5 HolonIQ post-COVID-19 education market predictions

The world of education has changed due to coronavirus. The question is, by how much? ReadyTech sat down with HolonIQ co-founder and managing director Maria Spies for a look at what the future could hold for learning in Australia in 2020 and beyond.


Maria Spies is a leading expert in trends shaping Australian and global education. As the co-founder and managing director of education intelligence firm HolonIQ, she regularly polls a global panel of education leaders around the world for their views on where the education market may be heading. From the impact of technology to structural trends and investment, Maria is involved in researching and interpreting the course of education into the future.

Maria has been an eye-witness to many of the changes being wrought by COVID-19. A global survey conducted by HolonIQ early in the outbreak in March 2020 found education institutions were expecting to be hard-hit by the crisis; 91% of respondents said they would be moderately (61%) or substantially (30%) worse off in the short term, while 50% of education institutions at that time expected to be worse off over the long term.

But where are we now? And what does the future hold? ReadyTech sat down with Maria to seek her views on how COVID-19 may shape the future of tertiary education around the world. Here’s 5 predictions that could help businesses get ready for what’s coming.

 

Education market intelligence firm HolonIQ’s COVID-19 Special Outlook Survey uncovered dire short-term impact predictions

 

1: COVID-19 won’t change everything. But it will change some things.

 

The beginning of the COVID-19 crisis was characterised by cycles of fast-paced change on an almost daily basis for education providers. With the need to deliver learning online coming almost overnight, providers in the higher ed, VET and corporate learning sectors needed to move quickly and use the tools at their disposal to keep their operations running in a ‘contactless’ environment. While providers adapted, many digital technology companies have been the beneficiaries, with demand for technology solutions vastly increasing.

Maria says there is a difference between some of this fast-paced change and the larger, lower velocity changes taking place beneath the surface across the world. The question is, how fundamentally has the need for adaptation changed the way our sector will structure and deliver education and learning in the future? Maria predicts that while changes like online learning cannot be expected to remain at the same levels as have been required by a global lock-down, they also will not revert back to the levels they were at previously.

“Our education institutions have been in a better place than many others in the world to go online – even if the experience wasn’t what it could be. Depending on what happens with the coronavirus situation, institutions will open their campuses again and we will see a diminishing of demand in that respect. However, I think it will be a cycle. We’ve seen a spike upwards and we’ll see a roll downwards – but my expectation is it won’t roll back to the level it was. If you change your practices – from teaching habits through to institutional strategies – some of that is going to stick even if the environmental impetus goes away.”

The same may be said of the corporate world. “Many organisations have seen everyone from the boss on downwards working from home. In the past corporate cultures may have made it more difficult than easy to make this happen, but going forward the network of decision makers at the top will all have experienced this and will know firsthand both the benefits and the drawbacks. They will now be in a much better position to accept this into their organisations; so just like in the education sector, it will not be like it was before.”

 

“Our education institutions have been in a better place than many others in the world to go online – even if the learning experience wasn’t what it could be.”

 

2: COVID-19 may change the way we think about education funding

 

The Federal Government moved to support Australia’s shell-shocked higher education sector with a financial relief package in April. A core plank of the funding measures was to promote the delivery of short online courses in areas of national priority (like nursing, teaching, counselling, IT and allied health) through universities and private tertiary educators. While in the past funding for higher ed and VET did not attract funding unless it led to an accredited qualification (while corporate training was managed through the tax system), these measures throw open an opportunity to think differently about funding.

“Are these funding measures directly a result of coronavirus? Sort of. But they are also a market event that has introduced a forced change in perspective and world view on how we deliver funding and learning and what’s important. This directly affects the incumbent system. Will the Government broaden its perspective on how education is funded and what counts as education funding? What if there was funding available in certain priority areas? This may have a ripple effect into ways we think about funding not only for providers who are the new beneficiaries by also incumbents benefitting from existing models,” Maria says.

 

3: An acceleration of shorter courses and credentials can be expected in the future

 

COVID-19 could result in an acceleration of a trend towards more bite-sized, non-accredited learning, some of which could be delivered online. During the extended global lockdown, Maria says there has been a willingness from individuals in particular to embrace new learning opportunities as they take the opportunity to upskill – whether they are still employed or want to retrain after becoming unemployed. Whether it is via MOOCs, or other means, this spike in online learning (and general realisation of its availability and effectiveness) could pave the way for a more substantial footprint.

“We are seeing people looking at the universe of available alternative credentials online – like a two-week course in digital marketing – and putting that on their LinkedIn profile. I think we’ll see a spike and greater acceptance of those types of skills,” Maria says.

This could be part of a broader rise of a workforce skills consciousness, with a recognition that skills are transferrable across industries in times of both disruption and calm. “We’ve seen Qantas laying off a lot of people, and Woolworths hiring them as one example. We are seeing mass movements of talent, mass movements of bundles of skills from one industry to another.” Organisations that help map workforce skills and help individuals and organisations find the skills they need through skills matching ‘need to move faster’, Maria argues, so there are mechanisms to connect skills to jobs in more intelligent ways.

 

Micro and digital credentials are expected to grow after COVID-19. To learn more about digital credentials see how they work with micro-credentials or visit the ReadyCred home page.

 

4: The way we engage with international students will change

 

Australia’s dependence on the international student market – especially in higher education – has left us disproportionately exposed to the impacts of the coronavirus. Thanks to local and global travel restrictions, Australia’s international students – participants in what was our third largest export – have in some cases been stranded in their home countries or forced to continue their learning online. “The shortfall won’t be made up by universities pivoting into blended and online learning and corporate training – so the question is what will happen to the international education and English language market.” Maria says the dynamics of the COVID-19 situation in the medium to long term remain to be seen.

Is it likely to change the way we interact and structure education for these students over the long-term? Will the future see more students studying at universities online? “If you take the standard international education story, you have to ask are kids flying in for migration purposes, or to gain world experience, English experience, a cultural experience, becoming worldly, in addition to their education. Could the future see them not doing a full three years – maybe there is an in between there – where something like 50 per cent of students actually do a hybrid, with a year or so overseas and the rest online or in some other form of blended model where they are in own country?” Maria asks. Universities may also engineer new forms of student exchange which are “more than a semester here and semester there”.

 

5: Educators will benefit from COVID-19’s forced embrace of online learning

 

The seismic shift towards online learning delivery born out of lock-down is an opportunity for education providers. “I think it is an opportunity to accelerate what was already a trend. Many were dabbling around the edges of these technologies – they acknowledged that online learning was growing but, since their core revenue was coming from face-to-face learning, there was a tendency to stick with that core model. I think now many may be able to accelerate that trend while not giving up on their unique set of objectives, their vision, their values or their pedagogy – their DNA. Because online is really just a delivery mode.”

Maria says she often hears from people who once did learning online and will never do it again because of a bad experience. However, the experience is highly dependent on the learning design, the teacher, the environment and the technology. “Social learning and technology has advanced so much and it can produce or support sophisticated pedagogical outcomes now – whereas it may not have been able to in the past. This is an opportunity for people to confront forced biases and embrace what’s possible without giving up their DNA. They can take a serious look at alternative ways of delivering learning that they wouldn’t otherwise have been forced to do in ways that a consistent with their pedagogical beliefs. They don’t have to give up the learning outcomes they are seeking because it’s online.”

 

The future starts with small steps

 

Many education providers have been embracing online learning during the current crisis. Maria says those who have gone from a face-to-face model to online learning are grasping some of the key differences – and one of those is students who more easily feel isolated.

“I was involved in developing an early online course and I was told the big difference is that teaching on campus is like a firehose – it’s a rapid, intense period of contact and dissemination of information – whereas online it’s like a dripping tap – you need to connect with students multiple times a day to give them a thumbs up, keep them on the right track. Things like having an ‘ask me anything’ session online daily can make a huge difference.”

One other element is structure. “You need to make sure it is much more structured than on campus – you need to say here’s what the week looks like, here’s what we’ll be doing on Thursday, because everything blurs into one at home. Students need structured routines.”

For some providers in the VET space, moving work or practice-based learning online will be more difficult and potentially more expensive than for a university, with some calls for more Virtual Reality-style learning to come to the fore. Whatever the uptake now, it’s clear that a series of small steps – and learning how to teach using these methods – are needed to move forward. “One opportunity in the world of professional development is learning design – we are way behind in terms of sophisticated, thoughtful online learning design; people don’t have the skills to translate teaching into these new delivery models. It’s a pity it has to happen so fast – we don’t want to just chuck content online and end up giving students a sub-par experience – that’s only going to result in everyone being turned off by it.”

 

Maria Spies is co-founder and managing director of HolonIQ. More digital transformation support is available on ReadyTech’s Remote Control hub for Australian tertiary educators.

A preview of the past: Voice of VET and the future

 

ReadyTech’s pre-lockdown Voice of VET Survey is a time capsule of vocational education and training views prior to COVID-19 that shows just how far we’ve come – and also what’s possible in the future.


Late 2019 was an interesting time for Australia’s vocational education and training industry. With the Joyce Review having been handed down earlier in the year, VET providers were still digesting what these new measures could mean for them and how they would fare in a brand new decade.

They were asking: What will 2020 hold? What will I need to change? How will I be able to adapt?

Now we know the answers to some of those questions. With the impacts of COVID-19 having swept through the economy and the VET sector alike, providers have needed to change their definitions of what was possible and are contemplating an entirely new landscape than they were late last year.

This is what makes ReadyTech’s Voice of VET: RTO Industry Australia Report 2020 such a treasure trove of insight. With a range of pre-crisis findings and views from 379 surveyed VET providers, we’re now able to look back at where we were to get a better perspective on where we might be going.

ReadyTech’s Voice of VET Survey is a revealing portrait of our sector’s online learning delivery capabilities prior to the COVID-19 crisis

 

Previewing the past

There is one preview finding from Voice of VET that is worth singling out first. As part of the survey, providers were asked the question: What type of training delivery methods do you currently offer?

Only 44 per cent – or less than half – of VET providers offered any form of online learning.

At the same time, Registered Training Organisations in Australia were heavily invested in conducting learning in traditional face-to-face formats: 85 per cent of providers delivered classroom training.

Given where we are today, these statistics are either amusing fossils – or paradigm shifting.

As a result of COVID-19, providers large and small have needed to shift the way they deliver learning overnight. With crash courses in everything from delivering effective online sessions via Zoom, to the ‘contactless’ management of admin and compliance, providers have been required to change fast.

And change they have.

Now, it would not be far wrong to say 100 per cent of providers are delivering online in some form.

While most underlying business models have not undergone total digital transformation – and much work would need to be done to achieve that – the environment called for adaptation, and providers have been up to the very significant challenge of making this happen – even in very difficult times.

Only 44 per cent of Registered Training Organisations were engaged in delivering online training at the end of 2019

 

Envisioning the future

The evolutionary leap we’ve undertaken in the last few months calls for a reset in what we think is possible.

Though the challenges of COVID-19 are by no means dealt with – and we will all need to be mindful of how they may continue to challenge our students, our teams and our businesses into the future – there is also great hope that if we want to get something done – step into the future – we can.

This is not change just for the sake of it. And of course, when talking about VET learning, face-to-face can often be critical component of demonstration, of understanding and of learning. But as we’ve seen in 2020, thinking ahead can ensure we’re prepared for whatever for the future brings.

While this has been in the form of COVID-19 this year, it could just as easily be the slower yet no less real changes in Gen Z student expectations, new technology, employer skills needs and other trends.

If we can collectively shift the dial from 44 to 100 per cent – what else might be possible?

Ready to transform?

We’re taking a measured peek into the future this week.

In a webinar on Thursday, Leading Digital Transformation: How To Overcome Your Institution’s Past And Make The Future Possible, we’ll bring together W3 Digital CEO and leading digital transformation mind Mark Cameron and ReadyTech’s own head of education strategy and innovation, Chris Smith.

Be sure to register now on the Remote Control hub if you’re a larger provider looking to steer your organisation through the challenges of digital transformation; from where to start, to creating a strategic plan, gaining buy-in for change, using tools and models to help your journey and knowing where to invest.

Remember – we can adapt when we need to. The magic is making it happen when we want to.

Register now for Leading Digital Transformation: How To Overcome Your Institution’s Past And Make The Future Possible by clicking through to the Remote Control hub at ReadyTech.

Tweaking team management tactics for remote work

Managing virtual teams requires deeper thinking about a range of factors from maintaining connection to mental health. Here’s how one progressive RTO manages remote teams for success.

 

COVID-19 has driven education workforces into the isolation of their own homes. With businesses having to coordinate their teams at a physical distance – while keeping their operations afloat – many are facing significant challenges keeping everyone focused, productive and working together.

There are some businesses who’ve already learned the lessons required to keep remote teams on track. What would they have to say about coordination during COVID-19? We sat down with MRWED Training & Assessment general manager Jason Ash for a revealing look at how his business manages ‘distanced’ teams.

 

1 Give teams flexibility and the structure to make flexibility possible

 

A stated commitment to flexibility is not enough; one of the key lessons learned by training and assessment business MRWED when it went remote was that it also had to create new ways for teams to work that allowed for flexibility.

As a business MRWED embraced the idea that it didn’t matter where and how staff were set up – only that they had access and were available to get work done. But this meant some staff – like the frontline team who manned the phones during trading hours from 9-5 – didn’t have the same opportunity to explore flexibility in reality. “We needed to ask ourselves how we structure work activities that drive flexibility rather than just saying to people you can be as flexible as you like.”

One answer was structurally changing how teams worked. “Our phone system has five people regularly on it. They now have an hour every day where they can log off the system and don’t take frontline calls – they can focus on whatever project they want to work on for that day,” Jason said. “This means they can be completely disconnected for one hour; they can take that hour, take their laptop and work by their pool or sit outside and take advantage of that flexible time.”

 

2 Measure your team on the work put out not on the time put in

 

Productivity doesn’t mean looking busy – especially in a remote working environment. It means getting work done efficiently. While the success of office workers has long been associated with the appearance of putting in longer hours or being hard at work at the desk, this is far from a productivity guarantee.

Going remote requires businesses to take a leap of faith and track work in a different way. Rather than measuring staff based on the specific hours put in or time spent at a desk, the shift is towards the actual work outputs that workers are delivering – no matter when they are at their desk.

“We needed to look at our KPIs and align them with more of a focus on output. Whether workers are online from 9-5 or from midnight until 8am shouldn’t really matter per se, as long as the volume of work produced is consistent with the time they were putting in,” Jason explained.

This leaves room for the reality that people are unlikely to put in an uninterrupted eight hours.

“When you work from home distractions can come in and change the day; it’s the same in any office, where you may come in at 9am, grab a coffee, have a chat and talk about the weekend and so on. Businesses need to structure the day and monitor performance without micro-managing their staff.”

This comes down to having a healthy level of trust. “When we trusted our team they repaid it in spades. In the first 12 months, we found they wanted to prove their trustworthiness and were working way too many hours. That’s one big problem and risk in this remote space – people working too much.”

 

3 Maintain your team’s ability to connect and collaborate

 

MRWED’s team was ‘tight-knit’ before it went remote. With 14 of the 20-strong team at the time having worked regularly together in an office environment, Jason said the key question was – once the team was physically separated – how would they maintain that sense and reality of connection?

Software has been crucial to managing this challenge. One of the key pieces of technology (which was partially unintended, but maintained due to team uptake) is Yammer, Microsoft’s enterprise internal communications platform that works similar to social media. Used primarily for more formal communications and project information it helps teams collaborate and work together.

The other is instant messaging software provided as part of the phone system. Available while people are logged on, these instant messages are gone when the day is over, so people can feel free to talk about their weekend or just tell colleagues they are stepping away from a cuppa. MRWED also flies its whole team to a destination for an in-person conference and catch-up once a year.

 

4 Safeguard and support your team’s mental health

 

When someone’s feeling down in an office environment it can be easier to identify the signs. This gives teams a chance to rally around that person and support them through the ups and downs, whether these are professional challenges or personal hardships. This changes when teams go remote. MRWED found that at times some of its team had quite significant challenges happening in their lives that did not come to the surface in the same way as they would have in person.

“Mental health is something we often take for granted when in an office – but it’s harder to deal with this when remote. The statistics are actually quite scary when you delve into them, so it’s something any business owner should be aware of. We formalised our mental health approach by looking at Employee Assistance Programs and so forth. We wanted to make sure our team always feels safe and comfortable and their conditions are conducive to working healthy at home.”

Like other EAP channels MRWED’s staff are able to gain access to mental health awareness and resources as well as access to mental health specialists if required. At the team’s annual conference, Jason said MRWED also brought in someone from Mental Health Awareness Australia for an in-depth training on self-identification and identification in others. “This formal training really enhanced things for us around mental health. What we found was most of the team was good at identifying in each other when help was needed in an office environment but when remote needed to be able to self-identify more. They could see if someone was down, angry or happy – but could they recognise it in themselves?”

 

About MRWED Training & Assessment: MRWED Training & Assessment is a leading provider of Trainer Training. Currently the organisation provides public programs delivered in dedicated Training Centres in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. MRWED also offers customised on-site programs tailored to meet the needs of its clients both domestically and internationally.

 

To view the full webinar on Taking Your Business Remote with MRWED Training & Assessment’s Jason Ash visit ReadyTech’s  Remote Control.

 

 

The post-COVID-19 future of online learning

Educators are urgently moving learning online due to COVID-19, but could the future mean injecting deeper relevance and context to how we deliver learning and careers through technology?

 

On the latest episode of the WorkED podcast with ReadyTech CEO Marc Washbourne, our guest Daniel Fish of GO1 mentions British international advisor on education, Sir Ken Robinson, who stood up at a TED Conference in 2006 and asked whether schools were killing off our children’s creativity.

At the time, Sir Ken took issue with an outdated K-12 education model he suggested we have become enthralled to and made the case for revolutionising it – to ensure we “tread carefully on our children’s dreams”. The talk has been viewed close to 65 million times now (and he gave a follow-up).

There were a couple of ideas relevant to the tertiary education sector. One was the call to overhaul a ‘linear’ conception of education to one that is more ‘organic’. One not based on ‘industrial’ age thinking, but instead on a more personalised student model – creating the conditions for fertile growth.

“We have to recognise human flourishing is not mechanical – it is organic,” Sir Ken explained.

“You cannot predict the outcome of human development; all you can do is – like a farmer – create the conditions under which people can flourish. When we look at transforming education… it’s about customising it to your circumstances and personalising it for the people you are actually teaching.”

 

Entering the learning ‘flow’ online

Such ideas may be difficult for educators to grapple with during a global pandemic involving significant business disruption. However, there’s a direct relevance for us right now. The current shift to online learning is not only necessary to get to the other side of the crisis- it helps to create new conditions for learning.

Indeed, the growth in online learning and content will facilitate this revolution – not just for the K-12 children Sir Ken was referring to in this talk, but also for today’s tertiary learners or the workforce as they navigate their working lives with all the need for lifelong learning the future of work will bring.

As the Strategy Director at online learning platform GO1, Daniel Fish spent many years working at the nexus of learning and work. He talked to Marc Washbourne about how learning, work and the future can be facilitated with a more intelligent understanding of data and smarter learning content technology.

  • For learners

There’s no reason why learning can’t be more personalised – Fish suggests this could be facilitated by the learning data we all create. We are all engaged in learning all the time, including things like reading articles online – or even listening to a podcast. With platforms being geared for capturing these interests and self-motivated learning efforts, we can match people with the most relevant learning content as well as ‘next steps’ for upskilling and reskilling for real-world roles, just like an app like Spotify serves us more content that will suit our likes and interests. In this way, learning could become a more individual journey that channels people naturally through fulfilling career growth.

  • For educators

Remodelling the way we identify and onboard new learners into spending on ‘big ticket’ items like longer courses could be reimagined through the use of technology and data. By using learning content platforms that identify a potential student’s own interests and learning focus at the beginning of their journey and then facilitate this through the provision of stepping stones in the form of relevant content bites, short courses and micro-credentials, Fish says students can be channelled into areas of genuine passion they will commit to and be willing to pay well for.

 

Collaboration and contribution

GO1’s Daniel Fish has a lot to say that challenges educators to think about online learning content and how to provide the right learning at the right time in the right context. At a time when the COVID-19 crisis is pushing all providers of education to conceive of new ways to use remote, digital and blended learning to deliver high quality education and learning outcomes, Fish asks us to ensure we look at the big picture and the urgency of the present crisis through the lens of the future.

Sir Ken Robinson finished his most recent TED talk by calling on the leaders in the room to combine their considerable resources with the expertise of teachers to revolutionise the future of education. “It’s not about scaling a new solution; it’s about creating a movement in education where people develop their own solutions but with external support based on a personalised curriculum.”

Fish shares this bent for a collaborative (rather than competitive) approach to building next generation learning – as well as a belief in the fundamental social good that education delivers in being able to improve the lives and opportunities of learners of all ages right around the world.

While different education providers and industries will have different needs and approaches to learning personalisation and digitisation, there’s no doubt that we’re all in the grip of the same monumental shift towards serving more of the learner’s needs online. Now more than ever.

To listen to our full interview with Daniel Fish from GO1 on WorkED Podcast #9, visit the WorkED Podcast home page or listen via Apple or Spotify.

From ‘sceptic’ to online delivery ‘master’

Black Isle Group’s Simon Mariner was once an online learning sceptic – now his business depends on delivering cutting edge content online. Here’s why he thinks you need to move from ‘sceptic’ to ‘master’ without delay.

 

Managing Partner of Black Isle Group, Simon Mariner, is no stranger to delivering effective learning online. With a consultancy specialising in helping senior decision makers in the corporate and public sectors communicate messages with their audiences with clarity, brevity and impact, he is both a teacher and practitioner of virtual learning mastery.

Mariner admits, however, that he was until recently a total online learning sceptic.

“Four years ago our business had a sort of crisis– we were topping out in terms of our ability to affect people – we were reaching only 200 people a year face-to-face. I resisted online – I was sceptical of the quality, efficiency and effectiveness – but we wanted to work out a way to get the message out to many more people and sat down to work out a strategy.”

The experience has turned him into a true believer. “It was effective in many ways I didn’t think it would be.”

 

The three biggest challenges for educators

Every business faces three core challenges when making the transition to online learning delivery according to Mariner. They are ‘transitioning’, ‘engagement’ and ‘knowledge transfer’. Here are the challenges defined for today’s educators.

Transitioning: Many businesses face the problem of having been running their business for a similar way for many years, sometimes decades. With an entire operation built around delivery of learning in face-to-face and hands-on practical environments, the challenge of transition – having to potentially go back to square one and create many things from scratch, can be a block that leads many to turn away from the online medium and stick to the familiar of face-to-face.

Engagement: In-person learning delivers natural engagement through the presence of an educator or trainer at the front of the room with their eyes on their audience. With a ready-made platform and tools, the setup is built for two-way communication and engagement that includes gauging feedback from an audience. Online can make engagement if not more difficult, very different. It is one of the core challenges facing most educators trying to deliver online.

Knowledge transfer: Ensuring learners actually take away the knowledge they signed up for is what Mariner calls the ‘skills to pay the bills’ factor. The success of your education provider or individual trainer is in the end measured on the ability to transfer knowledge to a student or attendee and for them to pass an assessment or exam at the end of a unit or course. Conducting learning in a way that gets actual knowledge across rather than just looking flashy is the challenge.

 

A useful online learning delivery model

There’s a three-pronged model that can help educators delivering learning online. By honing their capabilities when it comes to the ‘substance’, ‘structure’ and ‘style’ of their learning they can ensure engagement and knowledge transfer.

Substance: This is the education content you are delivering. Because educators are usually experts in their field and often are strong on learning content, this is often the strongest arm of the model they have to lean on. With the content and expertise at the ready, the challenge becomes thinking about the various types of learners and the nature of the medium through which you are delivering to achieve the engagement and knowledge transfer outcomes you seek.

Structure: In a face-to-face environment students are less prone or willing to give into distractions – from mobile phones for example – but the online world is less forgiving. Structure can help hold attention spans. Mariner suggests embracing ‘micro-learning’ by holding shorter sessions and/or breaking them up into smaller segments. Learning also needs to be ‘top-down’. Rather than building to a learning point at the end, it needs to be made clearly and early and then supported.

Style: Style comes down to the look and feel of the learning experience through the technology you use, whether that’s video conferencing software, your virtual whiteboard or other visual aides, and your own device and infrastructure. With the substance and structure in place, your delivery style ensures you are able to communicate those messages in ways that appeal to and impact learners while not distracting them from the learnings they should be taking away with them.

 

A word on using visual aides

Educators would be familiar with three types of learners in their face-to-face classrooms. Visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Mariner says moving online means keeping these learning types in mind. “When you think about virtual learning though it is heavily weight towards visual. The problem is this can be overbearing and visuals can become too distracting.”

Mariner says educators should be careful not to set up ‘competitors to themselves’ in the form of visual aides in a lesson that confuse and distract rather than impart and impact. For example, he says that as naturally visual creatures we prefer to use our eyes rather than our ears and we are also able to read a sentence much faster than it can be spoken.

When considering visual aides educators should ask themselves three questions:

1) Is it appropriate for me to use or not in the first place (that is, will it aide my learning outcome)?

2)How will I compose that aide in terms of layout and design to ensure it gets across the key message?

3) How to use them in a way that weaves them well into your lesson or class?

One tip from Mariner is to black out a slide deck strategically during your presentation when you are relating information that requires a student to watch and listen to you. “Human beings find it hard to look and listen at the same time.”

 

“Online learning is now essential to survival”

Mariner has a warning for providers who choose not to start a transition to online delivery during COVID-19. He says online learning is in the process of moving from a ‘nice to have’ addition for educators to ‘industry standard’ thanks to current crisis conditions, and those who don’t act are likely not to survive and remain competitive when the crisis is over.

“The people who do the right things now will be the first to get up and running once this crisis is over and well positioned for the future. Somewhere in the middle is what I call the ‘tough it out crew’ who will do something not necessarily strategically, which is better than nothing. Those who do nothing and pretend it’s all going away – they won’t survive.”

 

To view the full webinar on Virtual Delivery – Learning the New Tools of the Trade with Black Isle Group’s Simon Mariner click here (link coming very soon!) More information on going remote is available from ReadyTech on Remote Control.

6 webinar ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’

Webinars are helping education and training providers deliver valuable learning experiences at time where all learning needs to be online out of necessity. What are some of the urgent ‘do’s’ and ‘don’t’s before you ‘press play’?

DO

Have a checklist

Create a webinar checklist to guide you through both the technical and lesson-plan elements of the webinar you are about to conduct. Having a checklist will ensure webinars get up and running on time, are set up to launch as soon as you and your students get online and run smoothly throughout with a minimum of surprises (no one likes webinars that are abandoned due to ‘glitches’).

Include things like the steps you need to go through with your webinar software beforehand, what times you want to make transitions within your lesson and even basic scripting to fall back on in the case of an ’emergency’ tech issue.

DO

Wear a headset

Having a headset on makes a big difference. That’s because it can stop any annoying and distracting echoes. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a webinar sound loop at some point in time, especially now when often we have virtual classrooms up and running with group participation. It’s not pleasant, and detracts from the ability to teach, as well as the attendee’s ability to learn.

The headset can stop all that. The problem? Many of the cheaper ones have sold out right now due to demand. Use whatever headsets you have on hand or go out and buy one if you can find one. It will improve quality and end the sound loop.

DO

Use your camera

It might be tempting to ‘hide’ your face during your online webinar by simply showing your students the learning materials and letting your voice do the talking. However, the success of online learning leans heavily on the experience you are able to create at the front of the virtual classroom.

Because you are trying to engage them so they can take the most away in terms of learnings away, seeing you will definitely help. Dress for the occasion, switch on your camera and allow your students to visually engage with you as well as the lesson materials to get the most from the webinar.

DON’T

Rely on Wi-Fi

You may have little trouble with your Wi-Fi connection at home. However as the convener of the webinar, you have to make sure that your internet connection isn’t going to let you down when you are in full swing during a session.

To eliminate any risk of pauses, long lags or even drop-outs during your session, plug your computer in physically to the internet. Grab an ethernet cable and connect your computer with a landline and focus on the learning, not the lags.

DON’T

Forget what’s behind you

So you’ve switched your camera on and you’re students are loving your lesson. That’s great. But what’s behind you? When you’re delivering on camera and many families are being forced to work from home, it’s important that you avoid the possibility of embarrassing situations. While brief interruptions from children might be construed as ‘cute’ or ‘endearing’, no one wants to see chaos erupt in a living room or someone walking behind you naked after stepping out of the shower – which could come back to haunt you and yours online in the future. The best way to avoid embarrassment is to ensure that your back is to a wall and, if possible, your door is closed with a do not disturb sign on it.

DON’T

Waste people’s time

Make the most of your time online. If you have videos for your students to watch or reading for them to do, make sure you’ve provided it beforehand and they’ve watched it on their own time rather than delivering it during the precious time you have with them face-to-face online. The best use of online time is to make it as interactive as possible throughout.

If it’s a really large group, the chat and Q&A functions might be all you are able to handle in a webinar scenario. If it’s a smaller group, there’s no reason why you can’t have discussions going on with different people being on mute while others talk. Use external tools to make it interesting.

This article is based on webinar content delivered by Kerri Buttery director and partner at VETNEXUS and The VET Gurus. To view Kerri’s webinar on ‘Getting your content online’, click here.

3 fundamentals of locked-down leadership

3 fundamentals of locked-down leadership

What do swans and palm trees have to teach us about leading our organisations and teams in lockdown? Here’s three fundamentals for leading with resilience in the new age of isolation.

It’s becoming clear to business leaders that the COVID-19 crisis is not just another GFC or minor recession. While predictions suggest we are not in for another Great Depression, this scenario outline from McKinsey & Company shows it will still be a prolonged and very tough time.

This will ask more of leaders than ever before. With teams being forced into isolation and needing to resort to digital technologies to stay in touch and productive, leaders will need to dig deep both personally and professionally to see their teams through with collective and personal resilience.

Esher House CEO Darren Coppin, ReadyTech’s resident behavioural science expert, has sifted through the relevant science to help you. Here are three fundamentals that can help leaders come through the age of isolation.

1 Frame your resilient leadership stance

What do swans and palm trees have to teach us about resilient leadership through COVD-19? With an entirely new environment and conditions under which to lead, it’s useful to draw on the analogy of the swan and the palm tree to help us understand how we can lead teams to the other side.

  • The swan: Swans are majestic, elegant, and serene. Leaders in tumultuous times need to exude strength, clarity and grace in order to instil purpose in their teams. Beneath the water of course, leaders can be paddling like fury in order to remain agile and pivot if necessary.
  • The palm tree: After the Boxing Day Tsunami palm trees were often the only thing left standing. It wasn’t because they were able to overcome the storm by force. Instead, it was because they were able to be flexible – to bend – which ensured that they did not break.

The greatest leaders in times like these are those who can rally their troops, make a plan and commit to it – while secretly have a Plan B just in case. As ‘coaches’, they also shouldn’t be on the pitch getting sweaty with the team all the time – their teams don’t need them to burn out.

Play to your strengths

One factor that can help leaders is to consider their team’s individual strengths. While this may seem a luxury for better times than these, knowing your team’s strengths means you can better engage them, get them into flow and rally their talents around your COVID-19 plan.

One way to do this is by asking each of your team ‘What did you enjoy most during the last month?’ and paying attention to what lights them up. Or, if you don’t have time for a round of 5-minute personal catch-ups, get your team to go online and complete this viacharacter strengths survey.

2 Understand how to be more resilient

Leadership now requires more resilience than ever. But what does it actually mean? Research has discovered that resilience is made up of seven core psychological components that all help to enhance wellbeing and help leaders and teams carry on in the midst of difficult circumstances.

Emotional regulation: If you’re can experience annoyance in the morning and not be annoyed all day you probably have good emotional regulation. Acknowledging and letting emotions flow through us is resilient because we aren’t overtaken or sidelined by them.

Impulse control: Team relationships are likely to be strained amid more stress and new conditions. If you are able to ensure you don’t fly off the handle – that includes being manically happy or angry – then you will have better leadership resilience over time.

Causal analysis: Being able to attribute all the good things and bad things that happen to you accurately is more difficult in frantic times. However, not blaming other people incorrectly for what has gone on and knowing the real cause enhances resilience.

Self-efficacy: If you have a sense of control over yourself and a feeling that you can improve your circumstances in the future then you have a sense of self-efficacy and more resilience. This can be assisted by knowing that you can control and what you can’t. Make a list.

Realistic optimism: Resilience is boosted by realistic optimism. This does not mean heading into the unknown with blind optimism; it means assessing the situation and being willing to be realistic about positive pathways forward rather than being weighed down by negativity.

Empathy: Being able to appreciate how others are feeling – to a certain extent – enables more resilience. In times like we are experiencing empathic leaders will come to the fore, although it’s important to ensure empathy does not inhibit or paralyse team action.

Reaching out: Leaders who feel asking for help is weakness are wrong; the most resilient people are mentally tough enough to reach out. It’s the ones who need help the most that will often be quiet. Leaders need to reach out themselves and be there for their teams.

3 Safeguard your team’s mental health

Mental health is likely to deteriorate over and above the direct health impacts of the current COVID-19 situation. With teams disconnected and indoors working from home in many cases, they will need all the tools at our disposal to stay engaged and mentally healthy over coming months.

Here are five ways you can safeguard your team’s mental health in isolation.

Be in control: The leader is key to a team’s mental health. The way leaders respond to challenges, the attitudes they take and whether they are anxious or stressed leaks directly into team members. Stay calm and assured to give your team more confidence.

Encourage camaraderie: Camaraderie is the single greatest wellbeing resource available to teams. Ensuring there is enough informal dialogue – both offline and online – and team bonding helps teams respond to challenges with more energy through support.

Cultivate team purpose: People with a deep sense of purpose are the most resilient. Esher House data shows people with purpose get back into work faster if thy have physical or psychological injuries. Give a sense of what you are doing and why it matters to people.

Engage the right way: Ensure you are update your team regularly and do ask for feedback. However, be sure that you are prepared to respond to that with immediate personalised responses that are relevant and meaningful or you risk disengaging your team.

Give practical tools: Mental health is supported if team members have tools to help them. Whether that’s a new Whatsapp team chat, daily team stand-ups over video conferencing or wellbeing support resources like an Employee Assistance Plan, practical makes perfect.

 Visit ReadyTech’s Remote Control Centre for more advice and support on contactless education.

Contactless: The new student journey

Contactless: The new student journey

Engineering a ‘contactless’ student journey can enable education and training providers to minimise in-person contact and safeguard student activity during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Here’s an overview of the ReadyTech technology that can make contactless education a reality.

A contactless student journey is an achievable reality for today’s education providers. Despite the understandable focus on face-to-face learning and management that has dominated our sector’s delivery to date, technology now exists to allow providers to ‘switch on’ a contactless experience.

This capability responds to the needs of the moment. With providers forced to be creative in the way they adapt and deliver learning to students in a socially distant environment, creating contactless education can support provider continuity through this challenging period and beyond.

ReadyTech Education Head of Product, Alison Ritchie, says in many ways this shift had already begun. “For years educators have been working to understand their end-to-end processes, the touchpoints they have with students, to transition all of those into a paperless environment.

Thanks to all that hard work, educators are now in a strong position to activate a contactless education, with all the advantages that brings for servicing students remotely right now, as well as for delivering a strong digital offering for students well into the future beyond 2020.”

 

1 Getting your students through the gate

The student acquisition and enrolment process has traditionally involved some form of in-person interaction. Whether that is an enquiry at a provider’s physical reception desk, formal open days and tours of learning facilities, or the filling in of paper enrolment forms, contact has often played a role.

That was already changing prior to the coronavirus. With the realisation that technology platforms, tools and smarter communication could be used to attract and shepherd students through the gate more efficiently while still engaging students, providers saw the ability to remove contact altogether.

 

Screenshot of JR Plus Student Portal
The JR Plus Enrolment Portal is accessible to students anywhere, any time

 

Mobile screenshot of VETtrak VETenrol online enrolment form
VETenrol allows remote student enquiries and enrolments

 

JR Plus or VETtrak, for example, allow full-spectrum contactless onboarding. Beginning with posting courses online and receiving applications for courses by capturing student data in online forms, providers can move through to approving applications, accepting payments and enrolling students.

Fully integrated with the broader student management system architecture they sit within, VETtrak’s VETenrol functionality and JR Plus’ Online Enrolment Portal can remove the in-person contact elements of acquisition and enrolment while maintaining a quality onboarding experience.

 

2 Give your students a room with a view

Students will always be more than a name or a number. For that reason, creating a contactless experience for students from the moment they are enrolled needs to include a place for them to manage their own education and to engage in communication with their education provider.

This is where student portals come in. A personalised self-service gateway or ‘window’ into their journey, it allows students to access and manage all of the relevant information and details they will need along the way. It also gives their provider a vehicle for communication and engagement.

 

Screenshot of JR Plus Student Portal
The JR Plus Student Portal reduces the need for in-person contact

 

Example screenshot of the VETtrak student portal
VETtrak’s Student Portal gives students a window into their progress

 

From communications functionality like cohort notifications and updates, student direct messaging or delivering YouTube content, through to the uploading and downloading of documents like assessments (very useful right now), portals can provide rich and seamless student experiences.

The beauty of creating these ‘rooms with a view’ for students is that it is nothing like fitting out a physical office space or building something with bricks and mortar. In JR Plus and VETtrak, student portals can be spun up relatively quickly for providers who need to have them available fast.

“In our experience, what commonly acts as a barrier to a student portal rollout is providers thinking it’s a difficult process; it’s not,” Ritchie says. “While there are many pressing concerns right now, the access is actually right in front of them and ready to go – now’s as good a time as any to roll it out.”

 

3 Opening the doorway to your (virtual) classroom

The rise of online learning platforms has already caused many providers in the education and training sector to ask how online learning can complement their delivery. While the preference for many is still for blended learning, can the classroom be turned truly contactless?

The short answer is yes – and some are moving out of necessity. ReadyTech Senior Solutions Architect, Brett Dalton, says the education market has evolved into an era where – should educators invest the effort – they can make a wholesale move into a flourishing online learning world.

“In the current environment, providers have moved to use online tools as a substitute for face-to-face learning – for example, some providers are using Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams, and some are taking advantage of the free versions of these types of conferencing tools,” he says.

However, more sustainable solutions like LMS integrations through JR Plus and VETtrak, including Canvas and Moodle, allow providers to take advantage of ‘best-of-breed’ systems built by learning specialists over many years specifically to supply the solution that providers now need.

These fully fledged LMS systems include all of the powerful learning tools that students have come to expect in a real-world classroom, from the delivery of online lectures and the supply of course materials, through to group collaboration rooms and learner-teacher communications and chat.

 

JR Plus integrations
JR Plus integrates with leading LMS providers and others

 

Combined with integrations like Cloud Assess (which can accommodate the monumental spike in online assessment needs in 2020) and ReadyTech’s own My Profiling (designed to make evidence collection simple, mobile and compliant), providers are in a position to move learning online.

“One of the key things in VET are compliance requirements. If you are assessing students remotely – and we have customers doing this – then using an LMS allows you to gather evidence from anywhere – written, audio or video – without needing to see that in person,” Dalton says.

“What I tend to advise is, while going ‘contactless’ with an LMS can be done quickly, it’s important not to underestimate the effort involved if you plan to move all your learning online. However, you don’t need to do everything immediately –you can start by getting an online LMS integration set up.

Dalton says this can be done fairly rapidly – especially when you are taking advantage of a SaaS integration like Canvas LMS – so that you can begin teaching out of it almost immediately. He adds that having an LMS in place can future-proof providers as they seek to grow in the years ahead.

 

4 Providing the power to train from anywhere

 

Screenshot of JR Plus Trainer Portal
The JR Plus Trainer Portal is engaging for remote trainers

 

Screenshot of VETtrak Trainer Portal
VETtrak’s Trainer Portal gives trainers control over their courses

 

The final plank in a contactless education operation isn’t really about the student. It’s about the trainer. By providing tailored online access for trainers to support the management of their students from anywhere in a remote environment, the need for in-person contact can be removed.

This gateway is provided by trainer portals. From the trainer portal of a student management system, a trainer is able to manage anything to do with their students and course content. This could be anything from updating key student information, recording ‘attendance’ and logging unit results to communicating with students by email or SMS or creating a new online meeting or event.

The power to enable trainers online – even in the unfortunate event they should be confined to their own homes – means two things. Firstly, that educators can continue to create a 360-degree contactless student experience and journey that includes the trainer. Secondly, that staff continue to feel supported and engaged. With the world of learning suddenly becoming more distant, trainers too need to be connected to the tools and support they need to keep doing their jobs well.

Connection is the key to contactless education

Retrofitting education for a contactless world could be simpler than many providers of education had realised. With the impetus of COVID-19 now asking more of us all, providers are seeking solutions to the problems of distance – and are finding many of these problems already solved.

However, the success of contactless education depends on connection. From a JR Plus and VETtrak perspective, we believe part of that is ensuring you have a suite of technology that works seamlessly together to manage everything from enrolment, right through to learning and compliance.

But underneath the systems, the true connections that need to be nurtured are between providers, students and trainers. By bringing all of these people together and engaging them through technology, we can still create learning experiences and outcomes – even in a contactless world.

Visit ReadyTech’s Remote Control Centre for more advice and support on contactless educatio

8 lessons for moving learning content online

8 lessons for moving learning content online

Moving learning content online is a process that any education provider can begin today. Here’s 8 tips from eLearnhelp founder Rebecca Ogrady-Marshall that can get you started.

Rebecca Ogrady-Marshall is no stranger to online learning. Founding e-learning consultancy eLearnhelp after a long career in online education and curriculum development, she has been an eye-witness to successes and mistakes as educators have moved online over the last decade.

This has made her a believer in the crucial role online learning will play in the future.

“I think the future of learning is blended learning – a mixture of online and face-to-face. I think it’s difficult to replace the human interaction when you go beyond the realm of short courses, and many education and training providers like RTOs really require a face-to-face component,” she says. “Obviously in the short-term, there’s no reason why that critical face-to-face component can’t be achieved online with tools like video conferencing and webinars.”

What advice does she have for education providers looking to move content online?

 

1 Don’t forget the aims and objectives

There’s a temptation when you put content online to want to make it look ‘fancy’ by integrating gamification and visuals. While these are fine as augmentations to the learning experience, what is critical is that educators and trainers do not forget the aims and objectives of the learning itself.

“There has been a real pull back over the last 10 years or so to really focus on learning outcomes. There’s almost been a simplification of the content to make it much more robust, so that students come away learning things and being engaged rather than just clicking around on something.”

 

2 Start small with just one course or unit

Education providers should identify their course or unit priorities before starting out. By keeping it focused and small – at least to start with – providers are able to ensure they are producing content that is of good enough quality to stand the test of time rather than being quickly outdated.

“You need to remember once your material is online it is going to be there for a while – you aren’t just printing out learner guides for your next session. It’s really important to ensure your content is of good quality; there’s nothing worse than six months down the track having to change it again.”

 

3 Account for your new flipped classroom

A key difference between classroom and online learning is that students will often start at the end of rather than beginning. While the learning outcomes may be the same, students will typically jump to the assignment at the end and work their way back through content to find what they need.

“The classroom is more linear – you have a trainer giving a presentation, students ask questions and then they go home and do an assignment. Online students are left to their own devices; most tend to start at the finish and browse content, working their way back and finding learning as needed.”

 

4 Nominate in-house online learning champions

A lot of providers shifting to online learning fall over when they don’t have a driving force in-house. By nominating someone in their team who is responsible for the transition, providers can ensure there is someone overseeing the necessary uptake and support across trainers and students.

“Education providers need to have an in-house champion. They need a staff member or a couple of them who are responsible for pushing it in-house. They definitely need to have people managing students online and the trainers online, so there needs to be a dedicated support person.”

 

5 Make your students part of a group

Ogrady-Marshall recommends students should be assigned to a group of peers even though rolling enrolments may allow providers to get students consuming content at any time. Groups allow students to connect with others, have discussions and stay engaged to help them with learning.

“You do want to put them in timeframe groups and manage them through the course in the same timeframe. This helps the trainer as well – they have a set group of students. If they are doing it in terms that’s obviously easier as students can go through in terms together and progress together.”

 

6 Make learning active and organised

While the quality of online learning content will depend on the time available to providers, a key component is that it has as much active learning as possible, even if that is non-assessed – things like quizzes and discussions. While visuals and animations might be nice to have, setting it up like a basic web page can still work for providers as long as there are enough active elements to drive learning.

“Providers should ensure they have well organised content, that the content is engaging, and that they have interactive elements. If your learners are in groups and have support, components like weekly and fortnightly webinars with trainers and similar can support learning and engagement.”

 

7 Set yourself up for success

Providers new to online learning often make simple mistakes. More common ones include not having the appropriate reporting set up for both compliance purposes and their own records. Another is not having any trainers or staff confident in teaching students in an online world.

“Without reporting set up providers are often unaware exactly what’s happening in their LMS – for example, finding out where in a course students are dropping out. Trainer confidence comes from both learning and practice – some LMSs come with a lot of built-in training but trainers will also need to go into the system and actually do it to gain fluency with their LMS system.”

 

8 Make online easier with a good LMS

The choice of an LMS depends on what a provider wants to get out of it, Ogrady-Marshall says. Success factors include robust compliance reporting, integration with your Student Management System, how user-friendly and easy to use it is, and whether support is accessible and available.

Well-developed LMS systems with a history of service and support in the local Australian market – as well as a particular strength in compliance reporting for the VET market – are critical, she says.

“In my view an average Learning Management System will ultimately fail; it won’t be the LMS that will fail, it will be the people that won’t be able to use it – your students and trainers. LMS problems can make people give up quickly – if the system doesn’t work it frustrates everyone,” she says.

Visit ReadyTech’s Remote Control Centre for more advice and support on contactless education.