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CAN CLASSROOM TEACHERS TEACH ONLINE?

By John Mason

Principal, ACS Distance Education  www.acs.edu.au

 

Is there a skills gap in classroom teachers who are now conducting online training?

Classroom teachers being thrown into online learning have a steep learning curve to deliver effective online content and effective learning. How can they transition to this modality and continue to ensure students are motivated and participating in quality learning? Are traditional educational facilities equipped to deliver online learning?

Where are the gaps?

Given the recent and immediate demand for teachers who traditionally teach classes in a classroom or lecture setting, to an online environment, many teachers have been thrown in the deep end. The transition has not been a gradual shift, but rather an immediate demand, given the shutdown of many educational facilities during lockdowns. The question is, do traditional classroom teachers have the skillset required to deliver online learning and how can they make the transition smoother? What kind of skills will they need to deliver online learning more effectively?

Teaching in a classroom requires not only a different skillset, but also a different mindset, to what is needed for online teaching. To take a good classroom teacher and expect them to be a good online teacher, is akin to taking a good carpenter and expecting them to be a good furniture maker. Both may be highly skilled tradespeople, but that does not mean they can do each other’s jobs without more learning and development.

With experience, classroom teachers encounter daily challenges in a particular type of environment, in which they may communicate with students as much through body language as through verbal and written communication. The expertise of a teacher is improved in a classroom with years of experience. Good classroom teachers develop their teaching skills and build up a great repertoire of techniques to use in all the different classroom situations they encounter with experience. They learn to observe and interpret the reactions of students. They can detect students who need help and respond accordingly and promptly. They notice that some students may be more alert than others, and at times some students might display signs of stress or illness. They can intervene providing advice when needed. In a classroom though, a single teacher is challenged by needing to communicate directly with many different individuals with different needs, who all respond in different ways, each time they talk. Communication is one person to many people. Students cannot avoid participation if motivation is low. Teachers can detect low motivation, react and adjust what they are doing.

Teachers are trained to have a classroom mindset

They may be good at detecting problems and solving them by reading a student’s body language, and communicating face to face, but that just doesn’t translate to online education anymore than speaking in the French language translates to speaking in the English language.

Teachers in an online situation, however, are more likely:

  • Communicating one to one, not one to many, as they do in a classroom
  • Have lost the non-verbal cues that can help them see whether a student is motivated and engaged or disengaged and not-interested.
  • Often working from a home environment rather than standing in a well equipped classroom in front of lots of students
  • Using technology they may not be fully skilled or equipped to use.
  • Working on different time-frames and perhaps not under the pressure of completing work at a particular time
  • Often unable to react in real time to learning problems
  • Will need to find different ways to communicate or demonstrate something that may be difficult for the student to understand.
  • Communicating more with writing or videos, language needs to be straight and direct, so that it does not become misinterpreted.

 

Students in an online situation are:

  • Will have to motivate themselves and manage their own time to study more.
  • Able to avoid participation if they are less motivated or don’t understand the study materials.
  • High risk of avoiding studying or dropping out if motivation drops too low.
  • In their home environment; which for some students can be more comfortable, reducing stress, and making them more receptive to learning.
  • Learning to use technology or web-platforms they may have previously used.
  • Do not have the support or distractions of other students in the class.
  • Less time sensitive

 

Online Learning Needs to be Different

Supporting classroom teachers transitioning to online learning should be supported by materials, systems and resources that are designed around online learning at a faculty or institutional level. Support for teachers in the transition should also be provided including timing and motivational techniques that are effective for use in online learning.

An online course can largely replicate the learning of a classroom course, but it must do it in different ways. For an online course, the study guide replaces the classes; and it needs to be seen exactly that way.  Classroom teachers have an inbuilt tendency to view online study guides in the same way they view handouts, textbooks, or sometimes curriculum documents. They are none of these.

  • Handouts, textbooks and curriculum documents are written materials that are used to provide information which the classroom teacher presents.
  • Online study guides are instructions for students to follow. They need provide a sequence of learning experiences, orchestrated to optimise learning. A good study guide applies educational psychology so the student’s encounters with ideas and information is carefully managed and repeated in varied contexts, at predetermined points through the learning experience. Study guides reinforce, strengthen, broaden and deepen learning as the student progresses through them.
  • Study guides will need to keep the student’s interest and motivation by offering information and interactive activities that encourages the student to keep progressing and continue with their studies.

Online teaching requires an intimate appreciation of how remote learning can work, the unique tools and techniques available to make online work, and the intended learning pathway which a student is following in their study guide.

Providing students with a one-way communication (you just talking at them- in the form of a study guide or a video) will be less motivating and will result in a less-engaged student. Where there is an opportunity for the student to ask questions and receive constructive feedback on the work they are doing (whether they are on the right track or need some more help), this will also encourage student motivation and engagement.

It takes time and commitment for a classroom teacher to reach their full potential as an online teacher.  They must start by appreciating the massive differences in the two approaches to teaching. If they have an extensive understanding of educational psychology and a willingness to adapt, they may change faster; but for most classroom teacher, it may take twelve months or more to make a reasonable transition.

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EDUCATION INDUSTRY IN TURMOIL, OR JUST EVOLVING?

By John Mason

Principal, ACS Distance Education  

Whilst many parts of the higher education industry are in turmoil, this does not mean all of the industry is in decline as a whole. Some parts of the industry are experiencing rapid growth.

How then can the industry evolve as a whole to suit learners and employer demands?

The $20 billion dollars in educational exports that Australian universities bring in annually have been jepordised due to travel restrictions and classroom teaching shutdowns that we have seen in 2020 during the pandemic. There are other factors that have been troubling the higher education system before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In the News

There have been many reports and negative newspaper articles that have emerged this year on higher and vocational education and the troubles the industry is experiencing. For example, The Guardian (Australia) had the following articles in August 2020:

  • TAFE system crumbling from neglect and policy vandalism report warns
  • University students who fail half of their first year courses could lose federal funding
  • University of Melbourne cuts 450 jobs due to projected losses of $1b over three years

From ABC News 18/8/20

  • University underpayment so rampant tutors ‘instructed to do a poor job’ to avoid unpaid hours, former staff say. – Ten Australian universities are now facing the issue of worker underpayment

From Campus Review August/July

  • AEU accuses productivity commission of putting profits above TAFE’s future
  • Australian Universities are in turmoil and that’s not good for VET

Note: Similar alarming reports are being seen in the UK, USA and many other countries.

WHY THE TURMOIL?

To understand what is happening, let’s consider how things have changed in the wider world. 

  • Governments have budgetary demands today that simply did not exist in the past. Costs associated with health care, social welfare and fighting terrorism have all increased. To fund increasing costs, governments either need to increase taxes, or decrease spending elsewhere.
  • Colleges and universities have generated income from export education for decades; but having educated students from Asian and South American countries, many of the developing countries are now establishing their own local colleges and universities. Together with the impact of a global COVID pandemic, the demand for export education is diminishing.
  • Employer demand for degree educated staff is also decreasing. In the 1970’s when less people completed university degrees, the skills of a university graduate were in high demand and low supply. In contrast today, with so many more having a university education, those skills are in high supply and lower demand. Research shows employers seek knowledge, skills, experience and passion; but the need for a degree has diminished.
  • Change is faster than ever.  Large, long established institutions, and bureaucratic education systems are inherently slow to change, and are often just not adapting fast enough, given the time spent to implement policy change and adapt course content.
  • Traditional education  institutions have become white elephants.– Costly infrastructure (lecture rooms, laboratories, offices) were needed to deliver courses in the 20th century. The advent of technology has negated the need for such costs; allowing new more lightly funded institutions to emerge and be far more competitive.
  • Globalisation – In the past most people would attend colleges and universities close to home; today anyone can study online with any online college in any country. Cultures have blended, financial systems have become integrated
  • Politicisation – Education has become politicised in many countries. In the USA, Trump threatens withdrawing funding because universities are too left wing. In many countries, governments campaign on the basis of funding or changing education; but with little appreciation of what is causing problems nor how those problems might be attended to. Old, failing management and development systems are frequently funded and applied to review and change education. Governments are seen to allocate money, which bureaucrats spend over a year or two on studying a problem and recommending solutions; which are then funded a year later for action. The net result is often that changes are made in response to a problem, many years after the problem was identified.

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

There is no doubt that the need to learn will continue to be important, but where and how people learn is in a state of rapid change. There will continue to be opportunities to work in education, but the education industry may be morphing from an “education” industry, into a “learning” services industry.

Nature of Education

The scope and nature of the education industry is changing. Employer driven needs is driving, and the trends appear to be:

  • The importance of the qualification is decreasing as is the importance of formal accreditation systems.
  • Professional development is becoming more important – because of change, it is more important to keep updating learning. Professional and industry bodies are becoming more focussed on the provision of PD, and in some instances, not as focussed on foundation/entry level training.
  • Passion, experience and motivation are increasingly important factors
  • Educational offerings becoming diversified - Blended learning, online, telelearning, video, group training apprenticeships, PBL  - innovation and creative thinking are generating new approached constantly, some more successful than others.
  • Educational psychology and human motivation must be more of a factor in shaping the future of what education looks like in the future.

Changing Ownership

In the past, education was mostly owned and operated by public institutions. That has been changing. Independent private colleges have expanded their market share and also offered courses that larger institutions do not and in different modalities. Big tech & multinational companies have been entering the education market space and gaining a large market share. Small and medium size private institutions have been expanding market share but there has been a lot of volatility. This includes the thousands of private RTO’s in Australia have started up and closed down since 2000.

 CONCLUSION

The education industry in is morphing into a more diverse “learning industry”. It is volatile, largely unpredictable, driven by a mixture of unethical opportunists focused on the short term, through to more ethical innovators; together with many well established institutions, some taking bold and sometimes successful steps to adapt to the volatility, together with others who are lost in the volatility and unable to adapt to the new and emerging world of education. Matching needs and demands of employers and businesses, will help shape what the “Learning Industry” will look like in the future.

Date Added: 10/10/2019
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Please download here the 2018-2019 President's Report in which John Mason provides a thorough overview of the education industry through his eyes. Enjoy. 

IARC Presidents Report October 2019.pdf

by John Mason, President International Approval and Registration Centre (IARC), Board Member Australian Garden Council, Principal ACS Distance Education, Publisher and Author.

 


Date Added: 19/08/2019
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The 2019 AGM will be held on Wednesday 9th October at 18.30 in Australia and 09.30 in the UK. 

You can download the draft agenda for the meeting here. The final agenda will be issued to all members via email.


This year we celebrate 20 years in education quality management and we encourage you to come along and get involved in this event. 

We will host the following: 

Achievement Showcase Event where members can share their most positive experiences in business and education. 

Learning Trends professional development workshop. 

Roundtable discussion on "Why micro-learning matters?"

Networking and social event - meet the team behind what we do.  

Contact us to find out more 

[email protected] 
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The Management Board have the responsibility for the directing the organisation’s business, ensuring it is well managed and delivering the outcomes for which it has been set up.  The Board works collaboratively at problem solving and in decision making in projects and on development plans, which are then undertaken primarily by the International Business Manager.

We are delighted to welcome the following people onto the Committee Board 

 
Ciarda Barrett, Chief Academic Officer, Further Learning Group
Ron Gui, Managing Director, AREMT/SEAPHECC
Sarika Singh, Country Manager (Australia), Further Learning Group
Marie Beermann, Senior Academic Officer, Australian Correspondence Schools
Liz See, Founder Get Threaded® Australia


All posts on the Management Board provide leadership on the following:

setting the strategic direction to ensure the activities of the organisation are in-line with member expectations and needs
ensuring the effective management and taking necessary steps to improve procedures where necessary
monitor activities to ensure they stay in line with the vision and mission and founding principles and values or the organisation

 

Date Added: 19/03/2019
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Learning changes a person, and in doing so makes them a more effective worker. Getting a qualification is not necessarily learning – sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.  Having a qualification means you have passed an exam. Like a drivers test, that means you drove a car at one point in time well enough to be assessed as competent, but we all see plenty of incompetent drivers who have their licence.

Authentic learning isn’t just about knowing facts. Anyone can open a book, read how to grow a plant for example, and tell you what they had read. A properly educated horticulturist can look at a plant species they have not seen before, and determine it’s plant family, then knowing that, deduce an appropriate way of growing it, taking account of  the resources available, and in the context at hand. To learn anything well takes time and reinforcement. 

If you encounter a piece of information, and understand it, it will enter your short-term memory. You may well recall that a few hours or even days later but without reinforcement, it won’t be retained in long term memory. To ensure retention, the content needs to be covered and explored in a variety of contexts, you may not see the full range of applications for that knowledge. It is perfectly feasible for people to do a course and be assessed before information evaporates from short term memory. Having qualifications achieved this way may look good,  but they don’t make you a more effective worker or an expert! 

To achieve proper, meaningful learning – for yourself, or in your employees, you must encounter what you study in different contexts, at different times, and embed your learning properly in long term memory. Use your school, the school staff and the support resources available from IARC to achieve this. 


Extract of a blog post from acseduonline by IARC President John Mason. 
https://www.acseduonline.com/blog-managing-staff-263.aspx

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Vacant Positions – Experienced or Aspiring Education Professionals

Have you been seeking an opportunity to develop professionally? Do you have 2-3 hours each month to get involved in something new which demonstrates your commitment to quality in education? We need you!



Please contact us to find out more 

[email protected] 
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Communicate, Connect and Collaborate

For genuine success, there may be nothing more beneficial than the development of a positive relationship with the school's support and academic staff. Relationship is the context in which all learning takes place.

Encourage learners to connect by opening lines of communication with them. Be compassionate toward your learners, make you school a warm and welcoming place to be. Provide learners with options for communication whether that means conducting online webinars, arranged skype calls, timely emails, structured feedback systems, text messaging, anonymous evaluation tools, phone calls, online messaging services, or social media platforms. For the most efficient communication, use the method of contact preferred by your learners.

Don't shrink away from difficult conversations. If you go into an interaction believing that everyone should think the same way or agree with your strategy or agenda, you will never learn and therefore never improve. Staff who can communicate and carry out constructive disagreement are a great benefit to the school and students.

Encourage learners to connect with their tutor or mentor. Learners who fail to have their questions answered or concerns addressed often fall behind. An issue which could be minor can become quite significant and the learner can struggle to move past it. A second great point about connecting with tutors is many of them are industry professionals, so it is likely they will know more than what is presented in the course notes or materials. This relationship has other benefits too - it can be utilised for developing professional networks, or a mentor can be a great person to write an academic reference for the learner.

Integrate social media and online forums for your learners to collaborate. Online learners may have opted out of conforming to current education ideologies, however, sharing experiences with academic peers gives that comforting sense of not being a lone learner when the going gets tough!

 

Establish a Good Workspace and Stay Organised

This is quite personal indeed as people have different ways of working productively, and learning can take place in every environment and setting imaginable. It is wise to remember the individual learning needs and traits of your learners.

Simple advice for serious learning is to create a space which is quiet and free from distraction. Avoid online distractions from social media or videos. Suggest a physical space is set aside in the home or workplace, where learners routinely go to focus when progress is in order.

So what does a good workspace look like?

  • An app on a phone?
  • A laptop on the dining table?
  • A communal study area in the local library?
  • A quiet corner in a bustling café?
  • A large coffee and a powerful desktop?

My advice in terms of staying organised is keep files in order. Save and save again! There can be nothing quite like the mind blowing experience of working meticulously on an assignment or project to then lose work through a power outage for example, or to accidentally fail to save the newest version through fatigue. Students need to be encouraged to keep their work in order and backed-up too!

 

Motivation

Learners must make decisions for themselves. As an educator all you can do on this one is give advice. Excellent leadership can initiate motivation, but I firmly believe the best form of motivation is the intrinsic form as this brings the best educational outcomes. External motivation usually involves some state of pressure.

Some simple tips for your learners:

Give yourself some simple rewards on completion of a simple contract with yourself (i.e after 1 hour of focused study time, relax for 15 minutes doing something you enjoy, or move away from your screen). Consider a balance between responsibility and reward.

Start slow at disciplining yourself. Study for short periods and gradually expand the time by 5 or 10 minutes per study session. Make a schedule and stick to it!

Make progress obvious by keeping a checklist. Let's say for example there are 5 lessons or 5 classes to attend. Make and keep the checklist of 'classes' close by. As you mark off each lesson or class as complete, it can become very motivating - that accomplishment sustains the motivation.

Ask for tutor or mentor interaction and feedback. Work with feedback and suggestions and make time to reflect on what's going well and where the challenges are. If we do this we can turn things around and a sense of achievement can become a motivator too. Don't ruminate on the negative. Listen carefully and take on what you can and then move on. Write a reflective journal. Write things down to organise your thoughts.

Ask yourself 'What does your best day look like? How does it feel when you get to the end of the day and you have achieved what you set out to?'

 

Time, Time, Precious Time

One of the biggest challenges I hear from students is not them failing to get started on their course but finding time to keep going when life gets in the way. It can be hard to set deadlines for study in entirely self-paced and self-directed but it can be done.

Help your students to recognise the importance of scheduled study time. Multi-hour blocks of time that can be devoted entirely to classwork or learning. The aim should be to stick rigidly to this schedule. A lack of regular class meetings is more (not less) of a reason to establish a consistent work schedule.

Simple advice is to set up reminders on a phone or other device. The first reminder can be when learning is due to start. Reminders work for all sorts of important time/date points. Examples include, booking examination dates or assignment submission deadlines if they exist. Simply looking ahead over a period of 3, 6 or 12 months can be very useful. Learners should be encouraged to determine which learning outcomes will have been covered by which date and ensure the specific timeline allows for that realistically. In short, learners need to plan according to other important personal or professional commitments! Educators know, there is no point planning to submit a final project at the same time as their boss expects a major workplace audit or other enormous responsibility to be attended to.

The joyous nature of most online courses is the flexibility. This can work for or against online learners. Become the most efficient with time!

 

Expectations and goals.

Okay so it can be worth establishing some ground rules with your learners from the start. How much time can you dedicate to supporting them and how much do you want to push them to grow as a self-manager? Ultimately, some learners will need you more than others, however sending emails back and forth becomes tiresome and making phone-calls can become unnecessarily time consuming. It is wise to put your students on the road to success without hand-holding.

My suggestion - advise your students to write down their big picture goal. Then they should work out a few steps they'll take to get there. Say a list of 4-5 processes they'll go through at most. Then ask the student to identify the most challenging of all of the steps. Ask them to let you know.

So the learner has now

  1. Carried out some reflection, and
  2. Prepared themselves for a potential hurdle ahead by seeking your help 

The fab thing is now you can help the person find a solution and stay on track to that big picture. You have stepped in and offered support (within a set boundary – prescriptive helping) and they’ve had a chance to develop some new tools in identifying weakness and asking for help.

They feel assisted by you, but driven and empowered to overcome the hurdles. This is known as catalytic coaching in some circles, however, your students won’t look at it that way. They're off to a great start!

 

This article was designed to give some ideas to boost learner engagement and help improve educational outcomes.

 

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IARC President’s Report September 2018

by John Mason President IARC, Board Member Australian Garden Council, Principal ACS Distance Education, Publisher and Author.


The 2017-2018 year has been a difficult year for many IARC members, with political and legislative changes, particularly in the UK and Australia impacting adversely on many of our members. In response to a changing education landscape, it has become a landmark year for IARC itself requiring us to make a series of changes to adjust to a world that is changing faster than ever, yet remain focussed on delivering outcomes in line with our vision, mission, values and principles. Economic, political and social change has created a very different world to what existed when we were founded in 1999. It is necessary for IARC to respond to those changes.

Despite challenges faced by many members in the sector, mostly in Australia, IARC remains resilient.

Here’s some key information to note:

  • Our trading name has changed to International Approval and Registration Centre
  • We have phased out course accreditation for NEW applicants only.We are currently exploring proposals to replace the previous system, with a Standards for Continuing Professional Development (CDP) Courses or providing members with an IARC Quality Award.
  • After 9 years of service as Secretary, Jade Sciascia has moved from the position of Secretary based in Australia, to become Business Manager operating from Stirling in Scotland. She is working to increase the presence and reputation of IARC in the UK.
  • The Secretary in Australia is Sarah Redman and continues to support IARC’s formal obligations.
  • Much of our efforts this year have been devoted to helping members with information related to General Data Protection Act 2018 (GDPR privacy law) changes in the UK and beyond. IARC too has been impacted by GDPR with the annihilation of our mailing list subscribers.
  • Additionally, the Tertiary Education and Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) Act 2011, amendment August 2017, presented litigation cases for some of our members. This change to education law in Australia has had an enormous impact on private education, our members and on our business. Responding to the amendment has cost IARC financially with staff resources deployed.It is noted that hours spent on IARC business increased threefold since December 2017 – a significant and unexpected cost.
  • We have redeveloped and launched a more modern web site over 2017/18. This continues to be our main platform and work continues. We have made further additions in respect of GDPR opt-ins and privacy requirements.
  • The traffic on our web site has stayed consistent (there was a dramatic fall in December when we launched the new site) but it has recovered to almost 1000 visits per month. Our bounce rate continues to fall. Our membership enquiry rate has returned to a steady level, after also seeing a very quiet spell during Quarter 1, 2018.
  • We have reactivated our Facebook page and LinkedIn group, acknowledging the ongoing worth of social media.

Membership Update

We have a total of 74 members – this includes all categories of membership. Full fee paying members, honorary members and subsidiary memberships.  This is an increase of 7%, from 69 in September 2017. 

  • There are 2 prospective member applications being worked on at present. 
  • There were a total of 12 new members (including 6 subsidiaries of current members).
  • IARC rejected an application, which was later successful at appeal.
  • IARC rejected 3 member applications during 2017-2018, none of which went to appeal.
  • IARC lost 5 members in total for the following 2 reasons: the schools ceased to operate or there were staff changes at the school and new management decided not to renew.
  • We terminated the memberships of 2 persistent non-payers.
  • We wrote off a total of $3688 in ‘bad debt’.
  • There are 7 members who are currently considered non-financial with invoices unpaid for the 2018-19 member’s fees.

Our most significant change this year has been a renaming of our organisation to better reflect our evolving purpose. The role of formal accreditation systems has become increasingly unsettled in many developed countries, while at the same time credibility of individual institutions has been increasing in importance.

Networking between different institutions has been growing. There has been global growth in “micro-qualifications” or shorter courses. Informal and non-formal learning is widely expected term coined by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP)  but decreasing enrolments in degrees and diplomas in many countries across the board. Of course there are exceptions to this trend, however on all reports we have been seeing and through the strength of our own connections, formal education systems have been facing financial, quality and political stresses in the UK, Australia, the USA and other countries.

While this may initially sound pessimistic, the current volatility in the education industry also offers opportunities. Perhaps short term opportunities for short term operators to capitalise on the disruption, but much more importantly, long term opportunities for those who have the foresight, commitment and capability of rebuilding an education system into something that is far more effective than what we might have seen for many decades.  I don’t know with certainty what the future may look like, but I do know it will be markedly different to the present.

With warmest wishes,
John Mason

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