False Bay College

The move from e-Learning to Blended Learning

Interview with Carol Dwyer- False Bay TVET College, E-Learning Manager

Article prepared by: SABEN, Newsletter- Volume 5

A history of Blended learning at False Bay College

Our eLearning journey started in 2008 with the identification and development of several strategic objectives by Executive Management for the College. 

The three key strategic areas were:

1.         The development of a student support programme,

2.         The establishment of Open Learning Centres (Libraries) at each campus,

3.         The development of an e-learning department and plan.

Resources both financial and human were made available for the development of each of these areas. An e-Learning manager and two e-Learning administrators were appointed to work across the five campuses. We also embarked on purchasing a proprietary Learner Management System (LMS) called Blackboard®. 

We have continued with this journey and 13 years later we have a fully developed e-Learning unit and we use a blended learning approach in the delivery of our programmes with the LMS being central to this form of delivery. We make extensive use of online assessment, assignment uploads and content creation. These are all used as methods of delivery, methods of assessment and as academic support with our students. 

Let us talk about the difference between “eLearning and Blended learning”

In 2008 the buzzword in the education sector was -eLearning. The actual definition of e-Learning according to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary is: 

“a system of learning that uses electronic media, typically over the internet.”

This was a good description of what e-Learning entailed, in 2008. Most of the TVET colleges were just getting internet connections and in urban areas where connectivity was good you could use this access to the internet as a teaching tool by showing videos, demonstrations and even accessing online games that assessed certain educational concepts and tested certain skills like typing skills. In other words, lecturers were using electronic media to teach, and the students were using it to learn.

In 2021 much has changed – e-Learning is *ubiquitous, and most forms of teaching and learning has an electronic media component now. 

Carol Dwyer Profile PhotoNow we talk about Blended learning rather than e-Learning. The main difference is that in blended learning the importance of using a variety of teaching tools and methods for teaching and learning is focused on. Electronic tools and media only form a part of the teaching. 

The face-to-face so-called “chalk and talk” in the classroom is blended with the use of electronic media – either in the form of a video, a podcast, a PowerPoint and sometimes even an online game. Blended learning means that you blend the different methodologies and tools available to you.

Where are you headed?

Ideally, we would like a percentage of each programme delivered at False Bay TVET College in a blended learning format via our LMS, which allows us to extend the classroom walls beyond the physical infrastructure – this means we can deliver content anytime, anyplace, and anywhere if there is an internet connection. 

According to the millennials that we are educating WWW does not stand for World Wide Web but rather means Whatever, Whenever and Wherever. The students of today want far more flexible modes of delivery of educational content that they can consume at their own pace, on their own devices.

We as a college are heading towards meeting the needs and wants of the students with regards to content delivery and alternative forms of assessment.

Why we decided to go with a hosted solution rather than self-hosting.

We do not have the IT hardware and expertise currently available to us to host the LMS our-selves. Besides the cost of hardware, our current IT technicians are responsible for the maintenance of the IT infrastructure and the college network on 6 campuses and therefore do not have the time to look at the LMS. 

We have strategically decided at the College that the LMS is NOT an IT function. The delivery of academic content is an ACADEMIC function and so it remains in the Education and Training Department and is managed by that department. 

We have just embarked on moving to an open-source Moodle-based LMS that is hosted by a partner of SABEN’s called Mind Up. We have experience in the e-Learning department of being able to customize and transfer our current content from Blackboard to Moodle and to create new content in the LMS ourselves, but we still need an external provider to host the system for us.

How do we use the LMS?

We use the LMS for content delivery in the classroom, flipped classroom approach, assignment uploads, fully developed online assessments, messaging and notifications to students, discussions with students and faculty and it is a major part of our academic intervention strategy – which includes revision and making class content available to students so that they can revisit and revise content at their own pace and as often as they need to.

We have a customized LMS which we call MyFBC, and it is available on all campuses.

The product has increased access to all our students, full time, part-time and distance learning.  In distance learning, the LMS is the primary form of content delivery and online assessment. 

In ALL MODES we can:

  • communicate with students 
  • load additional content
  • do formative assessments
  • check student content consumption progress
  • check student assessment results and plan interventions if necessary
  • it has stimulated the production of more exciting and engaging content for the students
  • it has extended the classroom beyond the four walls of the institution
  • it allows the student to revisit content in their own time

 What would you say to other institutions facing the same challenges as you did? 

“You get what you pay for” we have realized the value of choosing a robust, well developed, and reputable product that has a proven track record. We invested in a proprietary system to start while we built our capacity and expertise. 

With 10 years of experience beneath our belt, we now feel able to branch out into an open-source system that is community supported. We will still have the system hosted externally as this allows our IT department to not be responsible for the LMS and focus on operational issues as content delivery is an academic function NOT an IT function. 

Here are some short takeaway points if you want to head down the blended learning road.

Take Away’s

  • Start with a strategy NOT a Budget.
  • Be clear about what you want to achieve and how you want to use your system. 
  • Make sure that ALL the relevant stakeholders are involved from the Academic Manager to the IT department. 
  • Ensure that you have buy-in from as many people as possible before you begin.
  • Learn from others in the sector who have walked the road.

 For further information on our journey, you are welcome to contact: Carol Dwyer (021) 787 08400 ext. 402 / Carol.dwyer@falsebay.org.za

Glossary

*Ubiquitous = seeming to be everywhere or in several places at the same time; very common

 

Image:

Carol Dwyer: False Bay TVET College, E-Learning Manager