Student Stories

Student Story: Keith Byrne

31 May

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Student Story: Keith Byrne

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career in digital learning?

I work for the Waterford and Wexford education and training board (WWETB) and so I look after a room that’s called the multimedia (MM) room were learners are self-studying with online interactive packages. 

Some of the stuff I would do is create online activities for the learners to use at home and in centre. So, the Digital Learning Institute courses that are offered are very useful for me to work out how to design content for my learners and design new learning experiences around the learners needs. 

Can you share who WWETB are and what they do?

The Waterford and Wexford Training Board (WWETB) are a state training agency, so we take learners who are either starting an apprenticeship or are unemployed and are looking to return to the workforce. So, we have a variety of age groups anywhere from 18-65. We do adult based training learning but we also do post leaving cert courses (PLC), youth reach community-based training as well which is a different umbrella of the same organisation as well. 

The training centre that I work in deals mainly with apprenticeship and adult learning so what I have is adult learners looking to upskill and return to education or looking to start a new career in a new industry. 

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Can you tell us more about your role within the organisation?

I’m a multimedia instructor so I’m here to facilitate learner that self-study. They come into the training centre and they get six months in the centre to study specifically for a qualification, so something like ICDL or Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) or Adobe Photoshop. Dreamweaver or any of the adobe programmes and we also have the Autocad stuff as well. 

They train for specific exams, so there is the Irish Computer Society (ICS) / ICDL Foundtion ICDL exams, you’ve got the MOS which is Microsoft certifying so you can use their own products and similar with the Adobe Certified Professional exams (ACPs) same with the Autocad stuff so it really depends on what job somebody wants to do. So, they come in then and study for their required certification. 

What projects were you working on before starting with the Digital Learning Institute?

I was working on doing resources and activities on Moodle for my students to access so they can either study them at home or in centre. The resources and activities I was designing were generally done through Moodle specifically using H5P in Moodle. 

But I wanted to be able to package them altogether into a SCORM package and be able to pick them up within Moodle so we could track them. One of the reasons why I went on the Digital Learning Institutes course is to be able to develop this content, instructionally design properly and give a good learning experience to the range of learners that we have and also being able to track them within Moodle. 

What challenges did you face in your career within digital learning?

The main challenges for me I suppose, timing is one of the biggest ones. In terms of what I do here, getting the time to develop this type of content because I also have to run exams for people and I’m also involved in other bits and pieces within the organisation. For example, one of the other things I do is manual handling training etc…

I find timing is a big issue in terms of developing content, ideally if you had a team working on the content it would make things an awful lot easier as you’ve sene from the digital learning institutes courses there are a number of roles and unfortunately, I’m one individual who has to kind of fill a number of these roles and they can be quite complex. 

Then obviously the technology, it’s very vast and there is a lot of different tools you can use and obviously then, trying to be ok and familiar with the tools takes time to upskill and obviously that’s got to have time and a value based on it in order to be able to upskill and learn something and feel confident with the tools. 

What were the main drivers with wanting to advance in your career and do the course with DLI?

Its two things, not only to progress in my career but also to progress the students and their success within the course. 

Obviously, everything that we do here is designed around the students. The students that come in have a lot of different complex needs and attitudes and we need to be able to accommodate quite a range of different things. 

Therefore, the reason why I did this course was to be able to design a learning experience that accommodates quite a range of different learners and needs but also one that achieves the desired learner outcomes. Like any organisation we are held to measurables and those measurables and targets we need to hit are generally success rates in terms of certification. 

What areas in results did you see improve from doing the course? From the students side and your own side?

Well from the student’s side after doing the first course at the DLI which was the certificate in Instructional Design I developed part of a course on IT security, again this was using H5P but the principles were the same. 

So, I started off thinking about who the learners were and how we can accommodate all the learners. I was looking at this specifically through a UDL angle, so I developed a resource where the student has a huge amount of choice. So, they can go online to this interactive book in H5P and they can watch the videos and I have little quizzes at the end of each section, So, they can do these as fill in the blanks (pen & paper), multiple choice questions (online) and this sort of stuff.

There is forum posting, blogs, and all this sort of stuff involved in this course, but the student doesn’t have to do it just online, they have the option to download and listen to a podcast and then come back and fill in the stuff online later. They have a choice of downloading a printed document and filling it out with pen and paper if they don’t want to do it online. They have a choice of listening to a closed caption video if they don’t want to just go on and listen to the video. 

Hence, there is a number of different choices there that they have from a UDL to complete the content. I’ve seen then in terms of people being prepared for the ICDL exams that they do in IT Security, that they are a lot more prepared for the questions now because they’ve gone through this content that covers core key skills that they were missing within the books that are given because they are missing some of the content that the students are asked in these exams. They were kind of getting stumped when it comes to the pre-test and now, they understand it an awful lot more. 

Then in terms of my own career, I wanted to push myself and I wanted to learn more about instructional design. Obviously, I’ve looked at it from the teaching element but I wanted to learn more from the instructional design side and increase my skills. Not only in articulate but also in other software. 

Why do you think you were able to improve student experience and your own career?

If I didn’t undertake this additional learning with the Digital Learning Institute I wouldn’t have, learnt how to do articulate, I knew it was there and I knew that there were different ways of using it but I never had to do it for any particular reason so by doing this course it gave me purpose to actually sit down and study that material. 

That has helped my students, because I’m actually developing a course now in articulate. So, one of the things I’m looking at is manual handling and compliance training and then by doing the DLI courses its then teaching you to do some very basics standards when offering a learning experience online. For Example, like offering a toolkit, allowing a deeper dive to things that are often overlooked. People go, “now I’ve covered the course and given them material”, I don’t need to give them anymore but now I do see the point of being flexible in terms of learners. Like you might have an advanced learner and they might prefer a deeper dive, so giving them the toolkit and the tools at their fingertips in order to allow them to explore if they want to, it’s not core content but it does add to the core content. 

That’s how it’s kind of been a success because it has actually improved the experience of the learners and has made it more diverse and more UDL compatible. 

What benefits did the course have for the overall organisation?

There was, conversations with our CPD person and John Kilroy himself in terms of promoting the course. It certainly is one that I would advocate for because I do think digital skills are a necessity in this day and age and not just in IT courses, they are a necessity across teaching in general. Getting people to recognise where the value is in what your creating & future proofing it for future generations. What I like about this is, when you have the content up, it takes quite a while to develop the content but once its developed, tweaks here and there can be added to it. But it’s getting that initial stage, getting the content up is the main issue that you find when you’re starting out. 

It can be quite daunting! But undertaking this course you go through the full iteration of it, the full circle of it so you know whether your using ADDIE or SAM or whatever model you’re using to do this. It allows you to take each stage by stage, what you need and what you’re doing. The How, What & Why of learning as they call it, that’s very important because you do really need to know what direction you’re going in.

You can’t just rock up and say we are going to take a quiz today because I feel like it, that might cover some content but it needs to be more thought out than that. 

Over the next 12 months what are you expecting the course to help you with?

A couple of things, AR and VR, I’m looking to study unity after this and seeing how I can implement that with regards to articulate and exporting it as a scoring package. That’s one thing I’m looking at. 

I suppose for myself, what I’m trying to do is to use what I have influence over as a kind of yard stick to promote and say like, look, this is what’s capable or possible. Then others might see it and think that’s actually a really good idea. Now, I know with some of the stuff I’ve done with regards to H5P there is a couple of staff that have taken ideas on, thinking they were really good ideas. 

If we can get them to push other people on it would be a catalyst effect and that’s kind of what I’m hoping, they start seeing what people are doing.

One of the things we are hoping to do at some stage is to showcase with Digital Learning and bring people together so they can showcase what they’ve done, explain what they’ve done and how it worked, what didn’t work in some cases. Explain what the thought process is and hopefully that will inspire other staff members to think, that worked for them so it could work for me so then they might want to learn how to do it. 

This will then push them into training and upskilling to learn how its done. People seem to think that you have to spend hours and hours and hours studying to do this, and you can do, but there is stuff you can do quite quickly in 20 minutes or half an hour period to have a good resource, as long as it’s well designed and ready to go for your students. 

Why did you choose DLI?

The Digital Learning Institute was part of a webinar, that John (Kilroy) was doing at the time and I found it really interesting. After the webinar I was sent an email about the course and I only had just finished my masters in teaching and learning, where I looked at student engagement specifically with online learning and activities. 

I suppose the two kind of, matched up and I said that that’s the next area I need to go into. Instructional Design is a big area, it’s up and coming, you see loads of jobs advertised in it now. I said to myself, this matches well with my current skill set and it also adds to my current skills and hopefully then I bring an awful lot of experience I’ve taken from my masters in terms of the teaching element to the learning design element.

Can you describe your experience with the Digital Learning Institute and the areas of most value to you?

I’ve had a really good experience with the Digital Learning Institute, I thought the tutors were knowledgeable. The feedback and responses were also very good. I really enjoyed the templates we were given too, so we were able to manipulate them for our own use which I found really useful. Some of the templates I’ve even used after the course because they are so useful. That’s one of the reasons I’ve found the course extremely valuable. 

The social aspect of the learning also, the other learners around the country are very much like minded which in turn led to great friendships within the course and you can bounce ideas off. There isn’t a lot of people with high end skills in Digital Learning to bounce ideas off so those great friendships that I’ve developed I’m now able to share my ideas through a message or an email to get their opinions. That’s developed a community of practice within the organisation. 

How likely are you to recommend the Digital Learning Institute?

I suppose in terms of career development, as I said the Instructional Design, Learning Experience Design (LXD), they are newer skills for a modern economy. And in terms of developing these skills there isn’t a huge amount of people that have the experience like the Digital Learning Institute has of this. 

It’s good to get professional, industry led experience on how to develop these skills and basically to push yourself and that’s been my motivation behind doing this course. To push myself to really enhance not only my skills but also my career prospects and opportunities. The future of learning is digital.