Brad Tombling: Remote learning en masse: a positive change for good

Brad Tombling, Head of Customer Success at Bud Systems, the training management platform (link: https://bud.co.uk/

Looking back at the experiences of this past year when vocational and professional training providers were required to switch to remote learning delivery en masse, Bud Systems commissioned some research with the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) amongst its membership base.[1]   It uncovered the issues training providers faced and how they overcame them and to what extent the move to remote learning will change the way that training is delivered in the future.

The good news is that, overwhelmingly, 79 per cent of providers said that the changes they made when shifting to remote learning may improve their overall offer in the long term. Providers reported an improvement to the overall quality of delivery (38 per cent), data capture (28 per cent) and cost effectiveness of delivery (73 per cent).

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.

 

Increasing engagement 

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, the research found that 29% had reported an overall increase in engagement, although it must also be said that 24% said there had been a decrease in engagement.

In general, 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.

 

Better communication 

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 per cent) and Excel (31 per cent) were far more likely to have difficulty in getting the information they needed. 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.

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