Thursday, 11 February 2016

Designing for Project Based Learning

Further to my previous post on improving my learning delivery and assessment in our apprenticeship programmes, I have just implemented a rigorous Project Based Learning initiative that was born out of frustration.  There are many articles and theories in which to build on this method of learning, but sometimes you haven't the time to properly research it and pick out what works.  Sometimes you just have to do away with the researching and evaluating and throw yourself into an idea to see if it really does work, which is exactly what happened here.

The problem

We offer our Level 4 Extended Diploma in Digital Learning Design in a year due to the duration of the apprentices employment with us.  The Level 4 Extended Diploma has 18 units whilst the Level 3 Diploma has 13 units.  This is a very tight short space of time to deliver such a high level qualification as well as providing relevant industry training to keep learners knowledge and skills current.  I had a few 'scratching head' moments for a couple of months on how I was going to do this.  Recently I was updating assessment and IV plans for our internal apprentices and I was thinking about dates for assessing the Level 4 and seeing how challenging it really is going to be.  I then had a conversation with a colleague on how they are assessing their Level 3 units, a plan and idea was born!

The solution

Given the circumstances that we had to assess under, this was a very tight schedule we had to work to.  Me and my colleague literally wrote all the units down and decided which units could be covered in one project and then the rest would just be standalone units .  We then grouped all the units together which could be achieved as one.  The next step we did was to draw out all knowledge criteria which was presented as a project brief with part 1 'must know' before they can start it.  The remaining criteria, performance, is what will be achieved naturally after doing the project presented as part 2 'be able to'.  After this, for part 1 we chunked all of the knowledge elements into stages with dates attached for ease of assessment.  For part 2, I included the ADDIE model to guide them through their project management and again dates were assigned for each task within this.

Afterwards we decided to talk about the projects that could be done to achieve the whole lot over a period of time.  You can argue that all their job role produces work-based evidence, which is our original plan, but again this potentially takes longer and we can't afford longer.  Some tasks can become pretty mundane too, like research this and develop that.  It's all about finding the right project to get everyone immersed in that has high interest, productivity and enjoyment value.  The trend with eLearning development at the moment appears to be centred around scenario and game-based (gamification) learning.  Which is something I have been easing in, but hasn't really took off massively.  So this project is an ideal solution to engage our apprentices in as well as bringing all together essential knowledge and skills during the process, all of which ties into their job roles as eLearning designers.

As one of the units is based on project management, it was important that me and my colleague only constructed and guided the assessment and the rest was down to the apprentices to action as the whole project is an assessed task. It's great for them to handle a large-scale project whilst juggling their other duties, such as managing Level 3 apprentices' work.  Also, as a recommendation I encouraged the apprentices as part of their project to work together as a team, as you do in the workplace anyway.  I encouraged them to decide to assign roles between them so that everyone got a turn to lead on tasks and develop leadership skills, plus as a group it helps out relieving the load of retrieving information between peers.  This method not only gave everyone ease and confidence that the qualification is achievable but it is relevant and realistic to their job and engaged everyone in the process with high and productive learning outcomes for all.

The future

Moving this plan and idea forward, if this becomes a success then this can be used as an ideal model to implement with our Level 3 apprentices and more so roll out to our external apprentices.  However, with external apprentices it might not be as smooth due to their organisational circumstances but it's worth experimenting with.  I'll update on the progress of this initiative soon.