In this series I try to report some of my experiences with Adobe Captivate while searching for better learning results and experiences both in live training and online training. The guidelines which I always keep in mind are described in this post. View on Training.
In Flipped Classes with Captivate I described how I used the application for students in software training. This typical method was used not only for live classes, but also to provide better learning assets to students combining working with self-study. That already lead to some positive results regarding my guidelines: more engagement, students has to take responsibility for his/her learning, time in class was dedicated to problem-solving and working on individual projects… However I was not completely satisfies because real peer learning didn’t succeed well, collaboration was not encouraged and is very important in their future jobs (either in real estate or in construction companies). I tried out a new method, project-based learning in group?. Lot of responsibility was given to the student groups. You will read about the setup in this article. It wouldn’t have been possible without my favorite tool, Adobe Captivate and the LMS to post the eLearning courses and be able to follow up. Although… Twitter became a very important tool as well.
Goal of the Project
Without going into technical details, it was a project linked to management of construction sites. In the ‘virtual’ building company they were pretending to work for, a good preparation workflow has been established for:
- Budgets for all costs: using a dedicated cost price calculation application
- Time management: using MS Project, and based on price data from the first application
That workflow had been mastered by the students in a previous semester, both theoretically and with the applications. Students were linked each to a building company in a sort of internship (one day a week and some full weeks) where they had access to a mentor and some data.
The ‘virtual’ building company wanted to proceed to the setup of the Follow up workflows, both for budgets and time management, using the same software. Students would prepare those new workflows. To have concrete data to work on, students were provided with a real project, its plans, budgets and time management results.
Groups – Schedule
The group of 9-12 students had 3 weeks for this project. They were allocated a group room with equipment on the campus, which was open from 7am till 10pm. They had to schedule their tasks, starting with the creation of three subgroups, for each of the three main topics:
- Acquiring data from the construction site, structuring those data for use by the other subgroups:
- Follow up of budgets, based on data from the first subgroup and proposing ‘cures’ when necessary
- Follow up of time management, based on data from the first subgroup and proposing ‘cures’ when necessary
Full group was required to spend a minimum of 20 hours/week on the campus. They had to create an enter a weekly schedule on Friday. Subgroups had to explore provided assets (most of them Captivate courses), and find supplementary information. In the week meeting on Friday each subgroup presented the results of their work to the other students. It was their job to define part of the final (individual) assessment, which had to be known by all students in the group. That meant peer teaching as well, which is the most efficient way of learning for the teaching students.
Collaboration was not only needed within the subgroups, but also between the groups since their tasks depended on the way the other subgroups were realizing their tasks. Just one example: first group had to know exactly which data were used for group 2 and 3, and what the best way was to offer them those data.
Assets and Support
Except for an introductory presentation, followed by questions and discussion, and available as Captivate course, all assets were provided on the LMS: lot of software training and assessment simulations for the applications, eLearning courses for the theoretical backgrounds, some pdf’s and several links to interesting websites, etc.
Discussion groups were created on the LMS. However I also created one specific hashtag to be used on Twitter (and a Captivate courses explaining how to use Twitter and Tweetdeck). I guaranteed them an answer on the discussion forums within 12 hours, but on Twitter within one hour (during daylight) if it were urgent questions. Trying to get answers by personal email was discouraged. Twitter had most success, as you can suspect.Good for me, easier to check shorter question where they had to reflect on making it concise.
I was present on the campus for some hours a day. They could invite me for a meeting, but didn’t have to do so. Normally they were totally responsible and independent (age 21-24).
Group projects like this often have one big problem: lazy participants who will leave work to the rest of the group. Group needed to keep track of the presence of the members, up to them if they wanted to contact me in case of problems.
However the final assessment would be based only for a small part on the result of the group work. Final assessment consisted of:
- Individual logbook (based on an Excel template) where they tracked their activities daily, and reflected on ‘what did I learn’? Checked each logbook individually with each student.
- Participation on Twitter or on the discussion forums
- Formal individual assessment about the content to be known by students. Part of this content (background, theory) was defined by me), part by the different subgroups about their topic.
- Individual assessment for each subgroup about their more specialized extra content.
What was my experience? After some hesitation, the big majority of the students got addicted to their work! Instead of spending the minimum of 20 hours per week, most of them spent 40-60 hours in group. You should have ‘heard’ and seen their discussions, the way they managed the ‘lazy’ students. I only very rarely had to pop in to help them out with conflicts.
Being able to define part of the content to be subject to assessment was totally new. Some more ‘traditional minded’ students were bit concerned because not every students would know everything. I explained that that is simply impossible, and also unnecessary with companies needing more good functional team work. Understanding the basics when other team members explain their needs is a lot more important.
In my mind this project was more meant to uplevel the learning skills of all students, more than having remember them tons of information for a limited time. They could be in a subgroup of their choice and focus on the main topics of that subgroup. Learning in-depth is too much neglected, and have to teach their peers about their specialty pushes them at practicing their communication skills as well.
Thanks to Captivate this has been made possible, one of the most rewarding experiments I introduced in college. By coincidence we got a press team visiting the department when these project weeks were going on. I remember the question of one of the journalist, looking at a group room. Students were presenting their results to the other subgroups and they were discussing. “Where is the professor? Cannot see him’ (I was only head of department, and had to accompany the press)). Imagine my answer… he was impressed.
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