document it just seemed to disappear and I wasn’t able to find the document on Moodle.
I am sure there are work arounds for this however, if the solution is difficult and doesn’t work intuitively it will not work for learners who will not have as much patience for it as I do. For any solution we use, usability must be of primary concern.
In conclusion, there appears to be a space for the development of an easy, uncomplicated, generic e-portfolio app that can be connected to an LMS ie. Moodle. There are a number that have been developed by institutions for use with their own LMS.
Additionally, there is room for the development of free apps for construction which provide the auditing functionality of those currently available on the market and specifically geared to the Australian industry.

4/4/2012 Presentation to Access to Skills project meeting



18/5/2012
A few weeks ago we went live and recruited learners(voluntarily) who are currently enrolled in an Advanced Diploma of Building and Construction (Management) through Transformed. We also approached a number of organisations who were more than happy to participate. Currently we have about 16 learners on board.

As of today one learner has completed the unit and submitted his assessments.

The other learners however, have taken their time accessing the course. Last week I contacted them all again and had a positive response. The lesson is that learners need to have regular contact and reminders to remain engaged. A couple of learners needed support to understand how to access and navigate the course. Also, some learners accessed the course online and found that their workplaces had blocked a lot of the sites such as YouTube etc.

The first learner also identified an issue with the Moodle question format. The essay format does not allow learners to come back and edit their answers- after researching, I found this to be a bug in the system- so we had to come up with a work around for this.

Learnings from progress so far:
  • Educate trainers and assessors- they need to be actively engaged, so that learners are engaged and continue to access the course
  • Provide lots of support to learners- to build confidence and relationship. Utilise the learning space, messages and emails and be available to take their calls. Offering an initial webinar(just a brief one) would also be good (but of course depends on time)
  • Encourage feedback from learners and act on it quickly otherwise they will lose patience and interest.
  • Learners (at this level) in the construction industry love to use their mobile devices, and feel comfortable with them.


Sustainability of project outcomes

We will continue to offer the unit after the funding period, additionally, we have and will adopt the model for all our e-learning courses.
Our model is available to anyone who would like to use it. It doesn't require a great outlay of cost or infrastructure, but it does require strategic development of course materials, and training and education of supports such as trainers and assessors.

We will work to build on the knowledge and experience this project has provided us and in the future we will look at developing a couple of generic mobile/ipad apps to incorporate the functions and features we were not able to find in other applications- specifically for training and assessment and linking with the Moodle LMS.


Acknowledgement

This is a an Access to Skills project output, developed by Transformed Pty Ltd with seed funding from the National VET E-learning Strategy.

For more information

For more information on Transformed Pty Ltd:
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Michael Young
Managing Director

Michael.young@transformed.com.au
02 6259 6221
0411 243 568


For more information on Stephen Monkhouse Building Consultant:
Stephen Monkhouse
0407235233


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