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Demystifying Online Learning, Training and Assessment

02 - September - 2020

In 2020, the term “online” is being used more than ever! But what does online learning, training and assessment actually mean? Does it refer to the location of the action being remote or is it just the vehicle for how the learning content, assessment or training is accessed, not necessarily where it is performed?
This blog demystifies the word “online” in the context of learning, training and assessment and hopes to put you on the right path when it comes to explaining it to your learners, team and potentially auditors!

What this blog unpacks

  • Why has online become so popular?
  • The different contexts of online
  • Trends in Pedagogy techniques
  • Fit-for-purpose technology
  • The benefits for learners, trainers and assessors
  • What the future holds

1. Why has ‘online learning’ become so popular?

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that a lockdown is going to drastically affect training and modes of delivery.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major disruption to Australia’s Vocational Education and Training sector. While online training isn’t new, the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have caused a surge in uptake. This year over 1000 providers advised that they will now be offering some or all of their courses online.

ASQA has been supportive of this approach, and published a new website section outlining compliance guidelines for these arrangements. You can read more about this here.

In this instance, “online” is being considered as a means of delivering remotely. However, this is not the only context of online.

2. The different contexts of onlineOnline Learning

Exploring the different contexts of online is key to understanding how it can be applied to your RTO. These include the location of the student to the trainer / assessor, and the delivery approach.

It is commonly thought if your student is working online that they are remote. This is one advantage of working online but is not to be confused with “distance learning” or “self-paced” learning which is an approach to learning as outlined below. With online learning, training and assessment, the student could be anywhere. Make sure you identify where your student will be located and that solutions help with this. 

Depending on your training and assessment strategy you might choose Distance or Self-Paced learning or you might choose a Blended delivery.

What’s the difference?

Distance / Self-Paced - Part of your training plan is to instruct your students to carry out tasks on their own, with clear guidelines using an LMS or Online Training and Assessment solution. They are not in the classroom and could be at home or in the library or other such location. The work may be under timed conditions or self paced. During the learning, there isn’t any formal interaction between the student, cohort or trainer. This is most commonly referred to as, “distance learning” or “self paced”.

Blended - Working digitally, using an LMS or Online Training and Assessment solution, your students have regular in-person interaction. Students can be in the classroom, training facility or workplace, progressing through their digital training and assessments. It is part of a “blended approach” to learning, training and assessment.

Online = Approach + Location
If you apply the word “distance” or “remote” to learning, it can be an effective way to learn for some, as people are time poor and prefer the flexibility of working in a “self paced” manner. This has given rise to bite sized learning like microcredentials, as outlined in this blog.

However, assessment is not something that can always be carried out in a self paced manner and needs tight assessment conditions in order for an assessor to award a judgement.

For example:

If a unit has a requirement that can only be assessed through a face-to-face mode of delivery, remote or distance is not an option. i.e, RIIMPO502D: Manage the interaction of heavy and light vehicles and mining equipment.

Fortunately, as online also refers to the delivery approach, if the assessment is also digital it is portable, flexible and easy to adapt to your assessment conditions.

In the case of a pandemic where you would normally conduct your assessment face-to-face, ASQA have given guidelines on how this can be conducted through a video call ensuring the Rules of Evidence and Principles of Assessment are adhered to as inserted below.

ASQA Case Study - Ensuring authenticity in online assessment

Your Mac Training is an RTO that provides training and assessment in graphic design through the qualification CUA50715 Diploma of Graphic Design.

As its target student group is located in a remote location, Your Mac Training provides an online delivery mode.

The virtual classroom is used to provide training in relation to assessment of the required knowledge. Students communicate with the trainer and assessor through their headphones/microphones during the virtual classroom sessions. In order to ensure authenticity, the student is required to hold their driver’s licence up to the webcam at the beginning of each virtual class. After the virtual class, the webcam takes photos of the student at random intervals while they are completing the online assessment questions.

For the demonstration of practical skills, photos and videos of the student performing the practical task are taken by a third-party. A third-party report is completed to record the tasks performed by the student. The student holds up their driver’s licence to the camera at the beginning of each practical demonstration video to confirm that the student performing the task is the student enrolled.

Finally, the trainer and assessor calls the student after the submission of completed assessments and asks questions relevant to the assessment.

3. Trends in Pedagogy techniques as a result of online

The flipped classroom - a technique whereby the learner researchers on a topic first, maybe using online resources from the trainer, then comes into the lesson ready for an interactive session displaying what they have learnt.

- Microcredentials - these are industry-recognised, skill-specific certifications that offer a new approach to learning to suit people with a busy lifestyle or to skill gap for industry.

- Immersive and Experiential training - Immersive learning is used to bring about a change in behaviour. It involves learning within a highly interactive simulated or artificial environment. Experiential learning is used to develop a skill or a set of skills. When developed properly, it engages learners to the extent that they become active participants in their own development while interacting with the facilitator and their colleagues. 

- Learning within the assessment - its becoming popular and is known to create great learner experiences when learning objects are placed directly in the assessment. This might be a video or slideshow. It means the learner can navigate through their assessment seamlessly and understand the correlation of what they are learning within the assessment itself.

As you can see not all of these are techniques mean the student is remote.

4. Fit-for-Purpose Online Technology

Based on the above, it can therefore be outlined that working remotely is not the only advantage of online, especially in the context that Cloud Assess provides.

However, using a fit-for-purpose solution that will meet the needs of your Training and Assessment Strategies is key. If you settle for second rate you are likely to run into trouble when it comes to managing your compliance requirements. An online solution not fit-for-purpose may lack functionality that gives you the control over the validity and authenticity of your assessments.

Why is this? Well, most LMS’s were designed for universities and schools who use them for the transfer of knowledge. The vocational education and training sector is driven by a different set of rules. The national regulator states, “Assessment is the gatekeeper of quality.” So with an undeniable impetus for Quality assessment (tools & practices) within the VET sector, why do we continue to see such high numbers for assessment compliance (75% non compliant) for RTOs audited?

The answer could lie in the understanding of quality and how to apply it in the digital age.
Working with a digital solution, RTOs can achieve more with less and gain appreciation for the bigger picture. In addition RTO’s assessment practices can stand out above and beyond other providers.

5. The Benefits for your Learners and Team

Online Learning6. What The Future Holds

With workplace skills evolving so rapidly, it is likely that re-skilling and up-skilling will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future, and working “online” will be instrumental in making this possible.

Therefore, it is going to be a focal point for the regulator, an expectation from your students and potentially even your team. Once you RTO decides what Online Learning, Training and Assessing means for your organisation, make sure you document and apply it.

As we navigate through the world of working online, when it comes to assessment, it’s important to remember that the unit requirements are still the same. Any changes to assessment methods need to be carefully considered as deviation from unit requirements will still result in non-compliance.

The good news is, that with a fit-for-purpose solution, you can successfully manage your requirements online.

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