DeakinConnect is Deakin University's open learning space for delivery of massive open online courses (MOOCs). The purpose-built platform, developed in conjunction with Janison, enables Deakin University to innovate in assessment. Rather than try to test and measure student success, the course prompts learners to create and share rich evidence of their attainment of learning outcomes. Peers can award credit signifying that they believe the participant's exhibit shows mastery of learning outcomes at or beyond the agreed standards and DeakinConnect Peer Credit badges can be shared on social media platforms including LinkedIn and Facebook.
Deakin Vice Chancellor, Professor Jane den Hollander, said "DeakinConnect fits perfectly with the aims of our strategic plan to offer brilliant education through personal, engaging and relevant learning experiences. It’s the ideal delivery channel, as participants can connect from anywhere around the globe."
Wendy Palmer joined DeakinPrime in March 2013 to lead and implement its digital capability strategy and to make the move across to cloud-based learning – underpinning DeakinPrime’s ‘Best of Both Worlds’ strategy to become leaders in digital learning. Wendy then became involved in the project to launch Deakin University’s first MOOC in June 2013.
"The existing Learning Management System wasn’t going to be flexible enough and was primarily set up to support Deakin University students. We wanted something that could be accessed by anyone and that also had a very modern, flexible interface. Janison was chosen on this basis. Working with Janison has enabled us to offer a really streamlined, tailored end-user experience."
At the cutting edge
Wendy explained "We’re so delighted that we’ve now hit 2000 users and growing. When we went live we had around 1600 registered participants and each week the number has gradually crept up. We have users from 80 countries, predominantly Australia (around 70%), but there is great representation from around the world. Only last week, someone must have shared something as we had 40 new sign-ups from the Middle East. It’s fascinating to watch it develop and grow."
"In terms of participation, we’re hitting the average number of active contributors for a MOOC – about 10% are actively participating. We also provided an opportunity for learners to apply to have their work accredited by Deakin University for a fee for credit against a formal qualification with Deakin University. To date, 10 people have done this. We’re extremely pleased with that outcome because MOOCs in other universities around the world offer similar opportunities and have had zero take-ups."
"It’s not as if there are a lot of universities out there doing this. It’s not an established business model by any means. This really is cutting-edge stuff."
Q&A with Wendy Palmer
What are the key benefits of using Janison’s system for the organisation?
One of the strengths of the system is the flexibility of the interface. If you look at how the courses are structured, the Janison Cloud Learning System allowed us to make a user-friendly graphical interface which compares very favourably to other systems on the market. To have the system set up in the way that we did, means people are able to access information in lots of short, sharp pieces. I call it the ‘Lego version of learning’ – lots of little learning assets that you can arrange nicely together to make the course. Rather than learners having to wade through massive chunks of learning material or sit through an hour-long lecture, they can dip in and out; they can read at their leisure.
Content curation was the other major focus of the project. Rather than write lots of online learning, we’re actually using the system as a means of elegantly ordering information that’s already out there, pulling it together into a structured learning journey. Janison’s Course Builder really helped us to do that very quickly and simply. I’ve worked on many other Learning Management Systems and what I can do in an hour on the Janison Cloud Learning System, I know would have taken me days in other systems. So, not only do we have an excellent system for elearning we also benefit from rapid deployment.
From a usability perspective, I’m very much a fan. I’ve really been enjoying using the system. The ability to quickly put together learning materials that are visually engaging, for me, is a real strength.
What are the key benefits of the system for your end users?
It’s a robust and elegant learning environment for users with a flexible and modern user interface. This enables us to provide a wonderful learning experience. Janison was chosen because of these factors.
Did you encounter any challenges along the way? Any lessons learned?
Interestingly enough, yes, when we were trying to change things up a bit with the format. A lot of the MOOC learning systems are in the format of just a video with associated multiple-choice questions. One week we decided to try this format for one of the modules. We got a real backlash on the discussion boards with comments like: ‘We’re so disappointed, we didn’t think this was that sort of course’. We had actually planned to use this format more. We ended up changing from multiple choices to an FAQ format, and then directing users to resources so they could research them further if they wanted to find out more. We didn’t receive any negative backlash from that. The system enabled us to adapt really quickly to learners’ expectations and requirements. We have the flexibility to change the courses as we progress and to give our users the learning experience they need.
How are you measuring success as you progress?
Apart from the number of registrations and active contributors, we’ll be using the page analytics within the system to look at participation rates, click-through rates, where on the page people have been clicking, what content they’re viewing, where they are clicking to. We want to use those page analytics to build up a picture of the user activity and levels of engagement. Did they read two or three articles at a time or did they just watch the video? Which content is most engaging?
We’ve also included feedback surveys in there and an Inbox where we’ve received quite a few comments already. That’s all really useful for us. We can refine the content and functionality to help ensure the success of future courses based on the experience and feedback from existing users.
How has it been working with the Janison teams?
It’s being a good experience to work with a team of people who are keen to innovate and to be so responsive. Janison operates in an innovative and fast-paced environment, but they take the time to understand our objectives and to listen to our requirements. They want to find the best way to support our needs. On the whole, it’s been an effective partnership and I’m really enjoying working with them.
Would you recommend Janison to other organisations?
I certainly would! The user interface is one of the nicest I’ve seen. I have worked with quite a lot of Learning Management Systems. The flexibility is what makes Janison’s Cloud Learning System so beautiful.
Finally, can you summarise your experience?
We have a collaborative partnership with Janison and together we have delivered a ground-breaking project, all within time and within budget, and it's been extremely successful.