Stone industry personnel have suggested regular meetings to discuss their training needs, as well as delivering training and carrying out skill assessments. However, the state-wide geographic spread of employers and apprentices means that it is impossible to get everyone in the same place at one time, and it is difficult for trainers to see every client face-to-face.
SkillsTech Australia has a commitment to sustainability, providing training in sustainable practices, as well as “…innovative, technology-driven, efficient and flexible training.” Travelling many miles to deliver training is no longer justifiable, given the institute’s position on climate change.
The Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) standards insist that:
• 2.1 The RTO continuously improves client services by collecting, analysing and acting on relevant data
• 2.3 Employers and other parties who contribute to each learner’s training and assessment are engaged in the development, delivery and monitoring of training and assessment.
• 2.4 Learners receive training, assessment and support services that meet their individual needs.
Hence, there exists a need for additional ways to communicate with employer, students and RPL applicants, supplementing workplace visits.
Employer feedback will be necessary during the future upgrade of our current training package from BCF00 Off-Site Construction to CPC08 Construction, Plumbing and Services Integrated Framework.
Stonemasonry apprentice numbers have outpaced staffing and infrastructure resources available at SkillsTech Australia. A continued increase in student numbers means that some of the stonemasonry teaching delivery load must be undertaken in a flexible mode.
I believe that some of the communications issues could be addressed by using virtual conferencing tools (together with phone, fax, email, Web, etc.) to supplement face-to-face meetings with clients. In choosing a conferencing platform, there are several issues to be considered:
o Most employers have computers and Internet access
o Not every student has a computer, let alone Internet access
o Most employers and apprentices are busy working during the day
o It is important to track both employer and student interaction for audit purposes
o Recorded sessions should be available for replay by participants
o Conversations should be conducted using a service that is proven to be reliable
o Internet access is limited by bandwidth in regional areas
o Information gathered should be secure
o The conferencing platform (including meeting replays) must be accessible via the SkillsTech Australia student network
Videolinq is a TAFE Queensland service “…providing video conferencing, video streaming and learning technology services to support enhanced educational opportunities for off campus, distance and integrated educational delivery models.” I have been a videoconference teacher since 2004, actively participating in and contributing material to Videolinq videoconferences and media streams, archived under VeMentoring and Stonemasonry headings. Videolinq videoconferences are currently only accessible at TAFE institutes around Queensland, and as many stonemasonry apprentices do not have computers and Internet access, I believe that Videolinq will be a suitable platform for delivering training to stonemasonry students at their local TAFE institute.
I’ve been regularly using Flashmeeting as a virtual meeting tool since April 2008, connecting educators from Australia and New Zealand (as well as the UK and the US) via their computers. A link to each meeting is displayed on a wiki, and immediately after the meeting, the link automatically accesses the recorded video and text files. Flashmeeting uses webcam, voice and text chat communications, although participants may choose just text, or text and audio, or a combination of text, audio and webcam. Flashmeeting will be a useful tool to connect stone industry people in between face-to-face meetings.
Meeting times and dates.
I plan to facilitate two virtual sessions a month using Flashmeeting webconferencing with employers and Videolinq videoconferencing with students. This schedule can later be expanded to four sessions a month, if required. Alternating Flashmeeting webconferences with Videolinq videoconferences gives a choice of first and third, and second and fourth Monday evenings.
My experience with meetings informs me that 6pm is a good time for a one-hour session. Participants in a Videolinq videoconference require time to get from their workplace to their local TAFE institute, perhaps eating a small meal on the way. Flashmeeting participants can access the meeting from either their home computer or the workplace. Using either videoconferencing or webconferencing, 7pm is not too late a time to finish. Additionally, a 6-7pm time slot allows me time to prepare for a session after students leave TAFE classes at 3:30pm.
Monday evenings are a popular time for industry meetings, however there is a potential conflict with public holidays, when participants should not be expected to attend. Considering the ten Queensland public holidays in 2009, five occur on a Monday. Of these, one is on the first Monday of the month, two are on the second, and two are on the fourth. I believe that students should be given more opportunities than employers to access virtual meetings, hence, choosing every 2nd Monday of the month for Flashmeetings, and every 3rd Monday of the month for Videolinq videoconferences will give 10 student meetings and 9 employer meetings, with options to expand to a further 10 student meetings (totaling 22) and 9 employer meetings (totaling 19) during 2009.
Hence, the proposed dates for virtual meetings 6-9 pm on Mondays in 2009 are:
Videolinq (subject to room availability).
When confirmed, meeting dates will be published at the stonemasonry wiki using an embedded Google calendar. The booking will also include meeting details such as meeting chair, agenda, access to previous meeting minutes, etc. This method will suffice until a dedicated my.TAFE course structure is developed.
Gathering employer feedback about skills training, and providing training delivery to regional students are quality assurance requirements of the Australian Quality Training Framework (AQTF) standards for every Registered Training Organisation (RTO). Using virtual meeting platforms such as Videolinq and Flashmeeting provide sustainable ways to manage unnecessary travel. Regular meetings will also strengthen the established master-novice network, as well as managing the increasing training delivery workload.