Over the last year we watched the COVID-19 pandemic change everything about our lives. The way we live, work and study has changed, and will likely never be the same. And now, as we enter yet another lockdown, we thought we would take a step back and look at how you can navigate your RTO through the COVID era.
While many industries have suffered the negative effects of social distancing and repeated lockdowns, the VET sector has found itself in the unique position to offer a sense of optimism as many used this time for self-improvement. Distance learning made it possible for those who would be otherwise unable to study or learn a new skill.
As things continue to change, those in the VET community may be looking for ways to keep up with the new digital expectations. We wanted to offer helpful resources as well as some ideas on what you can do in your RTO to adapt and stay current with the times.
New Distance Learning Guidelines from ASQA
In an effort for VET providers to continue offering learning services for their students, many have turned to distance learning. It is fantastic that ASQA have responded to this current climate and is supportive of these adaptive measures. ASQA has published a new website section outlining compliance guidelines for these arrangements.
The new guidelines around assessment cover distance delivery methods, demonstrating practical skills, workplace observations, third party evidence, simulated workplaces, mandatory work placement, trainer to student ratios and authenticity of assessment.
It can feel like a daunting task to completely change the way assessments are created and administered in an online space, but there are solutions. Assessors can customise assessments based on the requirements of a unit of competency, provide clear instructions and obtain verification of a student’s understanding to ensure fairness. Online assessment software can offer total visibility, retention and compliance peace of mind.
New Learning Opportunity for Students: Microcredentials
As an RTO, now is a great time to look into offering ‘microcredentials’, skills based qualifications that are broken down into small blocks of learning.
There are major advantages for learning institutions that offer microcredentials:
- Re-enrolment and improved completion rate for students;
- Generate more rich information on your students’ pathways by gathering data on each learning experience they select;
- The opportunity for you to build your RTO’s brand organically with a far greater reach. When digital-credentials, sometimes called badges, are awarded with the microcredential, students often share them on their social and professional network pages, like Facebook and LinkedIn. This creates a powerful endorsement for the issuer of the badge.
In a world where skills quickly become redundant and new skills are needed, microcredentials seem to be a likely contender in finding the solution.
Marketing your RTO
You may work in an RTO with an online space for learning and assessment and are are looking for ways to attract those that are currently considering study options. We have a few ideas for ways to reach out to them, specifically direct marketing, blogging and social engagement.
Keep a list of all your prospective students. Using a Customer Relationship Management System, like Mailchimp, offers a dynamic space for storing contact details and creating emails. Email campaigns are an extremely effective way to reach out to a large audience. Just be sure to use an enticing subject line and include as much targeted content as possible. The more it resonates with the reader’s needs and interests, the higher the response rate will be.
Blogs are a great way to reach potential students as people are spending more time online, searching for content. This has created an opportunity to share information about you and your courses.
When blogging, make sure to focus on topics that are current and relevant to your target market and their persona. In the current climate this might include courses that have high employability on completion and courses for the predicted in demand jobs for the next 12-24 months. And don’t forget to include links on your blogs to the enrolment pages for your courses. Not only will this provide a call to action for anyone reading the blog, but it will help improve your website’s SEO.
Social pages are a great way to interact directly with potential students and provides a platform for staying top of mind. You can use your social pages to share informative, entertaining and “shareable” content and increase website traffic. Targeted social advertising is another way to get your message in front of a large group of potential students. Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and LinkedIn all offer business services information to help you get started.
Keeping Remote Learners Engaged
Once you have established your online space you’ll need to find a way to support your learners as they transition to distance learning. This can be especially challenging if your students are not tech savvy or they were hard to engage during face-to-face learning. Luckily, we have come up with some tips on how to keep remote students engaged and tuned in.
It’s well known that the most important element in distance learning is creating and maintaining clear channels for communication. Students may struggle without regular contact from instructors and peers. A couple ways you can achieve this is by:
- Creating a centralised “hub” where students can go to look for up-to-date information
- Keeping in touch with students via regular emails
- Using group messaging tools to allow students to communicate with one another
Encourage students to embrace their new individual learning space by engaging with interactive content such as online texts, videos, podcasts, etc. to use as study material. Create opportunities for interactive learning by assigning projects that students can complete at home.
Stay connected by creating video tutorials and lessons. Using webinar software like Zoom can allow you to create a virtual classroom, in real time, or by recording your lessons for students to watch in their own time. Either way, it will help students to feel included and connected. (Idea here – Host a zoom meeting for all students to attend from their home. They can all share their thoughts and answer questions with use of polls, quizzes, marking up images on the screen and so on.)
Creating self-assessment opportunities will encourage students to reflect on their own learning and performance, set goals and create action plans. Being responsible for their own learning will help them become more autonomous learners and gain awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses. Using a checklist will provide a framework for self-assessment and keep students on track and invested in their learning journey.