Brad Tombling reveals how the training industry has adapted to maximise outcomes for learners during the second wave of lockdown.
The Spring lockdown prompted a swift transition for work-based learning providers to offer remote learning en masse. The move compressed changes that might otherwise have taken months or years to plan and progress, into weeks and often days.
Research conducted by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) amongst their membership base looked into what can be learnt from the experience of lockdown and if it will change the way that training is delivered in the future.
It comes at a time when the spotlight is on skills and training to tackle the rise in unemployment brought on by the pandemic and the Government’s investment in young people through schemes such as Kick Start and increased support for apprenticeships.
The results of this research couldn’t be more pertinent given that we’ve now entered the next phase of a national lockdown – the need for improved remote learning isn’t going away any time soon.
The good news is that, overwhelmingly, 79% of providers said that the changes they made when shifting to remote learning may improve their overall offer in the long term.
Remote learning was found to be more efficient with the capacity to engage more frequently and more directly with learners and employers
Despite initial hurdles of delivering remote learning en masse when lockdown was first introduced, providers adapted quickly and reported that the changes they made have improved the overall quality of delivery (38%) and improved data capture (28%) and a majority have also reported that the cost effectiveness of delivery is improved (73%).
These are substantial gains that many vocational and professional training providers don’t want to lose. So, what changes were highlighted in the research that can be made in the long term to make a significant change for good?
Making curriculum content accessible
Although it wasn’t the sourcing of content that was an issue for remote learning during lockdown; it was making content accessible for online, specifically through smartphones. Training providers indicated that they found they were not as ready to respond to this particular technological need – and digital and blended learning overall – as they had initially thought.
Delivering content through mobile first technology is something that will need to be addressed moving forward as Gen Z learners are true digital natives and expect to consume products and services at any time and in any place.
The conditions of lockdown put a lot of strain on the training industry. When furlough was first introduced, many providers struggled to retain contact with learners as they were no longer using their work email. Once overcome, however, remote learning was found to be more efficient with less travel and the capacity to engage more frequently and more directly.
Most learners seemed to appreciate the increased one-to-one time they had with their tutor or trainer. The ability to ask questions privately via the chat pane in (eg) Zoom was also a bonus. The opportunity to engage with a wider range of learning resources was appreciated by many, which increased accessibility to a breadth of learning styles.
A key point that the research uncovered is that remote learning does not suit everyone. A learner’s receptiveness to technology and learning in this way must be reviewed on a case by case basis.
Another factor in determining the success of remote learning during lockdown was how well the respective roles and responsibilities between the training provider and employer had been set out.
With a combined objective of keeping learners on track for the best possible outcome, good communication between the training provider and employer is crucial. Remote learning was found to be more efficient with the capacity to engage more frequently and more directly with learners and employers, enabling better progress in many cases and maximising the employer’s investment.
Effective training management systems
The research found that those mainly reliant on paper-based systems (26%) and Excel (31%) were far more likely to have difficulty in getting the information they needed to make key decisions. This reinforces the benefits of using digital management systems for vocational and professional training and particularly in a situation where delivery rules can change so quickly.
The new dispersed nature of learners and staff needn’t mean a lack of control. A good management platform will enable providers to visualise their business and make better management decisions as well as help learners to progress more effectively.
Providing companies can survive the current crisis, the experiences they went through have certainly not compromised the quality of delivery and have in fact in many cases enhanced them – and this may ultimately translate into helping their businesses.
An overwhelming 95% of training providers say that they’re now better prepared to respond and maintain delivery during a second wave of lockdown.
About the author
Brad Tombling is head of customer success at Bud Systems