Ensuring engagement at massive scale
Despite leveraging D2L’s Brightspace learning platform for years, Joann Pyne, Chief Academic Officer, TAFE Queensland, said the sudden campus closures in response to COVID-19 meant its use had to be expanded to include those courses still largely delivered face-to-face.
“While we were already well-equipped, 700 of our programs had to change to some extent to accommodate more online delivery,” she said.
Lee Webster, Director Learning Technology Innovation and Services, TAFE Queensland, said the first consideration was ensuring all educators were trained on the use of the platform to allow existing students to continue learning.
“When restrictions were first announced, we had a one-week pause where delivery was halted followed by a two week semester break—during this three week period we ran an extensive professional development program to ensure our teachers could use the Brightspace tools to their full effect,” she said.
In total, 5,400 participants attended training sessions to ensure they could deliver training online and build courses that kept learners engaged.
Given the disruption, Webster said regular communication with learners was critical to ensuring the best learning outcomes.
“We quickly established course hubs on the platform so teachers could not only engage directly with the students, but teachers could also collaborate amongst themselves and share learning resources.” With the existing student cohort successfully transitioned to online-learning, TAFE Queensland was then called upon by the State Government to play a critical role in reskilling displaced workers and reopening Queensland’s economy as restrictions eased.
“We worked closely with Government and industry to identify the skills new entrants would need to hit the ground running and developed a series of Skill Sets and Micro-credential courses for workers to retrain while in isolation,” Pyne said. “Then, as businesses in the hospitality and beauty sectors were set to reopen, we were tasked with training workers in these industries on how to return to work safely—all 100,000 of them.”
TAFE Queensland had just a few days to develop the COVID Safe courses and ensure they were capable of supporting thousands of simultaneous users.
“The biggest issue for us was around capacity,” Pyne said. “But we worked closely with D2L and were able to have the courses and infrastructure set up in five days, capable of supporting 10,000 concurrent users at any one time.
“We had to be supremely confident the system wouldn’t crash—it would be extremely concerning if workers weren’t able to access mandatory training.”