Demystifying Online Learning and Assessment
In 2022, the term “online” is being used more than ever! But what do online learning and assessment actually mean? This blog demystifies the word “online” and hopes to put you on the right path when it comes to explaining it to your learners, employees, team and potentially auditors!
What this blog unpacks:
- What is “online” education?
- What are the different online learning contexts?
- Why has online become so popular?
- Trends in Pedagogy techniques
- The benefits
- What the future holds
1. What is “online” education?
Online education uses digital technology and best practices — like the internet and specialist software— to deliver learning in the form of video, HTML, digital assessments and more, no matter how, when or where the learning takes place. For example, you could be empowering learners to learn remotely or using digital technology to deliver face-to-face training and assessment with instruments like observation checklists.
2. What are the different online learning contexts?
When adopting online learning methods and technologies, educators need to consider two major contexts:
- The location of the learners
- The delivery approach
Online learning is location-agnostic, which means that learners can be anywhere — within the classroom, externally (i.e. not with the teacher or trainer) or in the workplace. As long as the learners have access to the right digital tools and technology, they can benefit from streamlined course delivery which can involve the approaches below.
There are 4 delivery approaches:
Face-to-face – This is where the learning and assessment take place side by side with the manager and employee or trainer/assessor and student. Although there is software that is “online” the two parties can work right next to each other.
Distance (which can sometimes be referred to as “online” hence the confusion) -This delivery method gives learners a high level of control or independence over how they learn. They are not restricted to the classroom—rather, they can learn in their homes, in the library or even in their workplace. Since there are little or no real-time, one-on-one interactions between the educator and learners, the teaching is all through video calls or various other media, the trainer must provide support and clear instructions that help learners to complete different tasks in the Learning Management System (LMS).
Self-paced (which can sometimes be referred to as “online” hence the confusion) – This delivery method allows you to work at your own pace, usually from a distance and can be completed in whatever order and in whatever timescale to some degree. Good online teaching is required in the form of videos, quizzes and instructions.
Blended learning – Data from NCVER shows that more than 60% of RTOs in Australia intend to use more blended learning which is distance learning combined with face-to-face learning in the future.
Cloud Assess clients deliver all their learning, training and assessment through the app regardless of the delivery method. Why? Because the solution has the most flexible assessment builder on the market. Not only can students work through their tasks independently i.e. a question bank, but Trainers and Assessors can also conduct site reports, observation checklists and more. The app is online but the delivery method is not.
3. Why has online learning become so popular?
In a word, flexibility! As you have just learnt, online is not an approach (although sometimes is referred to as being an approach that means remote or distance), it’s the tool that helps you reach your students, employees and team in accordance with your training and assessment strategies.
Using online learning experiences to deliver remote learning certainly helped during the lockdowns of the pandemic.
The case study below shows how the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) supported training providers in ensuring authenticity when needing to use online assessment for incidences where Distance Learning needs to take place rather than Face-to-Face.
ASQA Case Study – Ensuring authenticity in online assessment (in this instance online means remote)
Your Mac Training is an RTO that provides training and assessment in graphic design through the qualification CUA50715 Diploma of Graphic Design.
As its target student group is located in a remote location, Your Mac Training provides an online delivery mode.
The virtual classroom is used to provide training in relation to assessment of the required knowledge. Students communicate with the trainer and assessor through their headphones/microphones during the virtual classroom sessions. In order to ensure authenticity, the student is required to hold their driver’s licence up to the webcam at the beginning of each virtual class. After the virtual class, the webcam takes photos of the student at random intervals while they are completing the online assessment questions.
For the demonstration of practical skills, photos and videos of the student performing the practical task are taken by a third-party. A third-party report is completed to record the tasks performed by the student. The student holds up their driver’s licence to the camera at the beginning of each practical demonstration video to confirm that the student performing the task is the student enrolled.
Finally, the trainer and assessor calls the student after the submission of completed assessments and asks questions relevant to the assessment.
Using fit-for-purpose software is key to the success of this assessment. Some solutions may lack functionality that gives you control over the validity and authenticity of your assessments.
4. Trends in Pedagogy techniques
Over the generations, the way we teach has adapted to suit our rapidly changing world and minds. The following are trends in teaching that all utilise the power of the internet and learning online:
The flipped classroom – a technique whereby the student researches on a topic first, maybe using online resources from the trainer, then comes into the lesson ready for an interactive session displaying what they have learnt.
– Microcredentials – these are industry-recognised, skill-specific certifications that offer a new approach to learning to suit people with a busy lifestyle. Watch or participate in webinars to develop new skills on the go.
– Immersive and Experiential training – Immersive learning is used to bring about a change in behaviour. It involves learning within a highly interactive simulated or artificial environment using tools like Virtual Reality (VR). Experiential learning is used to develop a skill or a set of skills. When developed properly, it engages learners to the extent that they become active participants in their own development and triggers critical thinking.
– Learning within the assessment – it’s becoming popular and is known to create great learner experiences when learning objects are placed directly in the assessment. This might be a video or slideshow. It means the learner can navigate through their assessment seamlessly and understand the correlation of what they are learning within the assessment itself.
As you can see not all of these techniques mean the student is remote.
5. The Benefits for online students & your team
Based on the above, it can therefore be outlined that working remotely is not the only advantage of online, especially in the context that Cloud Assess provides.
Why is this? Well, most LMSs were designed for university and the transfer of knowledge. The vocational education and training sector and workplaces are driven by a different set of rules. In Australia, the national regulator states, “Assessment is the gatekeeper of quality.” So with an undeniable impetus for Quality assessment (tools & practices) within the VET sector, why do we continue to see such high numbers for assessment compliance (75% non-compliant) for RTOs audited?
The answer could lie in the understanding of quality and how to apply it in the digital age.
Working with a fit-for-purpose digital solution will provide you with the true value that “online” provides.
6. Online courses are the future?
With workplace skills evolving so rapidly, it is likely that remote aka self-paced aka online courses will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future, and working “online” will be instrumental in making this possible.
Therefore, it is going to be a focal point for the regulator, an expectation from your students and potentially even your team.
As we navigate through the world of working online, when it comes to assessment, it’s important to remember that the unit requirements are still the same. Any changes to assessment delivery methods need to be carefully considered as a deviation from unit requirements will still result in non-compliance.
The good news is, that with a fit-for-purpose solution, you can successfully manage your requirements online aka remote aka distance or face-to-face. Get in touch today to learn more.