As physical distancing measures continue to ease and many of us prepare to transition back to the office and training in a face-to-face capacity, we wanted to take a look at what has happened, and what this means for the future of RTOs.
The COVID-19 crisis was a time of uncertainty and anxiety for many. Six hundred thousand Australians found themselves out of work. Youth unemployment climbed to 13.8%. The Federal Government committed to spending $30 billion to boost businesses, plus an additional $70 billion* on the JobKeeper program. The new JobTrainer scheme will also invest $2 billion in skills and training.
The Australian Government worked with VET regulators to support over 4,000 RTOs and their students by supporting the adoption of flexible and online methods of delivering learning and training.
This meant that those who were already studying could continue to do so online, if their course was adaptable, and those looking to upskill had the opportunity as RTOs quickly moved to get course content and assessment online.
(*This figure has taken into account the $60 billion overage in the initial budget)
What trends might be here to stay
Working from home
Studying and working from home, at least some of the time, has become an attractive option. Online learning is on the rise with global enrolments up significantly. No commute means more time to focus on work, plus a savings on petrol and public transit. Productivity is thought to have increased as the lines between home and work were blurred. One might open up the laptop just to check an email after dinner and spend a significant period of time just “catching up”.
If your RTO has created an online space for learning and assessment you may be looking for a way to support new learners or to bring your existing learners online.
Others are keen to return to the office and to training. Face-to-face interaction provides a sense of connection that many may have missed over the last couple of months.
So is there a balance in working and studying both on and offsite that could create the perfect scenario?
It seems likely.
Just last year, an American Survey found that 60% of office workers reported working remotely at least part of the time. And this was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses to accommodate their staff in order to continue operating.
The Flipped Classroom
This can seem like no easy feat! Particularly if your students were not tech savvy to begin with or were difficult to engage during face-to-face learning. One technique is to embrace the "Flipped Classroom" approach. This learning model moves instruction from a group learning space to a blended one, where students engage with interactive content outside the classroom individually, and then use the group time for analysis and assessment.
To read more about how to keep remote students engaged, click here.
Tech savvy students and staff
Having worked from home for a substantial amount of time, people have become even more tech savvy and adopted new technologies at a much quicker pace than ever before. We have also learnt a few lessons from viral news stories about, What not to do on a Zoom call (remember to check if you camera is on at least). The exposure to these tools has been greater than ever before meaning the adoption of new tools will become second nature to some.
What does this mean for the future of RTOs?
Not only as a business managing staff with the requirements of part time and flexibility, study seems to be heading in the same direction with online enrolments up as much as 400% on some platforms.
Add to that the sudden need for upskilling and reskilling that will have to be done around most students’ current schedules. Not everyone has the luxury to attend on site training, even on a part-time basis. Courses will have to be flexible, allowing students to study on their own time.
In addition, new skill sets have been introduced around infection control in the retail, food and beverage, and transport and logistics sectors. Additionally, skill sets in the health sector are expected to be updated to include specific learning around the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), among others.
Microcredentials are expected to be in high demand to meet the needs of the future workforce. For the individuals who recently found themselves out of work, microcredentials offer a relatively quick way to reskill or upskill when looking to change careers.
This has created an opportunity for VET providers. There are major advantages for learning institutions that offer microcredentials:
- Re-enrolment and improved completion rate for students;
- Generate more rich information on your students' pathways by gathering data on each learning experience they select;
- The opportunity for you to build your RTO's brand organically with a far greater reach. When digital-credentials, sometimes called badges, are awarded with the microcredential, students often share them on their social and professional network pages, like Facebook and LinkedIn. This creates a powerful endorsement for the issuer of the badge.
In a world that will now require regular, convenient and flexible options for upskilling, microcredentials seem to be a viable option.
What needs to be done to ensure the safety of staff and students?
It is likely that many workplace and training facility practices that were once commonplace will now be gone for good. ‘Hot-desking’ for example, where multiple students or employees share a workstation, poses a major challenge in terms of cleanliness. This will be especially difficult to regulate in a VET setting as so many students share the same equipment.
As offices and RTOs adjust to accommodate this new normal, here are the work and health safety guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19:
- allow workers to continue to work from home, where possible;
- ensure physical distancing practices by keeping a distance of at least 1.5 metres between people;
- encourage all workers to frequently wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and to practise good hygiene;
- be aware of how to identify COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath) and make sure workers do not come in to work if they are unwell;
- make sure your workplace is regularly cleaned and disinfected;
- have signs and posters around the workplace to remind workers and others of the risks of COVID-19 and the measures that are necessary to stop its spread.
(Sourced from Safe Work Australia)
In summary, it is clear to see that we are not back to normal as we head back to our office or training facilities… far from it. What is the case though is that there will be further change, compromise and common sense required to see us into the next phase.
- The website Safe Work Australia website contains guidance material on operating in a COVID-19 safe manner, including an employer’s duties under Work Health and Safety legislation and advice on cleaning your premises.
(Sourced from ASQA, Resources for provider)