When working with training organisations to plan and develop their blended delivery model I often find that they haven’t thought much beyond getting learning content online. In actual fact staff development is the most important aspect of achieving good blended delivery. The first thing that always seems to come to mind when staff development is discussed is how to use the functionality of a learning management system (LMS), or other type of online learning portal, and the creating of online learning content. Both of these are of course important, however you can be equipped with the knowledge of how a learning portal works and you can have some brilliant content, but whether your learners progress, are well supported through their course, and feedback that they’ve had a positive learning experience is another matter. Whether face to face training or online learning it is the pedagogical skills of the teacher that make the difference between a positive or negative experience for the learner.
When it comes to funded provision, as well as the learner and employers experience of a programme of learning, providers also need to consider the government’s mandatory requirements and the inspectorate’s view. Examples being that the inspectorate are about to include the question ‘I am enabled and empowered to use technology and online resources to support my learning’ in the Learner View survey and the UK government are mandating 10% online learning in funded courses with a view to increasing this to 50%. There’s also an expectation that the use of learning technologies will increase in Apprenticeship delivery. For training providers this means that their online content needs not just to exist, but be planned in programmes of learning, be supported, engaging and effective, and this is where the pedagogy comes in.
Effective online pedagogy is not exclusively applicable to delivery of formal qualifications it is equally important whether it’s social learning or short courses. The full extent of skills may not be required for all types of learning, but in my opinion we can pretty much apply the standards set out in the UK Professional Standards for Teachers and Trainers in Education and Training to online pedagogy whatever the objective. The ones that I’d highlight to staff I’ve added the word ‘online’ to as follows:
- Plan and deliver effective online learning for diverse groups of individuals in a safe and inclusive environment.
- Promote the benefits of online learning and support learners in its use.
- Enable learners to share responsibility for their own online learning and assessment.
- Reflect on what works best in your delivery of online learning, assessment and support to meet the diverse needs of learners.
- Be creative and innovative in selecting and adapting online strategies to help learners to learn.
- Apply appropriate and fair methods of online assessment and provide constructive and timely feedback to support progression and achievement
I would add to the professional standards list:
- Ensure that learners have the appropriate skills for online learning
- Make online learning accessible to all at a time and place that meets their requirements
- Create engaging and interactive content using a variety of methods
- Engage learners in online learning through your online interaction and discussion
- Encourage online interaction between learners and their peers
- Monitor learners activity online
- Be able to personalise online learning to meet learners’ needs
- Manage learner and employer expectations for online learning and assessment
- Ensure you and your learners comply with Copyright and Intellectual Property legislation, personal security practises and acceptable use policies when working online
In a classroom environment learners get the chance to interact with their peers, ask questions, join in discussions, demonstrate their understanding, take part in games and activities, and feedback on real scenarios. When a course includes online delivery the learner should have the opportunity to experience the same variety of learning activities and interaction. It is the pedagogical skill of the teacher/trainer that will determine whether this happens, and as with so many things planning how is vital, but this takes knowledge and understanding of the pedagogy. I’m certainly not saying that it’s easy, but knowing what you are trying to achieve and how you can achieve it is a step towards having a workforce that has equally strong pedagogical skills for delivering online learning as for delivering classroom based learning.
I’d be delighted to hear from anyone who has suggestions for adding to the above list.