I’m Jo Hart – definitely too old to have grown up with computers, but love trying anything new. So when I tried computers (over 30 years ago) and found that at last I could think while I was writing instead of all the effort going into making the shapes of the letters I was hooked!
I’ve only been in Australia for a few years (16 at the last count). I am from the UK where I worked in a variety of contexts mostly related to biological sciences in one way or another and finally moved into education and training in the UK equivalent of the TAFE system over 25 years ago. TAFE is the the Australian public education provider of Vocational Education and Training (VET). I now live in the place of my dreams on 25 acres in the Wheatbelt about 80km East of Perth in Western Australia.
I have a background in science, equine studies (including teaching horse riding) and in the the transferrable/employability skills. Currently an Advanced Skills Lecturer in Literacy and Numeracy (with some IT) in the public Vocational Education and Training sector (TAFE) at the Northam campus of Central Regional TAFE (formerly CY O’Connor Institute.) My students are very varied: culturally & linguistically diverse mature age adults; people with intellectual disabilities; “Youth at (educational) Risk”. When I teach face to face classes I have five literacy levels, this combined with the human diversity of my learners makes e-solutions almost essential for me in the classroom. From 2010 to 2013 I taught almost solely online across three/four literacy levels with regional/remote students. This innovative program was both the first completely online program in my college, and (we think probably) the first of its kind with these learner target groups. I used Virtual Classroom (Elluminate/BlacboardCollaborate), the Blackboard Learning Management System and a variety of other “e-strategies and applications” to provide a blend that gave this learner cohort enough support and flexibility to keep them on track.
In both 2007 and 2008 I won funding for and facilitated Australian Flexible Learning Framework e-learning projects – two under Learnscope (2007) and two under Innovations (2008). In 2008 I also facilitated a project funded under Building Diversity that enabled us to start making some of the CGEA available online using LMS and virtual classroom. I work in a regional context and there are many students who are unable to complete courses because they live too far from a college campus so e-learning provides a valuable opportunity for those students.
In addition to Learnscope and Innovations I have also been sharing my online/e-learning experience with colleages in a professional development context, and supporting them in developing blended approaches for our students. As a lifelong learner myself I have a passion for opening doors to learning that has lasted since I was at school in the UK many years ago. My school was very old (founded in the 1600s) and had carved in the stone lintel above the door “If you are fond of learning you will be very learned” this has stayed with me throughout my life and fuelled my passion for opening doors for others. I see online/e-learning as another tool in our toolbox for finding a blend that engages learners, and one with particular relevance for the geographically isolated learners in the huge catchment area of my college.