This article is a contribution by NTUC LearningHub. Any extracts should be attributed to the author. 22 April 2020.
Training workers and saving jobs amid the COVID-19 outbreak top the agenda of both individuals and employers alike, as evidenced in the increase in course enrolments from January to March 2020 at NTUC LearningHub (NTUC LHUB).
However, with the recent ‘circuit breaker’ restrictions limiting in-person training initiatives, learning must continue in order to support industry resilience to emerge stronger from the downturn.
In response to the recent unprecedented circumstances, the leading Continuing Education and Training (CET) provider has implemented Virtual Live Classrooms (VLCs) swiftly yet effectively to ensure that training remains available and accessible to all workers.
Popular courses at LHUB such as SkillsFuture for Digital Workplace, business analytics, service redesign and project management fundamentals have been speedily transitioned to VLC formats to cater to the heightened demand without significant delay.
VLCs in adult education, a new trend in Singapore’s CET scene, come with challenges that impact learning experiences and outcomes.
LHUB CEO Kwek Kok Kwong shared five ways to successfully transition to real-time, online modes of learning:
Consider trainees’ profiles and needs
Designing an effective online pedagogy to train workers of varying profiles requires empathy as much as it involves science.
“From PMETs to rank-and-file workers, trainees’ backgrounds vary when it comes to levels of digital awareness and their familiarisation of the dynamics of real-time online learning.
“Both curriculum design teams and trainers have to be particularly conscious in planning training methods for diverse trainee profiles. Some might be more accustomed to in-person training and new to virtual classrooms. The key is in the lesson preparation and the anticipation of potential challenges that trainees may face.
“Importantly, ensure ahead of time that the learners have the right equipment and set-up for the course requirements. For example, some courses in Excel and data analytics require specific computer programmes, so trainers must ascertain that learners have both the right software and hardware well before the start of the VLC session, and CET providers should ramp up their technical support where possible.”
Adapt lesson formats for remote engagement
“There is a temptation for learners to succumb to distractions and disengage in virtual classes if the lessons are not effectively designed for this channel,” says Mr Kwek. “To capture and hold short attention spans, adjust training formats to include interactive learning experiences. Activities such as gamified quizzes, virtual break-out rooms and short polls help to stimulate learners and encourage active learning. Online quizzes also give trainers a sense of whether the learners understand the content in real-time.”
Be mindful of trainees’ remote environment and overall experience
On top of having to dedicate prolonged screen time for virtual classes, when learners are in a remote environment or in isolation mode, the learning experience becomes invariably different as compared to a physical classroom setting.
“Be concise in each leg of the lesson and take regular but shorter breaks. Trainers should remind learners to relax their eyes from time to time and encourage physical movements such as shoulder shrugs and various stretches during breaks so that they would be able to re-energise and re-focus.”
Explain the new learning platform and virtual classroom dynamics
“It is important to help learners familiarise themselves with the new virtual learning environment. Before the commencement of the course, trainers should provide a comprehensive introduction to using the VLC platform and explain guidelines and ground rules that enable successful interactions. For example, demonstrate how to use the ‘raise hands’ function, or use ‘class chatrooms’ to input questions for trainers to answer at the end of each section. Even small details could improve the overall experience, such as positioning the web-camera and the light source so that the face is clearly visible to the trainer and wearing a headset to block off ambient noises.”
Fully equip trainers to carry out effective and engaging virtual lessons
Training in virtual settings is a different skillset on its own. For this reason, trainers must be fully equipped with the right skills and mindsets to enhance the quality of their training and interactions.
“A trainers’ ability to navigate the dynamics of virtual interactions may make or break the entire VLC learning experience. Hence, guiding them in making a pivotal paradigm shift, preparing them for potential challenges and scenarios in a VLC setting, and providing them with the right resources should be key priorities in making the transition from in-person training as smooth-sailing as possible. Usually, in face-to-face settings, trainers are able to get their trainees’ ‘vibes’ by observing their facial expressions and body language. In a virtual environment, they are restricted to a digital montage of the trainees’ faces in varying quality, angles and window sizes. Trainers need to develop a new sensory and scanning pattern so that they can get back their gut feeling in their interpersonal interactions with trainees.”