Effective Online Training

As we all know, COVID 19 created many challenges, none more so than in the training field. In light of the pandemic, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) undertook research to identify the teaching practices and student support services that support successful online delivery.

The researchers interviewed training providers and trainers delivering eight qualifications. There was a mixture of qualifications, from those delivered completely online to those who were trade based and more hands on in their approach.

The Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician was reviewed, with mixed opinions about the suitability of this course being delivered online.

The consensus from the research was that, regardless of the delivery method, “good training is good training”. Despite different delivery methods of online training, there were five common factors that comprised good online training.

  • Simplicity, clarity and consistency
  • Development of varied and engaging learning material
  • Communication and engagement
  • Flexibility
  • Proactive and personalised student support

The research found that for self-paced learning, where the student did not have the opportunity for regular two-way communication, it was important that the course material was clear, and that the information was relevant to the individual student. Navigation needed to be easy and intuitive, with clear and concise material required.

A variety of learning materials were found to be important in maintaining student engagement. This includes written content, videos, quizzes, spaces for collaboration, images/diagrams, and practical tasks. In developing these training resources, it is important to ensure that they are fit for purpose, with an individual’s digital capabilities considered. It was also found that, providing learning material in small chunks was beneficial to the learner. Taking time to create materials specifically for online delivery worked better than simply shifting classroom materials online.

The research also found that effective communication was important in reducing student isolation. For synchronous online training, or training that is delivered online and trainer led, building rapport through introductions and having students “filling the gaps” when discussing topics lead to better engagement. While with self-paced, or asynchronous training, introductory phone calls were important, complemented by information distributed through a variety of channels, such as a learning management system and email.

Flexibility is seen as one of main benefits of online learning, and trainers discussed the ability to schedule training sessions around students work and life commitments as beneficial. Responding to individual student needs, including the opportunity to provide in-person options when required, also worked with providing proactive and personalised support. Understanding when a student needs support can be challenging in online training. The research identified that the learning management system was vital for recognising those who require support.

The research also discussed, and challenged, the suitability of online delivery for some courses. During the pandemic, the Certificate III in Electrotechnology saw no change in its unit delivery numbers with very few units, if any units delivered online. One provider was quite adamant that under no circumstances was this qualification appropriate for online learning.

Trainers identified that it was a challenge to adapt to a new way of working, yet were positive in discussing that online learning is just another tool to facilitate training. Researchers also found differences in the specific Learning Management Systems (LMS) that was used.

Tthe research discussed how providers were overcoming all of the challenges identified, with suggestions such as:

  • Allowing trainers to observe senior trainers
  • Regular online team catch ups regardless of a person’s location
  • Professional development specific to online learning
  • Mentoring sessions with experts with their own teams
  • Attending conferences online to observe experts in action

Online learning is now here to stay and the information in this research is invaluable to ensure the experience is engaging for both student and trainer. The research document is available on the NCVER website.