Building a community of interest Next step to developing a new food and fiber website

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September 05, 2022

Building a community of interest around a new educational website for the food and fiber sector is important for engaging with educators and suppliers in the fields of agriculture, forestry, horticulture and fisheries, say project researchers.

The website, techenabledlearning.nz, is funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and supported by the Food and Fiber Center for Vocational Excellence (FFCoVE).

The threat posed by COVID-19 to primary sectors led to the formation of the Learning Through Technology – Lessons From Lockdown research project, which marked the beginning of a process that culminated in this website.

Research analytics specialist Scarlatti was commissioned to lead the project, working with Dairy Training Ltd, Wintec and Primary ITO.

The research identified three broad areas that had the most learning – the platforms and delivery modes used by different organizations to deliver the training; the key aspects of technology-enabled learning that learners and tutors have struggled with the most; and things that have worked well for tutors and learners.

The website, techenabledlearning.nz, offers trending “tips and tricks” including creating culturally inclusive online classrooms, setting up online classrooms for success, personalizing instruction for Maori learners and the provision of pastoral care in technology-enabled learning. Aimed at the food and fiber industry, it is also a valuable tool for those in other disciplines.

Tutors have the option of creating their own toolkit of resources they deem appropriate for them. An interactive dashboard is available to find out what the research says about technology-enabled learning in the food and fiber sector. Training providers also receive information on how to implement effective learning solutions. There’s also an ROI calculator, a connectivity map highlighting areas of poor reception, and practical infrastructure advice.

Scarlatti Senior Research Manager, Dana Carver, explains that the resource is designed to be updated through continuous research.

“We want it to be a space where people share ideas and can see what others are doing. It’s about researching what’s out there every six months and having a community of interest that funnels ideas into the website.

Scarlatti director Adam Barker says the move towards creating a technology-based learning platform came after various training providers expressed interest in making more use of available technology.

“There were obstacles to that. A legitimate issue was the perception that we were dealing with hands-on training and hands-on people, and so having anything online just wasn’t fit for purpose,” he says.

“There was also a belief that peer-to-peer training, both from a learning and a social perspective, is a very valuable part of how traditional classroom learning works. “

“Another problem we faced was that no one was making money providing training in the food and fiber business due to high fixed costs and low student numbers.”

Adam says while COVID-19 has halted a lot of things, it was also an opportunity to take a fresh look at online training.

“We were forced to take this approach because all of these obstacles became secondary to keeping people moving. We realized that we had to try things online because we were doing more things online anyway than three years ago.

Dana says that while technological issues like rural broadband and difficulty accessing resources on smart phones could be solved, the most complex issues were social ones.

“The issue was about engagement in the actual training. How do you engage them? How do you make sure the learning is effective and sticks?”

“The issue is also about pastoral care, as well as learners connecting with other learners. Normally you’d be in a physical space, but when you’re not, how do you create that social space for people? »

“When you also have the additional issues of someone who has English as a second language, that is exacerbated online. This exacerbates some of the challenges that already exist. »

Dana says the website has done a lot to address these issues, but more funding is needed to keep the information up to date.

Links to the resource can be found on the websites of TEC, FFCoVE, Ako Aotearoa and Te Kete Ipurangi.

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