I participated in my first online course in 2011. It was for my Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. I needed to complete it so I could teach at TAFE. I really enjoyed it and the organisation I went through was awesome with their feedback and help. This was one reason why I took on this course as I already had a previous experience and expectation.
My expectation was that the quality of the course would be the same as a face to face experience and that I would gain further skills just as I had with my first degree that was face to face. Of course that is not the case. Online learning is different from face to face. In the last few years I have seen different courses from different training organisations and it is clear that some training organisations don’t understand the new expectations of quality learning that fee paying students expect.
However, ﬂexible learning “does not necessarily equate with effective learning, as simply providing a range of options does not bring with it deep learning” (Willems, 2005, p. 434).
I have certainly seen online courses where students read notes, watch Power Points and regurgitate information from a YouTube clip. There is little understanding at times of what interactive engagement really is. Some adult learners expect learning to be a form of ‘edutainment’ where they are consumers of the learning however this shallow form of student ingestion will not develop critical thinking skills and learning is much more than cute videos and whiz bang presentations.
Open and flexible learning
In my current role I am developing online learning for building and construction students. These students are very much kinesthetic learners and don’t like too much reading. Thankfully I am
working with a new learning management tool is which is far more interactive that previous ones I have used. Our learner’s are practical and hands on and a variety of activities that requires the brain to think differently for different activities has added not only variety to the course but enhances the learning experience for this type of learner. (eCoach.com) University and Vocational training is expensive and online learning can certainly offer a cheaper alternative for them. (Todhunter, 2013, p.237) Often tradesman who are wanting to learn online tend to work all day and study at night. They do not want to engage in heavily theoretical content. The learning environment needs to be flexible but it has to be much more than that. Whilst you can’t see the learners necessarily they are not part of the computer system. Their results are driven by a real person entering information. Sometimes there can be a disconnect with digital learners but it’s important to remember that these learner’s have many pressures on them and that the online course they may be participating in is not the only thing going on in their lives. There is a great challenge for educators and designers of digital technologies for the ‘traditional trades’.
i On The Future
I was lucky enough to attend the TAFE Engage conference on Friday. Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality were key themes of the conference. These new mediums may address some of the key skill areas in the trades. Just as a fighter pilot can fly in a simulator so too can these new technologies provide greater opportunities for students to work in simulated work environments. Think about it…It’s time consuming and expensive pitching a roof or building wall frames. If you could virtually construct and practice these skills before assessments then the opportunity for success is greater. The opportunities are ripe for the taking. Hope there can one day be a technology incubator for the trades that I can be part of.
When training organisations are wanting to capitalise on profits sometimes everything can seem generic. More and more students want customised learning to meet the skill set required for the job. This can be different when all online learners are given the same content and assessments and the sense of individual self goes out the window. The more successful organisations will realise that students want flexible and quality learning that given them confidence in the skills they acquire not just the piece of paper that says they can do it.
- Todhunter, B (2013) LOL — limitations of online learning — are we selling the open and distance education message short? Distance Education, 34(2), p.232-252.