The City of Sydney is the local government authority responsible for the city centre and more than 30 suburbs within its boundaries. It provides services for more than 200,000 residents and 20,000 businesses, as well as the daily influx of workers and visitors into the City (more than 1 million commuters and visitors daily.)
The authority provides essential local services such as the network of libraries, street cleansing, maintaining roads, assessing development applications, collecting waste and recycling, maintaining Sydney parks, playgrounds and gardens, Sydney sports venues and community centres.
The City has legislative requirements to create and keep records. In addition, staff need records to conduct business efficiently, for continuous improvement and to manage risks and accountabilities. There is a high level of public interest in City information and a community expectation of transparency.
The City requested Openlearn to design a module to make all office-based staff aware of their responsibilities for making, keeping, protecting, managing and sharing records of City business in all business and technical environments. Responsibilities have changed with digital records, and information moving to external and cloud systems.
The key challenges were:
- Combat eLarning fatigue at the City
- Make a ‘dry’ subject engaging
- Educate about changing responsibilities
- Show impacts of information behaviours on risks and community perceptions
- Challenge assumptions and traditional behaviours to change behaviours
- Be suitable for staff with a range of cultural and educational backgrounds and language abilities
- Be suitable for staff of all levels of experience
- Contain content that will be relevant for at least three years
- Technical expertise was required to enable a variety of paths through the module.
Openlearn recommended gamification to enliven the subject and engage the learner. The game involves building a park in the fictional City of Urbanville. Park building is something the City of Sydney does, so it is credible, visual, already associated with fun and involves long term recordkeeping.
Learners work through scenarios about park design, construction and management and need to make choices about the records. Correct answers are rewarded with new park features and positive newspaper headlines.
The module was developed in Captivate. There are many decision points and visual combinations, and these needed to be carefully scripted and integrated into the module.
The variety of pathways through the game is an innovation that encourages learners to try their hardest to build the ideal park.
Powerful learning experience
Openlearn’s developer and graphic designer integrated all the features to create a powerful learning experience. Innovations include:
- Three key messages are repeated in each topic so that the learner has a firm grasp of them.
- Learners score points as they answer questions in order to build a beautiful park. The questions align with the behavioural objectives.
- Bonus questions allow the learner to catch up if they answer a question incorrectly. This is important for motivation.
- The learner interacts with a range of community characters.
- The local newspaper comments on the learner’s progress.
The module was provided through the LMS for a four week period and was added to the induction suite. A Communications Plan ensured managers were targeted before implementation and made aware of the importance of completing the module and promoting it to their staff. Regular emails and newsletter articles encouraged staff completion in the four week period. The module was strongly endorsed by the CEO. Reports were generated every two weeks and distributed to managers to track compliance and encourage further completion.
Managers provided extremely positive feedback, indicating that the module was innovative and clever and an antidote to eLearning fatigue at the City. It delivered well-articulated key learnings in a fun and interactive way and educated staff to challenge long-held assumptions and information practices, and to consider how their responsibilities are changing. Managers considered it a great leap forward in eLearning, which set a new standard at the City. Managers could see the potential to build on the gamification in Urbanville with other elearning modules.
Management are satisfied that the project was cost-effective given the positive results.
The target audience was highly engaged. They enjoyed the interactive scenarios and appreciated the injection of humour, such as corny newspaper headlines. The consensus was that it was a very positive and useful learning experience. Unusually, some comments were received unbidden by email, and many more were verbally communicated. There were even discussions in the lifts and in records management training sessions about who had built the best park and how much they had enjoyed the learning experience.
Word got out, and City staff were invited to present the module at Australasian, National and State records management industry forums in 2016-17, with an overwhelmingly positive response. People in the industry regard it as a very innovative, exciting product which very effectively fills a gap. Federal, State and Local Government agencies approached the City asking to share the module, which is now provided free of charge under a Creative Commons licence.
“Best online training I’ve done in a while – found myself really caring about that park (and competitively wanting the extra trees)… as a consequence, found myself reading to understand, rather than skimming to click the right button to get through the training as quickly as possible.”
“OMG - who built that Records Management Challenge module with Urbanville and the park? That just brought online learning forward 20 years. Great effort.” – Business Manager