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Enabling business owners to upskill their business support staff online

Business owners want to offer professional development opportunities to their staff, especially business support staff who typically learn on the job.  However, many are unable to do this because of the distance to the nearest learning institution or financial constraints.

To address these issues, TANZ eCampus worked with Eastern Institute of Technology to shift their face to face New Zealand Certificate in Business (Accounting Services) (Level 4) online. This provided an accredited and affordable online solution to upskilling administration staff.

The Challenge

Developing an online course that gave candidates the critical skills needed to manage the accounts of small to medium sized businesses when: 

  • Learners needed to be able to apply complex concepts across a range of digital interfaces, excel spreadsheets and cloud-based accounting applications.
  • Some learners would have low levels of numeracy skills and little understanding of accounting concepts and calculations.
  • The course materials were highly technical so the course needed to be developed in a way that kept learners engaged and motivated.
  • The course was based around Xero Accounting software but this did not align with the qualification requirements of the New Zealand Certificate in Business (Accounting Support Services).
  • The development time period was short.

The design team also faced the challenge of weaving multiple resources and applications within a real-world scenario but with limited resources.

The Solution

The first step was to create a Design Plan template and Design Plan document. The template allowed subject matter experts and instructional designers to develop concepts and learning objectives based on existing face to face workshops.

The Design Plan set out a conversational and dynamic sketch of what to include in the course. It also mapped out how learning would occur using concepts, technical activities, and authentic narratives.

A virtual office was created, where learners would be assigned tasks and resources, a virtual library to explore concepts, and a simulated accounting firm where they were an employee.

Assessment quality leads worked closely with the design team and subject matter experts to ensure academic integrity within course assessments. Course content was rigorously tested to ensure that all the accounting calculations and processes could be performed.

The instructional designers became fluent with all authoring tools and accounting software and concepts so that they could cater for any potential issues learners would encounter with the material.

Keeping learners engaged was achieved through the design of a humanistic narrative and user experience, simple imagery, intuitive navigation and seamless integration of third-party resources and software.

Learners were given options on how to engage with the applications. For those facing extra difficulty in understanding the material, software simulations were developed, utilising screenshots to guide learners through the tasks.

This innovative development also enabled real world scenarios to be applied holistically across all the learning objects and materials.

The Results

When New Zealand went into lockdown, the 150 learners who could no longer attend classes at Eastern Institute of Technology were able to continue their study online.

Enrolments in the online certificate have been significant indicating the relevancy of the course for those working in business support roles.

For the TANZ eCampus team, the successful launch of the online course confirmed that with succinct visual and instructional design strategies, it is possible to transform face to face tertiary learning into an online learning experience that is authentic and practical.

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