Training Ontarians for the eLearning Opportunity “We’re offering people that are already highly skilled and knowledgeable with an opportunity to move into new spheres.”

Durham College and Collège La Cité help educators take their skills online for exciting new careers through a joint program called eLearning Developer / Production de médias d’apprentissage, which received support from eCampus Ontario. This story captures the reflections of key team members from both institutions as they discuss training Ontarians for the eLearning opportunity.

Training Ontarians for the eLearning Opportunity

With the growth of online education, teaching and training has advanced the need for skilled developers of web-based learning. This program is designed to provide students with usable skills and a pedagogical basis in order to develop quality online learning materials. Students will not only learn the practical skills for development, but will also be introduced to how their role relates to the team-based approach in educational design.

The eLearning Developer program is responsive to a growing demand for expertise (both technological and pedagogical) in the creation of online programming. As the field of online education continues to grow and mature, this certificate meets both the current and future labour market demand. Educators, trainers, designers, and administrators will benefit from completing this program and it will appeal to both the traditional educator, and anyone in business/industry who creates online materials.

Evidence

Participants

  • Pascale Bellier, Learning Development Coordinator at Collège La Cité
  • Brandon Carson, Learning Technology Specialist, Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment (CAFE) at Durham College
  • Olivier Chartrand, eLearning Development Manager at Collège La Cité
  • Michelle Mouton, Director of Program Quality & Development, School of Continuing Education at Durham College
  • Tanya Wakelin, eLearning Manager, Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment (CAFE) at Durham College
  • Erika Drushka, interviewer

Please go ahead and introduce yourselves.

Tanya: I’m Tanya Wakelin. I’m the eLearning Manager here at the Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment (CAFE) at Durham College. I manage an interdisciplinary team who develop online courses and learning objects for the college’s academic schools as well as faculty support for DC Connect, our Learning Management System, and educational technology. This program was an eLearning project so it naturally came to our department to lead in conjunction with the School of Continuing Education.

Brandon: My name is Brandon Carson. I’m a learning technology specialist at the Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment (CAFE) at Durham College and a part-time professor. I taught one of the courses that was offered inside of this previously, so I was able to give a little bit of insight on the course and help develop it as well.

Michelle: I’m Michelle Mouton. I’m the director of program quality and development in school of continuing education. The program runs through my department and so I look at it from a quality perspective, but in the end we operationalize it so that it becomes available to students and we manage that. The program was developed by Tanya’s team and then we pick it up and run with it.

Pascale: I’m Pascale and I’m the learning development coordinator at La Cité. I’m managing the design team here and prior to that I’ve been teaching full time for 10 years at Collège La Cité. I’m responsible for leading the design of the courses and ensuring the educational quality of the courses. So quality control is my job.

Olivier: My name is Olivier Chartrand. I’m the eLearning development manager here at Collège La Cité. I’m responsible for the online course and training developments. I’m in charge of that multidisciplinary team. So we have instructional designers, we have a continuing improvement specialists, digital strategy specialists, web programmers, translators, et cetera. There’s a new development office here under the academic vice president. A new focus. So we have now merged in-class and online development altogether.

Can you tell me a moment when you felt a sense of pride or success or had a breakthrough in your work on this project?

Pascale: Basically we have adapted the program to a competency-based approach and a modular approach, which is a big, big change. It was a challenge because it changed all the mapping of the program and we had to re-engineer it a little bit. But in the meantime, these changes brought us a lot of structure and a great alignment of the program. I’m especially proud of the evaluations which are really well-aligned with the learning objectives and we were able to design really good authentic evaluations.

Olivier: We’re lucky to have Pascale on board because she’s an expert on evaluation of competency. She just finished a Masters in the area and we worked directly from that expertise to the program. So making sure everything is well-aligned. Another thing we worked on is having the adult learner in mind — the nontraditional learners that will be most of our clientele. Having useful learning content, transferable professionals skills according to their work — sometimes they work already in the field — and having experiential learning principles adapted to the learning units helped them build their knowledge and practice right away.

Michelle: This program gives educators an opportunity to expand their horizons. With the growth in online teaching and learning, skills in eLearning development are essential and often under-represented on resumes. We have not had any graduates yet as the program is so new, but I am going to feel great pride watching our first grads cross the stage at convocation. I know that their skills are in demand and that they will have creative and fulfilling opportunities in both academic and corporate educational settings.

Tanya: From an operational perspective, my sense of pride as the project manager and eLearning manager for the host college was us being able to work remotely with a bunch of different colleges together without ever meeting face to face. We did it all through,video conferencing, sharing screens, Google Docs, all that kind of remote collaboration. That worked out really well.

Is there anything that you can add about the scale of adoption or how many students you’ve been able to reach?

Michelle: I think one thing from my perspective that we’re proud of is at the School of Continuing Education we’re always looking to give people job-ready skills. We know that our students are nontraditional. They want to learn something that they can go directly and apply to the workplace and update their skills. I don’t know what it’s like in other areas, but we have an overpopulation of grads in education, especially for primary school and high school. Yet these people that have so much to offer. We also have a lot of part time faculty at the colleges and people in teaching and training roles and there was a barrier to getting into eLearning because you do have to have additional skills. We’ve got these people that know how to teach, but they don’t know how to translate that into online teaching and learning. So what really excites me is that we’re offering people that are already highly skilled and knowledgeable with an opportunity to move into new spheres. This opens up so many opportunities and it’s a short concise certificate. I mean, what was an e-developer ten years ago? I don’t think anyone knew what that was, right? And I’m sure in the next 10 years we’re already going to have new programs that we didn’t know were going to exist. So this is not cutting edge because eLearning has been going on for a while, but it’s cutting edge in the sense of the way colleges are looking at learning and realizing that it’s really going in the direction of online learning and that we need to support and train people in order to get into this exciting career.

Tanya: Even when we were starting this project we talked about: Is it called “eLearning”? Is it called “online learning”? Is it called “distance learning”? The industry keeps changing so much that it’s even hard to pick a term that we want to call this. So that was an interesting part of kicking off this program.

Olivier: In French it’s even more complicated!

Michelle: It was exactly the same thing in English. Are people going to know what this even is?

Tanya: And it was really dictated at that point in English by the industry. The industry are looking for eLearning developers. So that’s what we went with for the English title.

Brandon: I’ll talk about the course development side. After speaking with my manager and mentors in the eLearning industry, I decided to create the course, HTML introduction, fully using open educational resources. And that gave me pride that students wouldn’t have to pay anything for textbooks. As well, the learning materials were created by industry leaders at Mozilla.

I’m going to flip it on you now and ask you to talk about a moment where you faced a challenge or you felt frustrated in this work.

Olivier: Well, first of all, just a little context. Here at College La Cité there’s a lot of change. So the change management is our reality and it did affect a bit of the project. Most of the team members that are here right now, were not there from the beginning of the project. I was here for about a year and Pascale for six months, so we all worked a lot on the project, but were not there from the beginning. We were constantly adapting ourselves to make sure we had all the information. The second thing is there was a lot of delays that were a little frustrating for me as a manager for multiple reasons. This helped us to understand more about our reality at the college and improve ourselves. So basically the migration to a competency-based model was a challenge for us not only for this project but for several projects. And change management for new team members, of course. We had multiple opportunities within this project to understand more how to improve our methods, our work documents, our instructional design methods, and eLearning development methods within the eLearning development programs. So we have been working very closely with our team. We have new recruits on our team, so to orient them towards those new ways and approaches and methods helped us to build our team and the program. So it’s kind of a heuristic approach like learning from our ways and building from there.

Pascale: From my point of view, what was challenging was there were lots of experts and instructional designers involved because of the modular approach. We had 31 learning units, so several people working on that and learning a new paradigm, basically, with the competency-based approach. So it was quite a challenge to get some coherence of the program and harmony in the way the designers and the experts are working. But finally it worked out well because we had the support, the resources, and the management was great for the project. But for me that was the main challenge.

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got that coherence with all those different people feeding in?

Pascale: It was very frustrating at first. When I first came in I was doing the quality control so I received the learning units and I had to check for alignment. It was kind of frustrating because I had to return a lot of of the work to the designers because of alignment problems. But they learned within the process. And as time passed it was better and better and better. So that was great.

Olivier: Having 30-some units compared to what Durham had —several courses — that the way to work around that is quite different because we treat every unit as one course. So it’s kind of a little learning universe for each unit. And every expert and instructional designer has to make sure that all content within units doesn’t not repeat.

Pascale: Yeah, there is no overlap, no gaps. That was a challenge.

Olivier: We completed several mappings to make sure to keep a good overview of the development. A lot of overview methods to make sure every expert and instructional designer sees a programmatic approach. Sees what other units are developed. We had to have precise competencies, development indicators. There’s technical ways to do the model. So every measurable item that needs to be prepared before we go on instructional design has to be confirmed and validated. So Pascale helped us a lot. Good thing our team is very flexible and they’re listening very well for those details. So we had a good adventure.

Michelle: We had one course, e-tools, that was developed with the pedagogical approach that these are adult learners. They’re going to want to explore on their own so we wanted to let them go out and find what they want to learn. So the idea with e-tools was that because there’s lots of tools out there, we don’t necessarily know what tools your institution’s going to be using, or what you’re going to want to use. It depends on what you’re doing. So the student has the opportunity to go out and find a tool that they wanted to learn about it and use in a project. And the feedback we had from students was, “I can do that on my own. I signed up to this course because I want you to teach me.” The pushback from students on the new approach was pretty strong. So we went back to traditional learning where we literally tell you what we think you need to know and learn. So we now teach the tools we thought would be the most used, and told students you’re going to learn these tools.But we had a much more positive response. It was just an interesting sort of different lesson learned. I think someone, especially when it comes to hard skills, want to just know what they need to know. But there’s a balance there that’s is hard to manage because a big part of me that wants to let students explore and find, but then they come back and complain.

Tanya: I think it’s actually a great reflection for Durham’s focus on Students First.  We took the feedback from our Students and did a 180 and revised the whole course. Now that’s listening to your target market. It’s interesting because it’s a hot topic. Every time you google eLearning tools, there’s a million different options. In the revised course we curated here’s what we’re using in higher education/industry, here are the success stories for these ones, here’s what we would suggest is the direction to take.

Brandon: After teaching the course the very first time, I can say this is what is being used in industry by eLearning developers when you’re working at a studio where they have the money for that type of software. So they wanted Articulate 360. They want somebody who knows this platform very well.

Did you go in with any assumptions that in the end proved out to be proved to be incorrect?

Michelle: I think for me an assumption that adult learners want to curate their own learning and make choices about what tools they are interested. But that’s not what they wanted. They wanted us to just basically say, “This is what we suggest you learn.”

Brandon: Some of them already had a high level knowledge of it. They wanted more in depth on specific platforms where the course is kind of set up to choose your own adventure and figure what you want to use. So if you want to create an eLearning object using Microsoft Word, you could. That’s not what they wanted. They wanted to learn a specific software. Which in hindsight makes a lot of sense because if you look at a job posting, it doesn’t say, “We want you to be able to create an eLearning object.” It says, “We want you to be able to use Articulate 360.”

Olivier: We’re going to face the same challenge.

Michelle: Oh, did you let them choose their learning tools?

Olivier: Most of the time.

Michelle: When I did my Masters — and it was in education technology — that’s how my Masters was. It was just like, “Well we’re not going to tell you what to use. What’s the outcome? Find an appropriate tool and create something.” And so that to me was normal. But this was different. The students are saying, “That’s all great and fine to have these adventures and explorations but in the end I want to be able to put Articulate 360 on my resume.”

Brandon: Another complaint I was receiving was them saying, “You’re making us learn this on our own,” versus “Teach me how to use the software.” So in hindsight, it made sense to me because I was thinking what you would teach Photoshop for students. They wanted the same thing with this software as well.

Tanya: Because of my role, I keep going back to managing the project and the flow of how everything worked between the colleges. One of the challenges we faced at the beginning was trying to make a project plan that was detailed enough that we could action some of the items but flexible enough that each college could independently go away and do whatever they needed to do to set their own policies and procedures. That was really interesting because no one follows the same policies. So how do we hit the different course outline requirements for different colleges without dictating what the course outline is going to look like for each college? That was a very interesting conversation in our initial stages.

That actually segues nicely into my next question, which is can you talk to me about relationships or connections that emerged through this work?

Tanya: Just last week I was having a problem and I was like, hm, I wonder who would know the answer to this. So I actually reached out to other colleagues who I’ve met through eCampus projects and we were able to talk about what worked in their situation, what didn’t work in their situation, to keep me from going down the wrong path and not learning the lessons that they had already previously. Having those kind of connections with like-minded colleagues in higher education is such a huge advantage. Even just saving labor money at the college by not trying something that didn’t work, and we know it didn’t. It’s awesome to have partner colleagues at different institutions that you can network with and talk about real situational problems and solutions with them.

Michelle: I think the eCampus projects have been about connecting people. I’m not sure if that was the goal, but in the end it’s allowed us in all different levels to get to know colleagues at other institutions, to share ideas, learn and it really has become a roadmap of relationships all because of the eCampus projects.

Tanya: Especially considering there were potentially 23 different counterparts to each one of us. We shouldn’t feel like we’re in it alone because we’re not. There are 24 other people.

Brandon: I built connections with OER enthusiasts and experts from eCampus Ontario, other post secondary institutions throughout Ontario as well as professors. So it was a very positive experience making close connections.

Tanya: It’s a great PR opportunity for colleges. We’re talking about this right now. It’s an opportunity we never would have had to talk about what we’re doing at the college level that other people might be interested in.

Olivier: As a new employee here at Collège La Cité within the past year, I actually spoke more with Briar Jamieson, before her maternity leave. Collaboration was great from the beginning, but will probably be even better from now on because we’ll have to work on sharing some experiences. I was in the university environment before. When I started within the college environment, one of the first things I heard and I discovered was eCampus. It had some kind of wow effect for me. That’s a great initiative that moves a lot of people, a lot of ideas and it was good for me just to understand the eCampus strategy within my work responsibilities.

Pascale: There’s definitely potential because sometimes we’re working in silos and you realize that you’re doing exactly the same thing as others have done and it’s ridiculous to reinvent the wheel. So in terms of productivity and improvement, I think that sharing is very powerful. A powerful tool. So I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of this networking.

Olivier: If there was a college from now on that would be interested in knowing more about a competency-based model, instructional designer approach methods, and tools we are open to share because I think that’s what all this is about is having a way from now on to exchange and work together.

Pascale: We’ve learned a lot, as we said, during this process of adapting to a competency-based approach, a modular approach so we can share that another college or other colleagues. That would be great.

What were the key activities and outcomes that emerged and did those evolve differently from what you originally envisioned?

Tanya: From these projects, obviously our team members were able to use skills, utilize more skills that developing and even just learning about the topics of our own jobs. Right. It’s interesting because the people who were creating the media and learning object assets for this course, their role is in the work as well. So, it’s kind of an interesting reflection on the process as well for them.

Pascale: From our point of view, I think that one of the outcomes was really the improvement of our quality control processes. That was very important. It took us a lot of time at first. But by the time we were doing more and more units, it became more efficient and more automated and the quality improved. We learned a lot through that and also through the mapping of the course because of its modular structure. We got a lot of valuable information through the course mapping.

Olivier: Some outcomes were not a surprise, but kind of interesting along the way because at first we were thinking of doing links with another program we had. There’s another program called instructional designer with which we did some links. We also did a link with a web programmer program. So we have multiple ways for student to get into this program. Someone could start with instructional designer or could start with web programmer and then go towards this certificate. And another outcome was the professors and our academic professional development. Having our program to be in-house training for professors that are interested in eLearning development is certainly a challenging situation.

Tanya: An outcome for us would even be the LMS templates that we’re now using for online courses. We’ve been able to do quality assurance checks to ensure they’re compliant with Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), that has really been enhanced because of these eCampus programs. Because we can take the time to think, alright I want to make sure our template teaches using our jumpstart model at the college, or how did we want to lay out a page for an introduction and make sure it’s the best possible.

Tanya: Brandon’s been asked to speak at a few places about open educational resources because of this project. So he’s sort of become an ambassador in a sense for this type of educational resource.

What’s next for your project?

Olivier: It’s continuing improvements for us. There was eCampus helping us to build the first draft of the units that are very well built. But now it’s on us to make sure it responds to students’ needs: nontraditional students that will be interested, professors, professionals within our college, within other colleges, French colleges. It’s also important to share success stories with Durham and other colleges to make sure we understand what went well, what didn’t work well, what improvements can we make for the next course and maybe making sure from a cost point of view that it does not cost us too much money to make a continuous improvement. So I think we’ll have to work hard to keep contact and making sure we continue to develop even if the eCampus funding is done for the program.

Can you say a little bit more about how the bilingual aspect of this might grow to affect more people?

Tanya: The goal for this project for us was not just to simply translate English content into French. It was to be able to speak naturally in both languages and with the resources available. So I think we met that goal, right? We have the English version and we have a truly French-speaking version. But one of the next steps for us could be sharing some of the assets for each of the programs so that we’re making the best of both worlds, and then recreating some of the interactive parts or videos. There’s potential there as well. And the other next step for this program is being able to network and meet each other at conferences in real life or chatting on the phone and passing information back and forth. I’m super interested to hear more about a competency-based process that these guys have set up.

Michelle: A program is never over so I think the what’s next is appropriate from the operational side and the maintenance side. We have to consider issues such as when is Articulate 360 going to be out? When is eLearning going to be doing that next generation of cool things? And that means that the courses will never be done. We are constantly going to have to cycle back to them and freshen them. So it’s a bit of a labor of love when you start something new.

Tanya: And with each of those courses, taking the student feedback that we’re getting and applying it, because this is a new program. There was nothing out there that is an eLearning developer program that was taking student feedback and applying it and making real life changes.

Is growth and scale something that you’re hoping to come next for the project? I wonder how scale fits in reaching more learners in Ontario and beyond.

Michelle: From our side, we have it offered through Ontario Learn so it’s available in all 24 colleges. We’re only limited by marketing and I’m still wondering, does anyone know even know what an e-developer is? And so I think in some ways, and I don’t know if it’s the same for Olivier and Pascale, but we  have to let people know what is this thing, this eLearning thing. And there’s great jobs! And it’s forward thinking! It’s just going to increase, especially as a lot of face to face learning starts to fall off the books. I feel excited! I want everyone to know about it. We need to market it. I think it’s going to take a while for people, especially young people, to really understand what a great opportunity this is and what a great field.

Brandon: I’ve had the pleasure of presenting my experiences at the online learning conference as well as the heads of continuing education conference at Humber College.

Tanya: Some of the interesting feedback that Brandon got was, “Thank you for telling us both about your successes and your failures,” because a lot of the times we don’t talk about the lessons we’ve learned. I won’t even call them failures. They’re just lessons in application.

Who else can add about the open educational resources and how they affect efficiency and how they provide greater access to instructional materials?

Olivier: In a competency-based approach, we have a very streamlined approach. There is basically very little content in the learning units. So we don’t have books, we don’t ask students to buy books and we rely very much on open educational resources and that’s the way we work, not only for this program but for all the courses that we design. So it’s just the way we have to work in competency-based approach.

It’s like a reverse model of the typical instructional design model. So we start with some kind of diagnostic of the situation and then go to towards the evaluation and a case study, and then go to a formative evaluation.

Pascale: We start with the development indicator,the learning objectives. And the second thing we do is the summative evaluation. And there’s just one per course and it has to be authentic, it has to be very much like a task that the student would have to do in real life. So it is always a case study, it’s integrated. And then the next step is to figure out what the student needs to know. You do the task. So it’s very streamlined. We have lots of resources that the student can rely to, to be able to do the task. So we rely very much on the open education resources in the process.

Brandon: That was probably the most difficult part is finding resources that were available that were 1) accurate 2) up to date because in the field of technology things are changing nonstop and we’re operating in a variety of different methods of the students were going to have text-based content, imagery, video. So going through looking for that, it did take quite a bit of work to actually find the resources and make sure that the copyright laws were being used so I could use it in this course. So it took a bit of digging around to find what I wanted in the end, but I was so happy to hear what I did find. They also have a lot of a formative assessments available as well. So as they were going through the content, formative assessments were built in for Mozilla, which I was able to just copy and paste directly over. So there was coding challenges all throughout the entire course they were learning. From that perspective it was amazing. The only thing I had that add on in the end was summative assessments and a few quizzes. So overall in terms of the content, it was more curating versus creating. It was wonderful.

I want to open it up to you and ask you if there’s anything more you want to tell me about your involvement with this project.

Brandon: So one of the challenges is we did have a student who hadn’t used OER before, and there was a concern with having to pay for all that material that is already out there from Mozilla. It was a terrible experience on that end for me, but the big takeaway was making sure we’re educating people on OERs. So whether it be students at the beginning of a course, have a module there saying, this course uses OERs and this is how it benefits you as a student. You’re going to be saving money on textbooks, you’re going to be getting material from industry experts, et Cetera, et Cetera. But also speaking with our employees here at the institution as well. So making sure that all of our support staff, academic staff, administration, they all understand what an OER is and the benefits and challenges to using them.

Tanya: The teamwork, the collaboration, the sharing of both information and documents. Even from the beginning, we shared a color palette. I think that the general sharing across the board between different colleges that may not normally interact with each other, is by far the biggest takeaway and creating an awesome program. We had great partners in creating this program and you have all the other colleges involved. I mean they also get their own shout out. It was a fabulous, fabulous working team.

Michelle: There were four colleges: Durham, St Lawrence, Seneca, and La Cité. And we all do things different ways. So we all had to listen to one another and respect one another and find ways to work well.

It sounds like it was largely a positive experience for all of you. I’m really pleased to hear that. Thank you so much.

 

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