University Of Tasmania
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VOOM model : digital learning excellence in VET MOOCs

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posted on 2023-05-27, 09:17 authored by Paton, RM
Technology-rich online learning environments are exponentially transforming the landscape of higher education and changing global learning communities. This is a radical shift, as the approaches to sustainable web delivery extend existing online models to exploit free and accessible education through the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) initiative. As contemporary MOOC literature is mainly focused on university developments which are coupled with high learner withdrawals and poor engagement, sustaining learners in web-based environments is a recurring theme for many educational systems around the world. Accordingly, the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector has been reluctant to connect with the benefits of MOOCs as a teaching and learning tool and consequently, there is an incomplete picture of the way this tool performs in this sector. As VET moves away from traditional forms of delivery, it is important to examine how VET students perceive their e-Learning experiences and the andragogical practices for effectively retaining and engaging these learners. This study investigated VET MOOCs, Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) and online courses offered by the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) with the aim of identifying the themes, components and functional approaches that stimulated learner engagement and encouraged retention. This evolutionary research used continuous improvement mechanisms to discover design enrichments for each subsequent MOOC over three years of multiple course iterations. Each improvement was guided by the four research predictors: sense of community, course content flow, assessment structure, and instructor accessibility. A conceptual framework was developed to interconnect the five research questions to the theoretical perspectives and methodological practices of the study. Then, an action research investigation appraised 11 MOOCs, 6 SPOCs, and 6 online learning courses with 683 consenting participants involved in the study. The research methodology instigated scientific method for quantitative data analysis and purposeful qualitative sampling of recurring variables with an evaluation of tangible learner perceptions summarised in response to the research inquiry. Through this evolutionary journey of learners in fully online technology-rich environments, the learners' capabilities and their receptiveness to each learning mode fostered the development of the VOOM model. The VOOM model combines the most effective techniques for enhancing the students' learning experiences into a best-practice application that promotes digital learning excellence in VET MOOCs. Even though the model was derived from the science discipline of Biometric Technologies and had a VET focus, the outcomes classified by the model offer practical strategies to better engage and retain learners in MOOC and online courses. Further work is required to establish its applicability in other discipline contexts. VOOM encouraged learner inclusion and a sense of community through collaborative mechanisms comprising of social networking opportunities, discussion boards, and optional content-related discussion forums. Awarding a MOOC certificate enticed learners to persist in the course as did offering further academic pathways to extend professional and career development opportunities. The desire and influence of learners to advance in a free learning program was enhanced by a positive course experience. Additionally, the systematic release of course content and quality instructional course designs that incorporate interactive tools and blended connectivism and andragogy, and thus promoted student retention. The learner's capacity to achieve was heightened when students had previous online experience or prerequisite entry requirements were enforced. Furthermore, well-developed competency-based formative assessments fostered stronger learner commitment and engagement. Learners' demonstrated competency in skills and knowledge through a summative assessment. The instructor was visible on discussion boards, accessible through online forums/email and committed to globally contextualised communication by sending an initial welcome email, weekly article links, and weekly topic summaries. The negative impact of engagement and retention was further reduced with condensed study durations and short course timeframes. Also, learner participation was improved when week-one course materials were innovative, manageable and interesting. The inclusion of the VOOM techniques from this study contributed to a 10% increase in student completions. When this is considered in comparison to the NCVER (2018) statistics for 2016, a 10% increase from 43% to 53% in the number of students completing their VET courses would be worth $605 million to the economy and reduce the future debt of VET FEE-HELP recipients by $182 million. This could be of real economic benefit to Australia and similarly to global education. The 12 recommendations detailed from the findings are intended for practical implementation by instructors, course designers, and educational institutions. They are not only suitable for VET providers but, in practice, they could offer a clear pathway towards better learner engagement and retention for all educational organisations that offer technology-rich online learning. Finally, based on the outcomes of the research, a new definition of engagement and retention is proposed: Engagement and retention are the learners' judgement of success through improved knowledge and skills, and their ongoing recommendations to others.


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Copyright 2019 the author Chapter 2, (excluding 2.12), appears to be the equivalent of a post-print version of an article published as: Paton, R. M., Fluck, A. E., Scanlan, J. D., 2018. Engagement and retention in VET MOOCs and online courses: A systematic review of literature from 2013 to 2017, Computers & education, 125, 191‚Äö-201

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