Industry experts Phil Murphy and Matt Hughes explored the future of digital learning at TAFE and in the workforce on Day 3 of the Victorian Global EdTech and Innovation Expo 2021.
During the third day of the Victorian Global EdTech and Innovation Expo 2021, three industry experts discussed how the pandemic has transformed the face of learning and what the future holds.
They addressed why TAFEs and companies had been seeking out digital learning before the pandemic, why it’s here to stay, how to provide value to both learners and businesses, how to choose the best delivery modes for learning and more.
Zanthi Avila, Tertiary Education Team at ReadyTech, moderated. She was joined by two panellists:
- Phil Murphy, Executive Director – Student Journey Transformation, Bendigo Kangan Institute (BKI)
- Matt Hughes, Managing Director and Lead Resilience Coach, ripen
Here are the highlights of the session:
Why digital learning was widely used during the pandemic
According to Matt Hughes, there are three main reasons:
- It was remote: Educators needed a way to reach people who were working from home.
- It enabled people to upskill or reskill quickly: People who were stood down or had their hours cut had time to do courses they’d always wanted to do. And those who were still in the workplace had to rapidly learn new skills, systems and processes.
- It was the only option: Most people are conditioned to prefer face-to-face learning, but the pandemic forced us to pivot to digital education.
“How do we engage people socially in digital environments?”
Matt Hughes, ripen
Why more companies had been seeking out digital learning options before COVID
Matt Hughes says that ripen had developed its resilience training as a digital experience that was better than face-to-face learning in 2019. They’d found that three main needs were driving digital before the pandemic:
- Lower cost and scalability: Face-to-face experiences are expensive to run and difficult to scale when you’re upskilling geographically dispersed individuals and teams.
- Flexibility: Face-to-face workshops and even intense virtual training seminars are increasingly not feasible for many organisations or teams, so they need a way for learning to be more flexible digitally.
- Practical application: Face-to-face workshops enable social learning, but they don’t typically enable the application of tools or skills back on the job. People have a lot of skills thrown at them in a short time and they get overwhelmed when they go back to the real world and try to apply them. They typically go back to what they previously did and the ROI for any training spend is negative.
Why digital learning will remain in 2021 and beyond
According to Matt Hughes, there are four main reasons digital learning is here to stay:
- Flexible working arrangements will be the new norm, so remote and flexible learning pathways will be critical. People need to be able to learn wherever they are.
- Before the digital revolution of the last few years, the only way to achieve social learning was face-to-face. Now, digital learning enables both live and asynchronous ways of educating people.
- Digital learning allows learners to acquire skills and tools in bite-sized chunks and apply them in the workplace before moving onto the next skill or tool. Face-to-face learning doesn’t allow this.
- Digital learning offers proven ROI. Many organisations are now facing cost constraints and require any training they invest in to have measurable outcomes.
“With the Cahoot learning platform, we can track learner engagement, learner sentiment, learner progress and many other valuable proof points to show how well the learning is happening.”
Matt Hughes, ripen
How ripen customises its offerings for its clients
Matt Hughes explains that ripen uses a four-step process tailored to each client:
- Assess: Before the client enrols anyone in the course, ripen seeks to understand why they’re doing the training and what they’re trying to achieve. This includes ripen understanding the performance or wellbeing measures the client used to identify the need for resilience training. They use that as a point for measuring and improving ROI.
- Plan: ripen plans its deployment approach based on the assessment in the previous step. The plan is customised to the client’s needs, challenges and ways of measuring what is important to them.
*Note: The last two steps, Educate and Measure, weren’t addressed because the other panellist, Phil Murphy, entered the session after suffering from technical difficulties until that point. If you’d like to find out more about these last two steps, you can visit ripen’s website.
How Bendigo Kangan Institute is digitising the student journey
Phil Murphy explains that:
- BKI had started its three to four-year Student Journey Transformation Program before COVID, but the pandemic accelerated it. The goal of the program is to digitise the student journey as much as possible, moving from a face-to-face campus delivery to different modes of delivery.
- BKI has partnered with India’s Government of Gujarat and Maruti Suzuki to build the country’s first international Automobile Centre of Excellence (i-ACE). BKI is the education partner in that process and they needed to look at different ways of doing things that would keep costs low and work even if borders were closed.
- They did a lot of work on digital courseware, particularly in their automotive areas, and they started the new Student Management System program with their partners ReadyTech using the JR Plus program. It was important for them to move quickly on the digitisation journey.
- The change has created some internal challenges for such a large organisation as BKI, namely their culture, existing capability and resource availability.
How to provide value to both learners and businesses
According to Phil Murphy:
- Most businesses aren’t particularly excited about obtaining a certificate. They want return on investment and operational improvements. They might have regulatory and compliance work that needs to be done, but that won’t improve their business outcomes.
- It’s important for BKI to sit down with each business to figure out their motivations and also meet with the students to figure out what their motivations are in line with the business’s direction.
- In that discovery phase, BKI tries to understand what the business wants to customise. In particular, the company policies and procedures they want incorporated into the training. They also have to come to an agreement with the business regarding what the return on investment will be.
- The training intervention isn’t the only thing that makes the ROI work. There are other factors and BKI is often a co-producer in many of those activities.
“An interesting one was a funeral company who had 10 premium caskets on the line, but they wanted 15 premium caskets completed per month on the line. It was understanding that sort of business outcome and what it meant for them and incorporating that into the program.”
Phil Murphy, Bendigo Kangan Institute
Matt Hughes adds that:
- From the learners’ point of view, the key is to achieve measurable behaviour change outcomes so they leave ripen’s courses feeling that they’ve uplifted their resilience for their lives and career advancement.
- From the business’s point of view, the key is to have proven ROI when they invest in their workers’ wellbeing and performance. Businesses get excited about the power of AI and the learner reports ripen provides.
“[Learners] care about WIIFM… What’s in it for me? What are the benefits for me doing this course? Why should I care or keep listening? [We have to anchor] them to the ‘why’ as early as possible in the process.”
Matt Hughes, ripen
How to choose the best delivery modes for learning
Phil Murphy explains that:
- BKI counsels its clients on the best modes for learning, but some insist on doing it a certain way. COVID was an interesting break from tradition for some companies who swore learning had to be face-to-face.
- The pandemic allowed BKI to demonstrate that digital learning often produces better outcomes.
According to Matt Hughes:
- There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to delivering workforce training, especially not workforce resilience training at scale. If you keep coming back to the question “What are we trying to achieve?” and the fundamental shift in behaviour mindsets that you want to create, the answer will flow from that.
- Knowing where additional efforts might be required to bring learners on the journey is critical.
“Digital education delivers incredible results when done well. We need to focus on educating people in a suitable time and space for their workforce operating rhythm. Do we deliver learning over weeks or days? Do we deliver learning in a room or a space as close to a room as we can get? Or will a digital bite-sized learning approach be the best outcome?”
Matt Hughes, ripen
How to build collaboration within online cohorts
Matt Hughes says they now have course activities in digital training that were previously only possible in a face-to-face training environment, such as:
- Digital Post-it notes that learners can post in a digital whiteboard for brainstorming activities. Others can comment on the notes and like the comments.
- Asynchronous group discussions that enable people to participate in group discussions whenever and wherever is suitable to their workload and their time zone.
- Live webinars for group discussions and knowledge sharing that are built into the course platform rather than using a separate Zoom or Microsoft Teams platform.
Phil Murphy adds:
- A lot of software now includes breakout groups. You can have your group of 20 and also form some breakouts.
How to recreate hands-on skills online
Phil Murphy says:
- It’s been challenging for BKI because hands-on skills are an essential part of VET training and simulation is expensive.
- They can have webinars with students demonstrating activities online, but it’s a struggle when it comes to the touch-and-feel mode.
Matt Hughes agrees it’s tricky and adds:
- In their resilience bootcamp, they’ve been piloting virtual reality programs to simulate environments, but practical application is still the nut to be cracked in digital education.
I’d now like to invite our guests for the plenary session of this afternoon program. They are leveraging technology to transform the student: Zanthi Avila from ReadyTech will be our moderator. Zanthi Avila has been working with tertiary education and training providers in the Asia Pacific region since 2009. She’s currently Tertiary Education Lead at ReadyTech and firmly believes that involving the sequence of the person’s work experiences every time can be an important source of human satisfaction and fulfillment. Over to you Zanthi.
I’d like to introduce you to Matt Hughes. Matt Hughes is Managing Director at Ripen Psychology and he is the Leading Resilience Coach. After navigating a successful career in corporate finance strategy and consulting across three continents, Matt retrained in psychology to learn the resilience skills and techniques used by elite performers. Resilience skills and techniques used by elite performers came in handy and since 2016, he and his team at Ripen have designed and delivered proven resilience programs to organizations across Australia and internationally. Digital resilience training across 17 countries is part of the program that Matt and his team are delivering. During the pandemic specifically, the digital resilience training was actually used to leverage the power of technology with social learning, for building workforce resilience at scale.
Many of our clients have workforces that are geographically dispersed, often remote and extremely time poor. In 2019 we developed our courses into a digital learning experience for bringing life-changing resilience skills training to individuals and teams at scale. In 2020 throughout the height of the pandemic we trained over a thousand leaders and their teams from across 17 different countries, most major industries and economies with an average rating of 4.8 out of five stars for our digital courses. And I’m here to share any relevant insights I can for educators to bring their life changing training and education to people by also leveraging the power of technology. Thanks for having me.
Matt, As you know, the theme of our panel discussion today is leveraging technology to transform the learner experience. I noted when we were doing our prep for this session that you don’t call your students, students, you call them learners. I was going to ask you to expand on that.
Students, for many people, certainly for us and the work we do, can put people into a frame of mind that perhaps isn’t workplace related, students talk to younger generations in school or perhaps in our education in university. And we’re really working with workplaces, with people who are in professional working capacities. And so students just didn’t seem to fit as well for the work we do.
I wanted to ask you to speak about, basically the learner transformation journey as you see it, over at Ripen psychology, and specifically couched in the parameters of leveraging technology during the pandemic.
Why digital learning during the pandemic? Really there’s three reasons. The first is it’s remote. Educators needed a way, and still need a way to reach people working from their home office, from their dining room table or from their carpet under the stairs. Digital learning is remote and it enables remote learning. The second big reason is it enables people to up-skill or re-skill quickly. People who were stood down or had their working hours cut had more time to do the course that they always wanted to have the time to do. While for others still in the workplace, they had to rapidly learn new skills, new software, new systems, new processes, just for navigating the new world of remote working. Digital learning enables that quick and rapid upskilling.
But also let’s be frank, it was the only option and still is the only option. Digital learning was not and is not the preferred learning pathway for many people. Both educators and learners, we’ve been culturally conditioned through schooling to learn primarily as a face-to-face experience. The pandemic forced a change in this paradigm with schools and universities forced to pivot to digital education. And obviously with mixed approaches and results. However, most seasoned professionals in the corporate space within the workforce will tell you from their experience that online learning is used for courses that are just a tick in a box. It’s the mandatory banking compliance, or the workplace health and safety training they have to complete each year. And they often have the online or e-learning course open on the second screen at their desk and they do it half-heartedly while they’re actually working. So that’s really why remote learning enabled people to up-skill and re-skill quickly, and it was the only option. That’s the “why” during the pandemic.
I guess most people have a preconceived notion of what digital actually is. It’s a very bandied around term. And you may or may not agree with me, but it’s become more of a tangible concept ever since the pandemic.
And what have you found in that regard? Because clearly when you and your team got together, digital was part of the strategy even before the pandemic. It’s just that the pandemic lent a different context to it, I should say.
Even before 2020 with a global client base at Ripen, consistent clients with small to large workforces across most major industries and economies. In 2019 we built out our resilience training as a digital experience, and we made it better than face-to-face. I’ll explain how we did that. The three needs driving digital before the pandemic that we uncovered were, firstly, a lower cost base and better scalability. So face-to-face experiences are expensive to run and then very difficult to scale when you’re upskilling geographically dispersed individuals and teams. That was the first need, lower cost basis, better scalability.
The second was more flexible. People in the workforce in professional corporate roles at any level are incredibly temporary. So full day face-to-face or even half day face-to-face workshops or even virtual intense training seminars are increasingly not feasible for many organizations or teams, so we needed a way for learning to be more flexible digitally. And the third big reason was digital learning or the three needs driving digital in 2020. Enabling social learning and practical application. Face-to-face workshops or face-to-face learning journeys enabled social learning, i.e. come together and they learn from other people.
But they don’t typically enable the application of tools or skills back on the job. People attend face to face or live virtual training centers. They have a load of skills thrown at them in a condensed space of time. Then they leave the experience and all these new skills and behaviors to apply when they get back to their real world, it becomes so overwhelming. The face-to-face experience has ended so they’ve got no support. They typically just go back to what they previously did, an ROI for any training spend is the negative.
Why digital in 2021 and beyond? Well, done properly, the work we do is that digital learning will be as good if not better than face-to-face in the post pandemic reality that we will face. And this is because digital learning enables a couple of things really significantly. Remote and flexible learning pathways, whatever the post COVID world looks like, it’s pretty clear that flexible working arrangements are going to be the new norm. And high caliber talent is already demanding flexible work arrangements, even ahead of remuneration benefits in negotiating job roles. Even if people work from home only 40% of the time, that’s still two days per week and it’d be out of the office. So remote and flexible learning pathways are really critical and digital learning enables that.
The second big one is the benefits of social learning. Before the digital revolution of the last few years, social learning, i.e. bringing in people together to learn together was only possible face-to-face. But now digital learning, and everybody listening to this is an expert in digital learning, knows that digital learning now enables both live and asynchronous ways to educate people while still achieving the need for learning that is more flexible, something that face-to-face training or learning outcomes can’t do.
Then the third big one is practical application skills back on the job. And we talk about practical application of skills back on the job as part of the learning journey. So done properly, digital learning pathways ensure the learner of skills and tools in bite size chunks with each chunk requiring the application of skills and tools back in the workplace, as they are learned, i.e. before moving on to the next skill or the next tool in the suite that’s on offer. There are the top three. There’s a fourth. We’ve got remote and flexible learning pathways, the benefits of social learning and practical application skills back on what was part of the learning journey. But all of this wraps up in digital learning offering as something face-to-face can’t do, which is the measurement of learning for proven ROI.
Proven ROI for learning and development is increasingly important in a post pandemic world, given the cost constraints that many workplaces are facing. Organizations are also getting leaner and far more stringent as to what training should achieve in terms of measurable outcome. Depending on how good your learning platform is, we’re very lucky that the learning platform that we use from our friends and partners over at Cahoot Learning is incredible. We’re able to track things like learner engagement during the learning process while the training’s happening. We can track learner sentiment, track learner progress, and many other valuable proof points for showing just how well the learner learned as training is happening. But also how well it’s shifting capability. And these four things are incredibly well enabled through digital, not so much through face-to-face in what we see as important.
I’m really intrigued by that fourth point, measurement of learning for proving ROI. Let me expand on that and give you more room to work with. Jumping off from that fourth point, how do you find working with companies when developing that platform for learning and learning experience?
How do we find it or how do we do it?
Both. You can talk about the differences in the companies themselves, what you see are the patterns. And then how you adapt to that with Ripen’s offerings.
The methodology that we use for our client engagements, we feel ensures we get the right start with learners in the best way for our clients and for their workforce overall. And I’m happy to share that this is proprietary, but we talk about our website. The four step process we have is assess, plan, educate, measure. And these are tailored for each client in terms of the steps. But as a general view in our assessment process, the very first step we do, before a client enrolls in our courses, we seek to understand why we’re doing this training? What are we trying to achieve? Why are we doing this upskilling? What are we trying to achieve?
And this includes us understanding the performance or well-being measures that they have used to identify a need for our resilience training. They’ve already tapped into the need. We’re just there exploring what they’ve measured, how they’ve measured it, so that we can then use that as a point for then measuring and improving ROI at the end of our journey. So assess, now from the assessment, if you do that well, you’re then in a better place to do step two, which is planning. And this is where we plan our deployment approach based on this assessment. So every client will have their own needs and challenges and ways of measuring what’s important to them. The plan naturally Will then be customized to the client or to the workforce. And this is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Phil, we were having a really lovely time talking about the student learning experience and we were moving into the corporate experience and measuring, proving ROI through actually introducing digital learning into the mix.
This is Mr. Phil Murphy, and he has had a long career in the Vocational Education and Training Sector, particularly in Victoria, with roles spanning many years in vET and TAFE, from Sessional to Senior Executive. Amongst his many achievements, he is most recognized for leading the creation and operation of the Automotive Centre of Excellence at Bendigo Kangan Institute. And he was instrumental in gathering support from industry and government to develop the state-of-the-art automotive facility that is now called the ACE. He is currently leading the student journey transformation program at BKI, and this is a three to four year program of digitizing the staff and students experience through investing in students, people, systems and processes. So Phil, that last leading sentence puts you in a really, really good spot to actually share a bit with us about that student journey transformation and what you’ve found in your experience working with BKI.
To be clear, we started this journey before the pandemic. We were on a three-to-four year program, which is about digitizing the student journey as much as possible. And moving from a fairly manual face-to-face physical campus delivery, to two different modes of delivery. In line with our strategy, which was about being national, being international, and doing things differently. And I suppose the pandemic was a great accelerator for us. It provided an opportunity for us to do things a bit quicker than we previously did. And just two weeks ago we were in India with our partners, Maruti Suzuki and the Government of Gujarat, the Indian ACE, Automotive Center of Excellence. And India is a powerhouse for the automotive manufacturing world.
We’re the education partner in that process. And so it was really important for us to start thinking about different ways of doing things, because culturally, the dollars that are available for an individual in India are a lot different than what we can do in Australia. We had to work out different modes of doing things. For us it was a national and international sort of process that we needed to go through. We’ve also got, and I think I did hear Matt talking about a number of business sort of corporates who, in our context the national and last year, they were stopped from coming across borders. And so it was important for us that we had alternatives, and we’ve done a lot of work on digital courseware, particularly in our automotive areas.
And we’d started the new student management system program with our partners ReadyTech using the JR-plus programs. It was really important for us to move on this journey. There were all those factors, the market factors, the regulation compliance. And it was interesting just the other day to see a 91-year old person attend the vaccinations center and be turned away, because they hadn’t filled in the digital form work and so they had to go back. We can’t escape it, we know that’s the direction we’ve got to go. And if you want to be competitive too, you just can’t deliver the same old thing that you’ve been delivering in the past.
Inevitably for us it was important. We’re a large organization, so there’s a lot of internal challenges in that as well. Our culture, existing capability and our resource availability. But we put it on a three-to-four year footing this part of it. And I’m sure it’s just going to be an ongoing sort of journey that we’re going to take. Hopefully that gives you a bit of a sense of why we’re doing digital and where we are going, what we need to do in some sense.
All right. Well, I’m going to revisit some of what we’ve already discussed, what Matt and I have already discussed. But just describing it in a different sense yet again is okay. Because on the one hand you have the learners, and their experience putting that top of mind. But on the other hand, if you do work with companies and industry, there’s also that side of it.
I’m curious to hear from you both, how do you marry the two? How do you provide value to the different stakeholders in this digital learning equation?
In terms of working with businesses and corporates, many of them aren’t really over the moon about a certificate or something. The outcomes that we deal with are their return on investment. They want operational improvements, operational excellence. They want to do things differently, they’ve got some regulatory work to be done, some compliance work to be done, but that really won’t improve their business outcome. So working with them, and inevitably in many of those circumstances the business is paying for that. It’s important that I suppose we first sit down with the individual business to discuss the motivations. What are we doing? Where are we going? In terms of the business, and then understanding that, and then through their offices then meeting with individual students to understand as well their motivations, but in line with where the business is going.
And also in that, I suppose that discovery phase, you are trying to understand what the business wants to customize, in particular what’s really important in terms of incorporating their own policies, their own procedures, their own ways of doing things in the training. And usually that’s fairly paramount in where they want to go. In that early phase we then come to some agreement that if we do this program, what is the return on investment? It’s in some situations a really interesting thing. One was a funeral company who had 10 premium caskets on the lawn. They actually wanted 15 premium caskets on the line, completed per month on the line.
It was understanding that sort of business outcome and what it meant for them, and incorporating that in the program, not necessarily the caskets and the dead bodies, but that thinking around operational excellence through the process. I suppose that’s where we first start, that alignment to business goals, business strategies, and business directions. And from then it starts to flow as to where we’ve moved through the business, where that might look. Of course the training intervention isn’t the only thing that makes the return on investment work. There are some other things. We’re a bit of a co-producer in many of those activities.
Matt, do you want to continue the thread?
It’s annoying because the employers are often paying for it. But the “why” for them needs to be positioned differently to how they position the “why” for the client. If I think back to 2019, the key for us back then with digital experience was finding a platform and delivery approaches that would achieve measurable behavior, change outcomes for our learners. So they would actually leave our courses feeling that they had uplifted their resilience for their life and their career advancement, while being able to prove ROI for our clients invested in their workforce well-being and performance. So being able to cover both camps. And so for our clients, they really are excited about the power of the AI and the learner reports we’re able to give them.
And I’m not talking about Big Brother watching learners on their webcam. But we’re able to track in real time how people are feeling about the experience, how they go with activities. And this is the power of digital learning. We can measure real-time learner engagement, how much time are they spending on activities? How much time are they engaging in conversations and discussion threads that are built into our courses? And then I was spending time reporting on capability uplifts based on the completion of tasks and activities, more than just a feedback form at the end of the training experience. That’s what our clients really care about, actually having that proof of ROI around where is well-being? Where is the performance? Where is capability?
But for learners it’s more around the framework we use. It’s a what, why, how outcome. What does the learning experience involve? What’s required of them? What’s required of them when? But what’s not exciting, for them all they care about is the WIIFM, the WIIFM. What’s in it for me? What are the benefits for me doing this course? Why should I care or keep listening? Once you’ve anchored them to the why, and we try to do that as early as possible in the process, an engagement process, is here’s the how. Here’s how it works. Here’s how you can maximize your outcomes. And here’s why this digital course has been anything you’ve done before in digital learning.
And then we anchor them finally to the outcome, the clear and beneficial end result you can expect and will be proud of. And Phil mentioned, most learners care about that certificate. And for us, we’ve got a resilience accreditation that learners can attach to their career resume. But that’s the kind of ultimate outcome that we can present. You’ve got to align the ROI to the strategy of the business, to the measures of the business that they care about. But ultimately engage learners in what they care about.
“How do you decide what the best modes of learning are when you work with a client? For example, one-day, two-day intensives, hybrid of quals, or short courses.”
That’s where COVID actually was quite an interesting break from tradition for some. We had some who, swear by, that it needs to be face-to-face. And we can counsel our clients and customers. There are other ways, I’m sure we’ve talked them through. But sometimes we’ve had one or two who say that’s the way we’re going to do it. Then last year, particularly in Victoria, where the duration was such that you’ve started to create habits, people could do it differently and had to do it differently for a while. You were then able to produce outcomes, similar things to what Matt was saying. But actually show that the outcomes were sometimes better, or that we’re not doing any worse, and we’re good for where they’re going.
It actually caused a mindset change for a number of them, for a number of hours last year. As much as we use education, sometimes we say, “Look, this is the recommendation.” We still hold back. And so if that’s the way it’s going to be then that sort of mode we deliver predominantly. But it has changed. There’s the whole range from a fully-digital blended sort of delivery, back to face-to-face. Again, that goes back to that individual discussion and leaders in business are pretty strong. For that reason they make some of the decisions, and some of them get quite involved in that path.
I think it comes back to assessing that upfront. If you ask the right questions of clients, you can get the insights also. The question is, “Why are we doing this training? What are we trying to achieve? Why are we doing this training? What are we trying to achieve?” If you keep coming back to that, the fundamental shift in behavior and mindsets that you want to create, then the answer will flow from that. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to delivering workforce training, especially not workforce resilience training at scale to organization. So, knowing where additional efforts might be required to do things like bring learners on the journey, before you actually get them in an experience is really critical.
We had a client recently who signed up for our resilience course. They’ve signed up, but we have the courses themselves planned for three months’ time. We’re currently doing a number of actions to get the conversation about resilience started with key stakeholders, just to bring them on the journey. Before, as you decided, the best approach and leveraging those conversations with leaders around getting the conversation started around resilience so that we can decide what’s the best learning journey for putting their people through a course on this resilience thing that they don’t yet understand.
Once you’ve got the plan in place, you can then get clear on the best way to educate. And as I said earlier, digital education delivers incredible results when done well. So really we need to be focusing on educating people in a suitable time and a suitable space for their workforce operating rhythm. And every business is different, so asking the right questions around, “What are we trying to achieve? Why are we trying to achieve it?” should help figure out the student and time and space. What I mean by that is, do we deliver learning over weeks or days? Do we deliver learning in a space that’s in a room or as close to in a room as we can get? Or is a digital bitesize learning approach going to be the best outcome?
The next question from the chat is, “How do you build collaboration within a cohort in an online environment?”
If we think about the course activities that are available in a digital learning environment, we have course activities in digital training now that would previously have only been possible in a face-to-face training environment. To give you some examples of our work, we’ve got activities where people post digital post-it notes into a digital whiteboard for brainstorming activities that people can then comment and like each other’s posted comments. Anyone that’s worked with this system knows, I was trying to comment and nobody wants that, it’s not true. But you can do that digitally.
We’ve got asynchronous group discussions that enable people to participate in group discussions whenever and wherever is suitable to their workload and their time zone. People can be in different time zones and still engage in conversations when they’re logged in. And we have things like live webinars for live group discussions and knowledge sharing, which are actually built into the course platform that we use, not as a separate Zoom or Microsoft Teams platform, but it’s actually built in there. There’s some really great things in digital learning now that were previously only thought possible with face-to-face.
Phil, there was also a specific question directed at you because of your experience with ACE. How would you recreate hands-on skills online in your opinion? And collaboration is included in that obviously.
I had to do that in many ways. Just back quickly to Matt, the other thing that you’ve got within Teams and within a lot of software now is those breakout groups. You can have your group of 20, and you could form some breakouts. In terms of the practical, it’s been a difficult one for us because simulation in many of those areas is not cheap. It’s not easy to do. I suppose what we’ve done in many of our instances, and because we see the essential difference of VET training, is about the doing, and is about the hands-on and the practical, and that’s what makes us different to a lot of other sectors, is how do we best prepare our people in many of our environments for sessions when they come and do a really in-depth week or a weekend or something where they get really hands-on within that.
Not that we’re over the top at the moment, but I’m sure there are a number of options out there and people can come forward with those. But it’s been hard work for us too. We can work for a number of simulations. We can have the webinar, you can have the demonstrations and students demonstrating particular activities online to us. But we’re still in a touch and feel mode.
As the ancient stoics used to say, it’s not about learning the lesson, it’s about practicing a lesson. And the way we try to develop practical learning, even in our resilience, because it’s called a resilience bootcamp, we’re even piloting things around virtual and virtual reality to simulate environments. The four step approach we use and teach mostly is educate, demonstrate, do, reflect. Educate is about explaining or educating someone on a concept or skill or tool, which must be in a way that is relevant to their real world. And it provides examples of stories, or here’s the how-to that they can relate it to. So the educate piece is first.
But then you’ve got to demonstrate how to apply the concept of skill at all, so they feel ready to apply it for the bills. To do that you have to provide them with clear instructions and steps on how they go away and apply the concept of skills all for themselves in their real world setting. But there’s a step that people often miss, so educate, demonstrate too. The final step in learning is reflection. Bringing learners back together with a framework for reflection. And part of the reflection post is used to consider if they share their reflection back with others, if they do that privately just with the educators and the facilitators, or is it as a group, if social learning is suitable. It’s still not to be cracked, but hopefully educate, demonstrate, do, reflect, and thinking about bringing the practical application is going to be really helpful.
It’s interesting because I reflect on the ACE we’ve created in India and a number of trips to India in the automotive industry. I go to local dealerships and the turnover is 40% within the first three months. And they employ a lot of civil engineers, a lot of engineers in the environment and the realities. The practical experience isn’t so much part of that vocational experience. The program that we’re doing there is a lot of theoretical, but withdrawn to this center to undertake that practical. But you look at it as digital in the sense that it’s using digital tools that you do within those sorts of environments when you’re analyzing a car and so on and so forth.
And that’s going to be the key difference for those young people compared to the current. It’s not an easy one. We’ve sort of worked through it. I suppose those physical, the mechanicals, carpentry, brick lines and so on and so forth. And in some areas where people have done it, you can do things like meeting a number of the soft skills, which is the “why” of the future. In reality, you’re going to have to run meetings on Teams. You’re going to have to do the communications and negotiations through that. It will allow itself to work better in some areas than others, I suspect to complete a number of those practical skills.
Well, we’ve got a couple of minutes left and I’m going to put you both on the spot and ask you for a closing statement, a really, really short closing sentence.
People are used to engaging socially. Most people spend more time socializing on their phones, in social media platforms these days, than in real forms. Looking at what works in those sorts of environments, how do we engage people socially in digital environments, is really going to crack the nut, for whether it’s practical or theory based skills training. Social learning, we forget that as children, we learned the majority of our life lessons, we watch it and observe it socially. How can we build social into digital throughout that stick? Crack, then the nuts keep cracking.
I think it’s what happened last year. Let’s not forget that it’s enabled us to do things like this today. Things like a lot of increased digital learning. Let’s not go back into our shells and progress on the journey that we’re on in ‘19, what we did in ‘20. And I’m sure Matt, there’ll be things in resilience. But in digital education, what we did last year from preps to the end of all types of study was really significant and should not be forgotten. How can we, particularly in the digital space, use what we’ve done to do the next acceleration in this next year or so, rather than let’s take five years to do it, which may well have happened if we hadn’t had last year. Last year wasn’t all bad.
That’s a perfect ending sentiment. Thank you so very much, Matt and Phil.