As promised in the last issue, a new NCVER report on online delivery has just been released. There is also an associated ‘Insights’ paper, authored by Dr Deniese Cox. Both of these are highlighted in this article.

Transitioning delivery online has been a complex exercise for RTOs. The new NCVER report found that not all students have the language, literacy, numeracy and digital (LLND) skills required to learn effectively in an online context, and training courses that contained a high proportion of practical components were particularly challenging to transfer online.

The papers

Late February 2022 saw the release of a new report authored by Sheila Hume and Tabatha Griffin. Entitled ‘The online delivery of VET during the COVID-19 pandemic: part 2’ it builds on earlier work by the same authors, and you can access that earlier report here. In addition, the research is supported by the paper by Deniese Cox which offers 12 insights into delivering VET online. Regular readers of VDC News will know that we have focused on online delivery a fair bit over the last couple of years. For example we have highlighted the delivery of entire qualifications online, as well as looking at good practice issues for online delivery a couple of times (here and here).

Deniese’s recent paper points out that:

  •  “There is no ‘one size fits all’ model of best practice online teaching and learning.
  • Every training context is different and should remain responsive to the needs of the student cohort and the topic at hand.
  • Good practice involves the incorporation of both instructional and participatory content, presented in either or both real-time and non-real-time formats.
  • Despite training being facilitated online, technology should never drive learning design. Technology should always support good practice.”

These are all good messages, especially the last one about not letting technology ‘rule’ but asking whether its use adds value!

What Hume and Griffin’s report tells us

These authors found that “many RTOs moved from face-to-face to online training delivery in response to the coronavirus pandemic.” However, “transitioning delivery online was a complex exercise for RTOs. Determining the suitability of the material for online delivery needed to be considered at the micro level (that is, individual units), as opposed to the skill set, qualification or training package level.”

It was not easy to make the transition in some areas, for example:

“Training in highly emotive topics, such as suicide risk, child protection, and family and domestic violence, can be traumatic for some students. RTOs raised concerns about their ability to provide a duty of care for students when delivering training of this nature online, [and] face-to-face learning was deemed critical by RTOs delivering foundation skills, especially where students had learning comprehension difficulties.”

Finally, Sheila and Tabetha report that “around three-quarters of RTOs surveyed agreed that the move to online delivery, while challenging, had provided opportunities to review the effectiveness of existing training/assessment delivery methods and encouraged creativity.” This seems to be a reported upside of the pandemic. Also, just over 60% of RTOs intend “to use more blended learning in the future, and nearly a quarter (22%) “are likely to permanently transfer more units or parts of qualifications online.”

Cox’s 12 messages!

You can read the full list of these in the publication itself, but a few standout messages were these:

  • The importance of combining both instructional content and participatory learning opportunities.
  • Blending real time and non-real time delivery effectively.
  • Adapting, not replicating – that is: “adapt[ing] content and training approaches to optimise the opportunities they bring while finding ways to overcome constraints.
  • Using video content effectively.
  • Having students know who you are as an educator. They need to know you as a person and what you stand for! And finally,
  • Having a ‘human presence’ to learning that encourages interaction and collaboration.

At the end of the day educators also need professional development and training to maximise the quality of the online delivery they do. They need to know both the ‘how’ and the ‘why’.