28 April 2020

Training during a pandemic: Overcoming the challenges of remote learning

| Communities@Work
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Carla Scalia delivering training session in room in front of projector screen.

Communities@Work RTO manager Carla Scalia delivering a face-to-face training session pre-COVID-19. Photo: Supplied.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work and learn around the world. To reduce the risk of infection, organisations have been forced to reduce in-person interactions and practice social distancing, and make greater use of virtual platforms.

Canberra’s largest not-for-profit community organisation Communities@Work‘s registered training organisation (RTO), The Centre of Professional Learning and Education (CPLE), is no different and has moved its training to a remote learning environment.

“We’ve cancelled all our face-to-face training and workplace visits to prioritise the health and safety of our students, trainers and employers.” says Communities@Work RTO manager Carla Scalia.

“Fortunately, our team was ready to deliver remote learning. We supported our students online even before COVID-19. However, what was once a supplement to our training delivery has now become a necessity.

“We are really lucky we have a system that allows for a lot of different media types to be uploaded into it and has inbuilt video conferencing capacity. All our student systems are cloud-based and easily accessible by all. We made the move to [Microsoft] Office 365 at the beginning of the year so the transition has been painless.”

Despite the smooth transition to remote learning, the change hasn’t come without its challenges.

“The biggest issues have been student access to the technology and the skills to use it,” says Carla. “Some people have never used video conferencing before. We received several calls on the weekend with students trying to access the system or forgetting passwords. Some students have said they prefer face-to-face learning. The social aspect is a huge factor we miss.”

Carla says the lack of face-to-face interaction in a classroom environment could potentially mean a reduced sense of connection between students and staff. However, CPLE staff are going above and beyond to overcome these challenges and continue supporting their students’ learning.

“Our trainers are working hard to meet the changing demands of the COVID-19 situation,” she says. “We are prerecording webinars and presentations, and then doing live video conferencing to facilitate discussions. It’s essentially a ‘flip-learning environment’ where we provide the learning materials first and then follow it up with a live video chat for discussion and engagement. We are also looking into software to make our content more engaging and interactive.

“We can start our day at 7 am and not end until 8 pm. Our trainers are offering support during the day and in the evenings to accommodate everyone. We are trying to put in place as many support measures as possible, such as conducting one-to-one online chats to replace face-to-face meetings.”

Carla says the way forward is to continue providing extensive support in these uncertain times to ensure a positive learning environment is maintained.

“Embracing remote learning means adding to the skill-sets of the people we’re training,” she says. “They are learning new ways to work in online settings in the future, and learning to better manage their time and to juggle responsibilities.”

Kavita, a Communities@Work student studying Certificate III in Early Childhood Education, agrees.

“Communities@Work has some excellent and dedicated trainers who are really approachable,” she says. “They have been helpful and prompt in supporting my studies, and we have plenty of resources to tap into to meet the curriculum requirements and extra learning.

Laptop in home displaying Zoom meeting.

Communities@Work staff are using Zoom to facilitate learning for students while they are working from home. Photo: Supplied.

“If the workload gets too much, the trainers are flexibile and will work around any exceptional circumstances or additional responsibilities we may have. I have felt a sense of belonging since the day I was enrolled with them. I like that they genuinely try to bring any weaker students up to the task.”

Carla says the keys to overcoming the challenges of remote learning lie in consistent support, flexibility and the sense of community.

Jodie, studying Certificate III in Early Childhood Education, agrees with this sentiment. “Things are going as good as expected, considering the world at the moment,” she says. “Being a part of the Communities@Work training is like being part of a family. The trainers are very helpful and understanding and I couldn’t have asked for a better support system during this time.”

Communities@Work’s Centre of Professional Learning and Education (RTO 88148) is a registered training organisation recognised within Canberra and surrounding ACT regions for its early childhood and education care qualifications, as well as training workshops in professional development. It also offers User Choice-funded traineeships, allowing trainees to earn an income while they learn and receive a nationally recognised qualification.

For more information, visit Communities@Work.

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