An Investigation into current e-learning activities in New Zealand Industry Training Organisations

Publication Details

This report was commissioned by the Ministry and undertaken by the Electricity Supply Industry Training Organisation in collaboration with the Waikato Institute of Technology.

The report identified and described how:

  • Information and communication technologies, software simulations and digital training packages are currently used within the industry training sector in New Zealand.
  • Information and communication technologies, software simulations and digital training packages are currently used within the vocational sector globally.
  • The industry training sector can be informed of, and implement efficiently, the most appropriate blend of e-Learning activities for their individual organisation.

Author(s): John Clayton and Richard Elliott, Waikato Institute of Technology. Leah Wood and Doug Pouwhare, Electricity Supply Industry Training Organisation. Report prepared for the Ministry of Education.

Date Published: October 2007

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.

Executive Summary


The aim of the e-Learning activities in New Zealand Industry Training Organisations project was to produce a series of research reports culminating in this final research report. These reports were designed to increase awareness in the ITO sector of the development and delivery of effective, cost efficient and educationally sound work-based and work-placed e-learning. The initial reports also sought to determine the actual level of use of e-learning technologies in education and training programmes supported by the individual ITOs.

For the purpose of this report e-learning is described as learning that is enabled or supported by the smart use of information and communications technology (ICT).

Communication and Dissemination

Despite an intensive search of available literature in books, journals, in educational digital databases and on the Internet, it is evident there is a paucity of publications on the subject of e-learning in industry and vocational organisations in New Zealand.

The lack of readily available research, case studies, technical solutions and exemplars on the business and educational value of e-learning could be seen to be impeding the introduction of e-learning techniques and technologies within and across organisations.

While the creation of a dedicated web-space may provide access to a range of materials, this space will not provide organisations with the functionalities to:

  • firstly, discuss e-learning initiatives with their peers;
  • secondly, create an interactive environment where ongoing collaboration can occur; and
  • finally, allow time constrained and focused e-learning discussion topics to be facilitated.

These functionalities can be delivered through controlled access Web-portals.

Given the unknown current technological literacy of staff in ITOs, it is unclear if the creation of a Web-portal on its own would have the desired effect on increasing the use of e-learning within organisations. Traditional dissemination strategies such as symposia, workshops and conferences should also be considered.

Recommendation 1:

It is recommended a consortium of ITOs led by the Industry Training Federation:

  1. identify what successful implementation of e-learning means to ITOs
  2. consider the creation of a demonstrator Web-portal where case-studies, templates and guide lines of best practice in e-learning implementations can be made available to inform senior managers across the ITO sector
  3. facilitate focused and time constrained seminars and discussions, using a full range of synchronous and asynchronous tools once the portal is established
  4. encourage ITO staff to facilitate workshops and present case studies demonstrating and focused on e-learning in ITOs at regional and national events organised by the sector.

Management and Planning

A critical issue impacting on the introduction of e-learning for ITO trainees is the mandated support, facilitation, monitoring and advisory role of the ITOs. The Industry Training Act (1992/55) indicates one of the roles of Industry Training Organisations is to 'facilitate workplace learning for trainees in employment'. Although ITOs are not necessarily the "suppliers" of training there appears to be a dependence on the contracted "provider" for the incorporation of e-learning technologies in course materials, the development of appropriate learning support structures and assessment and evaluation procedures.

While the mandated role may prohibit ITOs from day-to-day delivery this does not necessarily mean they cannot influence "providers" to incorporate e-learning components in courses and programmes developed for their trainees. Organisations clearly need to indicate to providers the commitment of the ITO to implementing e-learning methodologies. The major aims being to improve the quality of materials presented, the responsiveness of the provider to trainee queries, and the overall quality of the learning experience of their trainees.

This can be achieved by the development and implementation of organisational specific e-learning templates, policies and guides.

Recommendation 2:

It is recommended individual ITOs create organisational specific e-learning templates, standards and procedures to guide providers in the creation of courses for the ITO detailing minimum expectations on the:

  1. digital material created for the ITO;
  2. use of ICT in the presentation of course materials;
  3. effective communication between providers and trainees;
  4. management of trainee assessment activities;
  5. provision of on and off-line technical advice and learning support for trainees.

Evaluating e-Learning Capability

Currently ITOs have limited operational experience in the deployment and implementation of e-learning systems, applications and content. Therefore, discussions on e-learning tend to occur at a theoretical rather than practical level and organisational expectations around the impact of e-learning have yet to be fully articulated.

ITOs face a significant challenge in containing the cost of implementing e-learning, while maximising the training outcomes for trainees. In short, an organisation needs to ensure investments in e-learning design, development and deployment are meeting the needs of the learners, trainers and the organisation.

Organisations explicitly need to understand what they are doing, why they are doing it and the costs involved. A New Zealand developed tool, currently used across the tertiary sector, is the E-Learning Maturity Model (eMM). By working through the levels of eMM an organisation, through defined and managed processes, better understands what it is doing and where to focus resources to improve and refine successful developments. This detailed understanding of organisational aspects of e-learning will allow institutions incrementally to improve their overall e-learning capability.  

Recommendation 3:

It is recommended all ITOs participate in organisational capability reviewsbased on the eMM framework andfocused on:

  1. the review and assessment of current ITO e-learning capability;
  2. the creation of organisational-specific strategic action plans based on these reviews and;
  3. the development of a targeted investment approach by ITOs to supporting e-learning implementation.

Measuring e-Learning Success

Benchmarking is based on the concept of comparison and measurement and to be successfully implemented needs to be based on a recognised set of measurable indicators.

The results of the benchmarking process will help individual organisations illuminate strengths and weaknesses in their own, or their providers, e-learning activities. While the tools such as the eMM described above provide organisations with much needed data to improve their e-learning capability and capacity the model does not necessarily provide the simple indicators measuring the success of e-learning across the ITO sector.

It would appear to be appropriate, in this context, for ITOs to identify common basic e-learning indicators that could be used by all ITOs to provide a baseline from which to measure the uptake of e-learning in the New Zealand.

Recommendation 4:

It is recommended a consortium of ITOs

  1. using the information provided in the literature review, identify a limited number of simple baseline indicators to measure e-learning uptake;
  2. review and select an appropriate ICT system to facilitate the collection and comparison of data generated by the use of the indicators develop;.
  3. use the data to inform future development and incorporation of e-learning technologies in the ITO e-learning activities.

Sustaining e-Learning Implementations

Senior managers and staff in ITOs do not appear to be fully aware of the necessary technological capability of staff to introduce e-learning components in courses. There also seems to be a lack of awareness of the level of technological literacy needed by their trainees to fully participate in e-learning events or the appropriate technical capabilities of their providers to present appropriate e-learning content.

To ensure e-learning is not implemented in a haphazard, ad-hoc and fragmentary manner, appropriate and timely professional development needs to be provided to senior managers and / or those responsible for e-learning activities. The professional development offered should include:

  • Pedagogical strategies in e-learning;
  • Supporting and motivating students in e-learning environments;
  • Searching, storing and displaying digital materials and;
  • Evaluations of e-learning systems and applications.

While some professional development maybe able to be provided in short time constrained face-to-face workshops and symposia, this may not be sufficient to sustain e-learning initiatives. To gain the valuable experiences of being an "online learner" it should be considered that professional development offered should be online.

Recommendation 5:

It is recommended a consortium of ITOs

  1. Review the availability of generic e-learning professional development offered by New Zealand tertiary providers and identifies appropriate courses and programmes to meet ITO needs
  2. Negotiate with identified providers the provision of courses for the ITO sector
  3. Encourage ITO staff to complete e-learning courses, participate in workshops and attended conferences focused on e-learning at regional and national events
  4. Provide adequate professional development time to enable staff to upskill.
  5. Provide opportunities to apply new skills

Technical Considerations

Currently ITOs' use of digital resources is primarily based on a personal computer delivery format, such as CDs, DVDs and computer based resources. ITO Web-sites are considered to be an important and useful tool for the ITOs to disseminate information to its stakeholders, customers, trainees, trainers and employers.

The widespread use of computers, e-mail, Web-spaces and the Internet appear to have become everyday applications in many ITOs. It appears the "time is ripe" to build upon this current ICT infrastructure and begin to further develop e-learning activities in vocational training and educational activities in a structured way.

There is a need for sophisticated levels of technical knowledge to be able to create and deploy an efficient and effective e-learning system. Issues such as ease of navigation and the provision of a range of synchronous and asynchronous tools to aide trainee-ITO communication need expert advice and attention. The provision of tools to present, store, and retrieve content and the ability to monitor, evaluate and administer the environment are also complex issues that need to be addressed. They are often beyond the technical skills and limited financial resources of many training organisations.

Many organisations in general seek an "out of the box" solution selecting and deploying well-proven ICT systems called learning management system (LMS), for example, Moodle, First Class and Blackboard.

Recommendation 6:

It is recommended a consortium of ITOs collaborate with providers to:

  1. review the e-learning system needs of ITOs and create a check list of desired ICT function and;
  2. use the check list as a guide by individual ITOs in the selection of LMS suitable for their trainees.

Where to find out more

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