Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is a distinctive, inclusive and forward-looking university that is committed to its social mission to promote the common good. The university has more than 20,000 students and 1,600 staff from more than 100 countries. It is ranked in the world’s top 150 universities in the Times Higher Education’s 200 under 50 league (2017).
Stewart Milton is a Learning Facilitator within GCU and an expert in e-Learning. Before joining GCU he trained over 2,000 attendees at his e-Learning classes and mentored 100’s of organisations, including the United Nations, Diageo, Thomson Airways and many more. He also holds an academic appointment with the Open University and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Stewart has agreed to share his experience of developing online courses within GCU with iSpring.
Goal: 90% compliance to meet our internal audit
When I arrived at GCU, they were just forming the information technology learning facilitation team. One of the major projects emerging was the challenge of training 90% of our staff in Information Security Awareness within 12 months to comply with the audit requirements from our Executive Board. The audit required graded reporting so that we could provide evidence to meet our compliance target.
Before starting content creation, we had to understand the project objectives and the expectations of the subject experts within our Information Compliance team.
The online training required the team to provide 4 bespoke courses. They included Information Security Awareness, Secure Email Management, Freedom of Information, and Information Classification and Handling. Once the courses were agreed, the content was then developed in conjunction with our compliance team.
Choosing the authoring tool for our project
The ADDIE instructional design methodology was used to help organise and guide our project and a number of authoring tools were reviewed during the analysis stage. I had used iSpring Suite in my previous role where I mentored many e-Learning teams of large corporate clients and it had proved ideal as an authoring tool for rapid online course development. It allows anyone with a basic familiarity of PowerPoint to develop online courses relatively quickly. The iSpring certified building block for BlackBoard (our Learning Management System) was also available to help integrate SCORM reporting and score recording in Grade centre and this also helped influence our choice of authoring tools.
Online course development with iSpring is relatively quick and a major benefit is that its’ produced HTML5 content supports interactive elements created within PowerPoint. These are typically animations and were enhanced using motion paths, infographics, assigning triggers to buttons and combining audio with trigger sequences. Further time was saved in our development work by customising the universal player so that the layout, GCU color scheme and branding was saved as a preset template. This was then shared across our team members to ensure a consistent course production design.
We’ve achieved a massive completion rate
Our courses have been completed by over 1,500 staff (94%) and iSpring has enabled GCU to secure a significant completion rate within the Higher Education sector. The grade scores provide an indication of learning attainment but I am also now running staff focus groups to determine whether completing the courses has started to change their behavior and how we can improve our design or balance of content.
iSpring has allowed us to quickly share knowledge across the wider university and annual refresher training is now being designed to embed the knowledge acquired and to also introduce any new policy or legislative changes as they emerge. The refresher training content is being shaped by our focus group research data, guidance from the compliance team and any areas identified by them in their risk assessments.
Reflection and lessons learned
The Information Security Awareness project has been challenging given the scale of it and the deadlines that we had to meet to align with the audit requirements. It has though provided so many valuable learning experiences and I have shared some of these below:
1. Test, test and test again
It is crucial to test your courses progressively as they are being built. Check animations, trigger timings, actions and sequencing. Screen reading software should also be used to ensure the course meets accessibility requirements. During our development activities, we used Read and Write Gold for testing as it is a standard tool used across GCU. Make sure you also publish your course using the LMS information type “Blackboard 9.x” (if you are using BlackBoard Learning Management System and have the building block installed).
2. Create a testing course on the LMS
Although most effort typically gets directed towards the course content and functionality, it’s important to make sure that the grade scores can be reported and recorded accurately within the LMS. We set up a testing community within Blackboard comprised of colleagues to complete the course for test purposes to check that the grade scores were being reported correctly and retained. Grades should reflect the quiz scores and also any credit assigned to the viewing of course pages/slides if required. Screen reading software should again be used to ensure the course meets accessibility guidelines once the courses are published.
3. Consistent design and easy navigation
It’s crucial to ensure that the design and presentation of your courses is consistent for your learners and provides an intuitive navigation structure and easy to use interface. Ensure that multiple methods of navigation are enabled within iSpring at the publishing stage. These include enabling keyboard navigation, zooming with gestures and advancing with gestures or mouse clicks. Slide thumbnail images are also really useful as they provide a strong visual reference. The key here is to provide a variety of methods that allow your users a choice depending on the type of device they are using to view your course content. The Resources tab within the iSpring player also contained links to our online policies to provide further guidance for staff if required.
4. Management support is crucial
This is often mentioned in many projects but securing management commitment is essential for an online course of this scale to succeed. At GCU we produced monthly management reports from the LMS that were sent to managers to help them monitor their teams’ progress. Department and academic school completion percentages were also shared on our intranet to provide an update on progress across campus to help provide visibility. Line managers also helped ensure that staff engaged with the process by providing updates to them from the completion reports circulated.
5. Use your LMS features to help inform your reporting
Although your LMS primarily hosts your courses and reports the graded results, make sure that you use any LMS reporting tools provided. Smart Views were created in BlackBoard to provide summary reports from the grade centre data and I also used “graded colour” coding to help draw attention to those subject areas or users that fell above or below our pass percentage. This acted as a quick visual alert to any issues that required our attention.
6. In e-Learning, less is always more
Our focus group discussions and online surveys revealed a strong preference (95%) for infographics and interactive elements to be used more within our courses. These can be easily created using iSpring icons and objects to form engaging interactive components. Combined with PowerPoint animations and triggers, they provide a more immersive experience for the learner.
Stewart is now currently exploring and testing iSpring simulation for use within GCU’s customer services teams and has already produced test courses that feature branched decision based routings and customised background scenes using GCU campus images.