Is your institution catching on the online training market? If it is not, then you are losing out. This internationally growing field is gaining more attention and credibility. It is becoming the program of choice of many who enroll for retraining or upgrading their skills.
Many post-secondary institutions today see online training as critical to their future. There is also a changing attitude towards online training among the students and faculty and institutional managers. They no longer regard this kind of training as inferior to the traditional classroom in-school education but as a challenge to create new challenging and more exciting courses.
In institutions that are continually improving their programs, everyone seems to be on-board. In Canada, for example, there were 1.36 million online credit course registrations in 2016/17. Isn’t this far away now? It is. Especially when COVID hit us, more institutions scrambled to put their courses online so students can continue learning despite the lockdown. The learning curve to manage online programs shortened as the need arose.
To push it further, the Internet has become the training and certification institution for many students. Many credible institutions now offer high-quality certification on the Net. These offerings respond to the demand for skills of those who are already in the workforce. New requirements are imposed on the workforce as the economy changes. Many need to upgrade their skills or even study new skills to ensure their employment.
When before, many of these adults seeking new skills enroll in post-secondary institutions at night or the weekend, today, they can access learning at any time and wherever they are. This flexibility and accessibility make online courses very appealing to many adult learners who prefer to continue their work hours while learning new skills.
Another reason for the popularity of online courses is it is much cheaper than the regular in-school programs. The tuition, in general, is more affordable. There are fewer costs associated with online classes as there are no transport costs, no paper assignments, and books are available through e-readers.
There is also a greater variety in the courses available, and you can choose only those courses which upgrade the skills you need for your next promotion.
Students also learn self-discipline and self-direction because they are responsible for making sure they finish the requirements.
This increasing popularity of online courses holds only in the developed economies. Many TVET institutions in the developing world struggle through the challenges of offering online programs. Here are just a few:
- Connectivity. Many of the students in developing economies do not have similar access to technologies that their counterparts in the developed world have. Many do not have the Internet in their homes. They access the Internet in some of those tiny rooms packed with computers very close to each other and not afford them better concentration. They do not have laptops and tablets. Phones are readily available, but they do not have the power for many of the online courses. Even TVET institutions do not have an Internet connection to support these courses.
- Technology. Many institutions do not have the resources to invest in the technology necessary to offer online programs. Even the institutions in the developed economies struggle with this, given the constant demand to upgrade.
- Faculty. Most of the faculty in TVET institutions have not updated their skills to manage online learning systems. Except for the ILO offering to train TVET teachers in online learning technology, there has not been much. Recent investments in TVET have not targeted the training of faculty in this new technology. As traditional planners formulated, they are usually developing a curriculum that is irrelevant and procuring equipment, many of them rotting as there is no money or skills to maintain them.
- Leadership. There is a reluctance among TVET leaders to work closely with industry and new technology, so they miss out on the courses that are growing in demand in the economy. They continue to invite students through scholarships and free offers to get them to their institutions with very little success. Students would go for where they can see their future advancement.
There is still much work to be done to bring TVET institutions on-board the online learning system. This observation is primarily accurate in developing countries. In developed countries, many pockets of innovation are explored and tried out to capture the students. Hopefully, this experience will trickle down to the less developed countries.
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