A post by Joe Wilson and Lewis Ross, NMIS skills.
NMIS-Skills is part of the wider National Manufacturing Institute Scotland project. NMIS aims to “to be a distributed industry-led international centre of manufacturing expertise. Industry, research and the public sector will work together to transform skills, productivity and innovation”.
A barrier to engaging and upskilling the workforce was the lack of digital skills of trainers and lecturers working across the manufacturing industry specifically in relation to content creation, collaboration and sharing. They also lack a virtual space beyond institutional IT systems to co-ordinate the sharing of materials.
To tackle this problem Skills Development Scotland (SDS) put out a tender for the delivery of digital skills training and the building of a community of practice. City of Glasgow College (CoGC) put in a bid and was awarded the contract based upon an innovative model.
Using an instance of G Suite, with a Google Site at its heart, a resource could be created at a very low cost that could be handed over to a team of administrators/ambassadors from across the educational community at the end of the initiation phase.
To model best practice around collaboration and co-creation, all of the core materials would be open and easily repurposable through a CC BY 4.0 license and delivered using technology that could be accessed by all, including commercial organisations. The principles were designed to be in line with those of Open Scotland and the Open Scotland Declaration. As the project got underway the Scottish Funding Council published their digital strategy to 2021 enshrining these principles too.
The digital skills interventions were chosen via analysis of the new Professional Standards for Lecturers in Scotland’s Colleges and Jisc’s Building Digital Capabilities framework. The resources were built around repurposed materials from a unique PDA in Technology for Enhanced Learning and Teaching delivered by the CoGC and mapped to the CPD frameworks around digital delivery. The focus on some simple interventions relevant to all staff in FE , HE and work-based learning. Additionally, the site would provide a deep set of links to free training opportunities from a range of providers around the themed interventions.
All technologies used for the project were free to use or open resources, with the exception of the registration of our domain name, nmis-skills.org. The learning content was created in an instance of G Suite, which is free for educational institutions and charities.
Images were mainly sourced from Unsplash, which feature a licence that allows the use of works and creation of derivative works without the need to ask permission of or crediting the original author. The only caveat was that images could not be used to create a similar or competing service to Unsplash.
Zoom was chosen as our webinar platform for three reasons. Firstly, it ran directly from a downloaded .exe file or a browser plugin, so could work within most institutions’ IT infrastructures. Secondly, the team already had experience of using the platform. Thirdly, Zoom had a free version where meetings can only be 40 mins long. However this was long enough for a chink of learning content and we turned this restriction into the planned length of our webinars.
Webinars were recorded using Zoom’s built in tools and then uploaded to a dedicated YouTube channel so that viewers could watch at a time of their choosing.
Our open methodology is sound and easy to adopt. By working closely with Google we have built a resource that is easily co-owned and we have broken out of the institutional silos that can easily restrict developments of this type. As our G Suite is outwith the control of an institutional IT department, we have full control of creating user accounts and hosting content. This gives us the flexibility required to work with colleagues across a wide range of institutions while maintaining regulatory control. The community aspect comes with detailed guidance.
In addition, open practice was central to our project bid. This ensured that everyone was onboard from the start and that open methodologies did not need to be retrofitted, with all the negotiations this usually requires.
Our model of creating downloadable Google Slide decks and YouTube videos of the webinars is a useful method for disseminating information. We have seen that the outputs are used more asynchronously, as we had relatively few live participants in our webinars compared to views of YouTube videos.
Our method of short chunks of learning is perhaps more of a viable alternative for vocational learning than the lecture capture model currently being adopted in many Universities. Rather than hour long monologues, our model encourages short interactive presentations that better suit vocational learning.
The outputs can be easily managed: the platforms adopted are free , the technical skill needed to set to set up, record and archive are relatively low.
Engagement remains the thorny challenge. It is hard to reach the specialist practitioners who will eventually use the forthcoming resources from Edinburgh University and other NMIS partners.
The project has attracted a lot of interest from other organisations who have a cross institutional constituency and need a more sophisticated approach around collaboration and the sharing of learning materials. We are certain more initiatives of this kind will develop.
Written by Joe Wilson @joecar and Lewis Ross, Lewis.Ross@cityofglasgowcollege.ac.uk.
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