Saying the past month has been ‘interesting’ would be an understatement. The world as we know it has been flipped upside down. Our way of life is nothing like it was as we welcomed in 2020. We all had so many plans and goals for the year, and for some those have evaporated and been replaced with new plans and goals. For others, everything has been thrown out the window and they are just trying to survive day by day and get done what needs to be done. Many in the education sector are busily trying to move their teaching online, often without the support that would usually be available for such a mammoth task.
I attended a secondary school face-to-face professional development session a few weeks back when large gatherings were still allowed. So many teachers were saying they were spending their nights recording video lessons. It seems in the emergency response stage of moving online that video is the answer, and more specifically, the Zoom platform seems to be the answer for many for live lessons.
Derek Bailey shared an article with me titled “The Difference Between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning” and I thought this really hit the nail on the head when it comes to this rapid transition we are currently facing. Learning how to plan, design and develop, then ultimately deliver, effective online learning takes some time to master. There needs to be an understanding of what can be done and how it can be achieved while meeting the needs of a range of students. While the emergency response of a webinar platform and cloud storage will do for now, over the coming months training organisations will need to have a more coordinated approach and should be looking into the adoption of a Learning Management System (a conversation for another day – make sure you choose the right system for your organisation). This would allow for a range of activities to be included and cater for the student-content, student-trainer and student-student interactions. This needs more time and support allocated to it than can be afforded in an emergency response situation but given the situation where we will be delivering training this way for quite some time to come it would be advised to begin the search.
Ensuring accessibility in resources also needs to be considered, both through catering for learner characteristics but also infrastructure requirements such as available bandwidth and device responsiveness. We have seen the need for sites such as Netflix to hold back on their streaming quality due to unprecedented demand. We also need to consider this as educators – not everything needs to be sent to our students as videos (shock!!). Cara North shared an article by Daniel Stanford that explores how we can go further than just using video for our online teaching.
Stanford explains the drawbacks of relying on these high bandwidth/high immediacy tools and part of this is accessibility. It is no secret that there have been issues with the “high speed” NBN here in Australia and total reliance on livestream video sessions (mostly being called “Zoom” sessions now from Zoom’s clever marketing via a free plan). However, training organisations need to start thinking strategically and long-term. The current situation of isolation is not going to be for 3-4 weeks, it will be for many months. At the moment everything is urgent, and the need is immediate, so naturally we are heading towards the easiest option of video sessions with students.
How should training organisations be approaching this though? A few of my thoughts, and feel free to add your own in the comments.
- Training organisations with more than one trainer in any area need to look at how to best utilize the time of these trainers. Rather than send them off to deliver their own individual sessions look at how they can share the workload and split the duties. For asynchronous sessions they may have a larger group online at one time but working together may lessen the stress involved. Particularly if there is a buddy approach to live sessions where one is the trainer on screen and the other is the moderator on the chat and running the technology.
- For large training organisations, this needs to be a coordinated approach to make the most of the situation and reduce stress on trainers. Sufficient support in how to use the technology needs to be provided along with how to craft online learning activities (this is very different to face-to-face situations).
- Think about how the resources being produced now can provide support to your learners in one, 2, 5 years’ time. Effort is being put into online learning right now, it may be an immediate (urgent response) but why not take the opportunity to take a planned approach so the investment now can be of benefit long term. This may be by taking recordings to cut up and use for future lessons that can then be delivered as pre-recorded content sessions; using transcription services to turn the recorded sessions into text-based material; or incorporating activities where learners will look for online resources to share with the rest of the group.
The feedback I am receiving is that there is a mix between a need for support in ‘how’ to deliver online training in a live session (What can we do that isn’t death by PowerPoint? How do we engage learners?), ‘technical’ help in using the platform and knowing the possibilities (the tools) and the broader pedagogy in terms of engaging learners in an online environment and how to construct a cohesive online learning program. It has taken me many years to learn all of this and, years of teaching and three university degrees later, I’m still learning, so it isn’t something that is going to be picked up in a few weeks. All I can say to trainers is look for support where you can find it, work together and help each other out. To training organisations, look at how you can approach this in a planned and strategic manner. Take the break coming up over Easter to step back and evaluate the situation. Don’t just rely on live video lessons – plan for the coming 6 months and the many years after the current crisis to turn this into a positive time.
VETNexus has an Online Learning Bootcamp beginning on Tuesday 7th April running for 3 weeks to coach trainers through establishing their online learning beyond live video sessions.
Other tip sheets available:
- Top 15 Digital Tools for Engaging Learners
- Going Online Checklist (for live sessions)
- Top Tips for Delivering Webinars
Practical videos on using platforms such as Zoom are coming. Subscribe for updates at www.vetnexus.com.au