One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Dr Anthony 'Skip' Basiel

The philosophy at the Institute for Work Based Learning (IWBL) at the Middlesex University is not ’What can you do for us?’, but rather ‘What can we do for you?’ The Institute offers a myriad of highly customisable programmes specifically designed to provide opportunities for full-time workers who seek to build on their existing professional skills while developing new ones, in order to further their careers.

Striking the correct balance between work and play can be tough enough, but what about when you throw a further education course into the mix? This may seem daunting, if not impossible, but the Institute for Work Based Learning (IWBL) has been providing professionals with access to university-level qualifications, ranging from diplomas to advanced research degrees, for over fifteen years.

The programmes are intended to be both practical and relevant to the learners’ workplace roles. By taking into account the learners’ work commitments, family lives and geographical locations, courses that combine core modules, on-site study, study at home or in the workplace, as well as project work are available. Comprehensive tutor advice and support is typically available online or over the phone, but also during periodic face-to-face meetings.

Built on a pedagogic model that views the learners as experts, based on their experience in the workplace, the programmes aim to enhance and expand their existing knowledge. Since every workplace is different, and each learner’s past experience and current responsibilities vary, the flexibility and adaptability of the programmes are essential.

Uniquely, the courses also allow the assignment of academic credit for previous learning and training completed in the workplace through a portfolio scheme, which may serve to reduce the length of study or enable the learners to study towards a higher qualification. Assessment, too, is flexible and is based on two key elements: the tasks carried out on a daily basis in the workplace and a research-and-development project structured so that it revolves around the specific objectives and strategies of the learner’s organisation.

The need to address issues of learning modality, time-scale, and learning designs that meet the needs of both the learners and their respective organisations has led to the development of a dynamic networking event – Work Based Learning Wednesdays (WBL Wednesdays). The project’s senior learning-development tutor is Dr Anthony ‘Skip’ Basiel, who, after having taught for several years in American schools, has now turned his attention to applying his extensive knowledge of e-learning and web-based pedagogy.

The PAP method – how does it work?
Before logging on to the live webcast, the learners are engaged through a variety of materials – from presenter PowerPoints, preview clips of past events, continuing professional-development snippets, and other online services. During the webcast, a number of features support the learner during the session. These include live text to complement the audio discussion, student tips and online options. The learners, tutors, and session presenters are able to communicate and provide input via a number of different media: text chat, phone-ins, and web videos can all be used to pose questions, give comments, and generally add to the discussion.

In this way, the sessions attempt to support the full digital literacy spectrum. However, the learning and evolution processes do not stop after the live webcast has ended. The final phase involves user feedback on the style and content of the session, as well as the possibility to search, access, and replay the recordings of past webcasts. Although the webcast becomes what is known as a recorded e-learning artefact, it is nonetheless an evolving reference for learners. The PAP method can also be applied to the context of lifelong learning by supporting the creation of alumni networks, conferences and study visits.

For more information on the WBL Wednesdays Webcast Model tune in at
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WBL Wednesdays Webcast Model

The webcast model for WBL Wednesdays provides a highly interactive platform for the work-based learners. Taking place every Wednesday at 12:00, different themes are explored through a mixture of guest-speaker presentations, guided discussions, and Q & A sessions.

Peer-generated input is enabled via a variety of media – landline connections, the Internet and live text chat, which promotes tutor-learner interaction. This complements the view that the learner already has valuable experience to share, from which others can benefit, thus enhancing both the teaching and learning processes. Additionally, the themes or presenters involved in each individual webcast may attract their own audience – people who register for the event and participate in order to hear from a specific academic or to follow a discussion on a specialised topic. They too can contribute to the discussion, thus maximising the diversity of the knowledge exchange and adding to the participative nature of the event.

Central to the webcast is the research and development of the Pre-At-Post model. As the name suggests, the PAP method deals with aspects before, during and after the online event and combines the pedagogy and technology necessary to support a professional social-network learning system and improve the learning experience.

A further on-going objective of this series of events is to explore alternative ways to share best practices, and specifically, to activate the knowledge flow between existing learners and alumni. This has taken the form of recording the audio / video and text from WBL Wednesdays to produce a frequently-asked-questions (FAQ) type of resource for students. Each guest is asked for his or her opinion of what ‘tips for success’ could be offered to current or prospective work-based blended distance learners for their profession or occupation.

These testimonial individual case studies have a dual purpose. As well as being archived to serve as a useful resource for students, they can also act as a valuable marketing tool for the IBWL.

Dr Anthony ‘Skip’ Basiel from the Work Based Learning Research Centre at Middlesex University will present “Professional Social Networked Learning Systems” in the session “Workplace Learning” on Friday, December 4th from 11:45 – 13:15.

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