When Melbourne Polytechnic students go ‘back to school’ this term they’ll be entering the world of remote and flexible learning.
Instead of face-to-face classes and hands-on practical workshops, they will be studying remotely, with video classes, instructional clips and online quizzes. For some students this is familiar territory, for others it’s a whole new world that they will be guided through.
The transformation was led by Melbourne Polytechnic’s Learning Environments team, who rolled out the changes, ran a series of upskilling workshops for teachers and developed a special website designed to introduce students to remote learning.
Titled ‘Remote Learning HQ’, the important new site launches on 20 April.
Steven Ngoi, Head of Learning Environments, explains it will provide students with “critical information about what to expect, how to set up remote learning environments, provide key information about the systems they'll be engaging with, and also the support that’s available for them.”
Steven continues: “We know that studying remotely can be a very isolating process, especially when sometimes you’re by yourself and you're not set up correctly.
“So we want to make sure there is a support line they can call if they need to talk to someone about it.”
Of the three student cohorts at Melbourne Polytechnic, the Higher Education group are already accustomed to using different platforms for their studies, while the Foundation and VET students were gradually using more technology in their courses as the need arose.
“The pandemic has upped the usage of online systems and some students are not actually familiar with the systems that we have,” Steven says.
“We utilise a learning management system (LMS) that's known as Moodle - an online platform where we conduct our virtual classroom and students are able to watch instructional videos, participate in tutorials and connect with peers on the discussion forum. Also they can submit assessments and respond to the tests and quizzes the teacher sets for them.
“We supplement the LMS with other external products such as Zoom, which allows for a real-time ‘classroom’, and Kaltura, which is similar to YouTube. The students and teachers have the ability to upload videos.”
All systems were already in place and their use was growing organically, but the pandemic sparked a dramatic surge in usage.
Steven reports that, in Zoom alone, usage increased tenfold from February to March as it is utilised for both staff meetings and delivery of course content.
To transform Melbourne Polytechnic from a traditional face-to-face teaching organisation to one which uses remote and flexible learning approaches, the staff needed to upskill and boost their technology knowledge.
The Curriculum Innovation and Teaching Excellence (CITE) team ran a series of workshops to support teachers to transition course content for remote delivery using Moodle, Zoom and Kaltura, and so they are equipped to support students in making the change to remote and flexible learning.
Over just five weeks, CITE delivered 54 virtual workshops to 1600 staff participants.
The CITE team also had to transform their own practice. Previously, they went into classrooms to deliver face-to-face, but they switched to remote delivery as teachers transitioned to working from home, in line with State Government recommendations.
Steven concludes: “It’s a phenomenal program in terms of what we’re seeing in uptake from our teachers. They want to do what’s right for their students. In order for them to deliver classes, they need to understand the tools for remote learning.
“This massive change was rolled out in just five weeks, a remarkably short timeframe. This sort of work has always been done in the background, and you think it’s going to take us years to transition a whole organization. A tremendous number of assets have been utilized in a short, short amount of time, and we have managed to achieve it in just weeks.”
“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far, and it’s encouraging to see the teachers themselves asking for more, like what they can be doing better and tools they can use to increase engagement.”
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Melbourne Polytechnic operates across six campuses and specialist training centres throughout Melbourne. The institute delivers high quality vocational and higher education in industry-standard facilities.