The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a significant shift to online vocational education and training (VET). To explore best practices in this transition, a recent study examined online VET delivery across qualifications, identifying key themes for success to effective teaching practices and student support services.
The study found that simplicity, engagement, communication, flexibility, and personalised support are crucial. However, some qualifications, particularly foundation skills and trade programs, showed mixed views on the suitability of online delivery.
Simplifying Online Learning: Clear Instructions and User-Friendly Technology
Clear and concise instructions, user-friendly technology, and easily navigable course materials were identified as vital for effective online VET. These elements promote self-paced learning and enhance students’ understanding and completion of assignments.
Varied and Engaging Learning Materials
Engagement plays a pivotal role in online education. Training providers foster student involvement by utilising diverse learning materials, such as written content, videos, quizzes, collaboration spaces, images/diagrams, and practical tasks. Adapting these materials to suit online delivery poses challenges that trainers must address, considering different learning styles, digital literacy levels, and industry expectations.
Communication and Engagement Strategies
Overcoming learner isolation is crucial in online education. Training providers employ strategies, including personal stories, regular meetings, interactive elements, and student involvement, to build relationships and foster participation.
Flexibility for Individual Needs
Online VET offers flexibility, allowing trainers to accommodate students’ work schedules and personal commitments by scheduling live training sessions. Adjusting due dates and providing alternative options ensure students can complete their courses.
Proactive and Personalised Student Support
Student support services are essential for online learners. Identifying students requiring additional support in the online environment can be challenging. Training providers employ pre-enrolment questionnaires, observation, communication, and monitoring through the learning management system (LMS) to offer individualised, flexible, and proactive support that addresses students’ unique needs.
Divergent Views on Online Delivery
While online VET has proven effective across various qualifications, there are differing opinions regarding its suitability for foundation skills and trade programs.
Foundation Skills: Many providers have reservations about online foundation skills training due to challenges in building rapport, monitoring practical tasks, inadequate digital literacy, and limited access to technology. However, some providers have successfully implemented online self-paced models tailored to their students’ needs.
Trade Programs: The suitability of online delivery for trade qualifications, such as the Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician, has sparked debates. Some providers deliver theoretical components online while conducting practical training on-campus with trainer support. Others argue that the workshop experience cannot be replaced online, but a few have successfully combined online theory with workplace-based practical training.
The research study emphasises the importance of effective teaching practices and student support services for successful online VET delivery. Key themes identified include simplicity, engagement, communication, flexibility, and personalised support. While online delivery has proven effective for various qualifications, the suitability of online delivery for foundation skills and trade programs remains a topic of debate. These findings underscore the need for flexibility, innovation, and tailored approaches to meet the diverse needs of students and industry requirements in the online VET landscape.