There is no doubt that online learning is here to stay. Technology never goes backwards; once something evolves to be more efficient and accessible, it will only continue to become more so.
ASQA recently held a webinar called Online Learning - Beyond PDFs and Zoom, to discuss ways to use EdTech to create an engaging online learning experience. The panel featured VET Industry experts Kerri Buttery, Director and Designer, VET Nexus & ASQA Stakeholder Liaison Group Member; Bill Hamill, CEO, Rural Industries Skill Training; and Lea Stevenson, Quality Assessment Officer, ASQA.
Let’s discuss the key takeaways from this session, and what this means for you.
1. The Future is Tech
Chances are if you’re reading this you have adopted some form of tech, or are about to, and want to know more. In this case, you are doing the right thing. If you haven’t adopted the technology required to meet your potential students where they want to learn - online - you are missing out.
Getting on the digital ladder doesn’t have to be an expensive or massive step. Kerri Buttery discussed a continuum of online learning, and how you can be anywhere on the spectrum between the very first phase of using an online repository for downloads and storage, or have progressed all the way through and have adopted the latest AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) in your training and assessing.
Tech adoption almost certainly depends on your RTO, who your learners are, and what you’re trying to achieve.
Let’s talk about what’s out there.
One form of tech is cloud-based or digital software, this is hosted online and includes storage capabilities.
The diagram below shows a hierarchy of methods from digitally transferring electronic or paper documents, to utilising digital forms all the way up to adopting a fit-for-purpose solution. They each support an RTO’s needs at various levels of capability and suitability, with a fit-for-purpose solution coming out on top.
The hierarchy gives perspective as to what type of digital transformation you can achieve.
This technology adds digital elements to a live view, usually by using the camera on a smartphone. Think of Snapchat filters or the game Pokemon Go as an example.
This is an immersive experience that shuts out the complete physical world and through the use of a VR device, like Oculus Rift, can transport the user to a completely different environment.
2. The Financial Investment Will Vary, Depending on the Technology
As discussed above, the selection of technology available to you is vast. On the more expensive side, you have AR and VR. This equipment is still in its relative infancy, and like all tech, will likely become more affordable over time. It’s important to also remember that you won’t see a return on investment with this technology right away.
This type of learning can be beneficial for industries where health and safety is a concern. For example, it is unlikely that you’d ask a student to demonstrate anything that involves using a hazardous material, but you could easily replicate an identical environment and situation using VR.
There are costs and time involved in converting content from paper to online, however, now is the time to do it. ASQA has started designating webinars to this topic - it’s that important.
Note: while AR and VR equipment is hugely beneficial to learners in some industries, it does not take the place of a Learning or Assessment Management System. These are different technologies and ideally, would work together to ensure the best student outcomes.
Maintaining and upgrading a high-tech, virtual classroom is expensive and time-consuming. On top of costs, it can take staff and students a little while to get used to using the technology; there is definitely a learning curve involved.
“This is a new area,” Bill Hamill said, explaining the adjustments required to the learning material design. “It has to be completely new, you have to look at learning in a different way. That’s one of the challenges, finding people with that expertise."
To get a feel if this type of equipment is right for your training organisation, you can rent it for a short time, but it’s important to remember that this becomes the more expensive option when done long term.
If you’re looking for a more affordable way to get on the tech ladder that will see an immediate return on investment, look for a fit-for-purpose online assessment and training solution that will save you time and money.
Adopting this technology means you can integrate and streamline your admin processes. Additionally, you won’t have to deliver the same training over and over again. In instances where it can be recorded and made available online, you can focus on the practical learning and interactivity of your students.
What software solutions are available for RTOs?
Student Management System (SMS)
A software created for training providers to manage student data. In the VET industry, there are many AVETMISS compliant reporting systems available.
Learning Management System (LMS)
A software that is designed specifically to create distribute, and manage the delivery of educational content and support learning.
Online Assessment and Training Solution (OTAS)
A software that is designed specifically to create, issue, and manage the process of assessment for Vocational Education.
3. Compliance is Key
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 forced many training providers to move learning online due to physical distancing guidelines. A lot of this was done quickly, due to limited time and resources; however, now that the dust has settled, have you taken the time to ensure that you’ve implemented a compliant process?
Remember, the mode of delivery may have changed, but the requirements around compliance have not.
Lea Stevenson spoke about the crucial points that must be kept in mind from a regulator’s point of view when you’re considering the move to any form of online training (or if you’re already online, areas that you’ll want to monitor closely).
The number one compliance concern was around supporting students.
Clause 1.7 in the Standards states that an RTO “determines the support needs of individual learners and provides access to the educational and support services necessary for the individual learner to meet the requirements of the training product as specified in training packages or VET accredited courses”.
This is no easy task, but can be achieved!
Consider the life of an online learner and be ready to offer the support they need. A lot of this information can be collected during the enrolment process and can be followed up by frequent communication between the learner and the trainer.
Ask yourself, does your online platform allow for student needs to be determined and supported? It should be fairly straightforward to keep an eye on those who have become disengaged in the online learning environment. A fit-for-purpose solution will provide this functionality.
If it doesn’t, you may find yourself in hot water come audit time.
“Whether you’re teaching face-to-face in the classroom, any version of online…or in the back of an ambulance travelling 100 km per hour down the freeway, yes I have done this,” Lea explained, “the principles of learning remain the same. And the challenge is to identify your cohorts and their needs, and then cater for each student in the group.”
To watch this webinar in full, click here.
Why is this shift to online here to stay?
The Australian Government has offered incentives over the last 12 months to assist businesses in taking the necessary step forward. Grants to access digital technologies to rebuild business operations and transition to a new way of doing business, and to up-skill and re-skill business owners and staff to benefit from new technologies or business models were offered last year.
It was recently announced in the 2021-22 Federal Budget that $10.7 million has been provided to trial up to four industry-led pilots to develop new pathways to build high-level digital skills
There is also a four-year commitment of $23.6M to support foundation skills and accelerate the inclusion of digital skills for job seekers.
ASQA has thrown their support behind the online initiative with the release of the Distance Learning resource, and regularly holds webinars to offer insights into compliance, the sector’s next steps and more. Recognising that digital is the way of the future, they adapted quickly to give support when and where it was needed.
What are the next steps?
The best choice you can make when it comes to getting on the digital ladder is to consider your RTO and your individual learners.
Start with a plan and access advice like this this guide from Cloud Assess Managing Director Rob Bright.
Choosing a software solution can seem like a monumental task. After all, it involves time, money and resources. To be sure you are making the right decision, get a free trial and put it through its paces. You need to know that what you choose will adapt to your existing resources.