Re-Imagine Skilling in the time of COVID-19 Crisis
Mr. Ketul Acharya
Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Learning Skills Limited
As strong measures are taken to contain the Covid-19 the skilling eco-system finds itself in a challenging position. Skilling strategies will have to go through changes due to the pandemic which has affected millions around the world. The need of the hour is to bring new ideas to strengthen the future of the skill eco-system. What does the future hold for the skilling industry?
Mr. Ketul Acharya in conversation with Ridhima Mehra, Lead of Marketing & Communication Department, addresses how the skilling industry is coping with this predicament by seamlessly integrating technology with training delivery.
Ridhima Mehra: With the outbreak of the global Coronavirus pandemic, skilling is transforming radically. Skill training centres have closed, and all training programmes have come to a halt. Aspirants are uncertain about the future. How can the skill industry cope with this unprecedented situation?
Ketul Acharya: The education system across the globe is in a turmoil and so is the skill eco-system. The Covid-19 crisis has pushed us to re-imagine skilling in myriad ways. At no cost can training stop; so that we may sustain the skilling eco-system to secure the future of millions.
A shift in the method of training delivery needs to be considered. Prior to the pandemic, skills training was delivered in a traditional face to face medium of instruction in a brick and mortar set up. With movements restricted, training is now delivered online. Leveraging the technology for standardisation and scale have always been spoken about in the past. The time is now ripe to implement this transition. Being a vocational skills provider, learning and experiencing through hands on practice can never be done away with. Therefore, training through online mode may not be a hundred percent solution. A blended approach to training hence needs to be adopted, whereby a half of the portion from the entire curriculum would be through digital medium and the other portion through face to face in a physical lab. Therefore, our recommendation on training delivery methodology is through the blended approach. In this manner, the learning process for trainees is not hampered while at the same time safety and social distancing norms would be maintained considering the severity of the current situation.
Learnet Skills is in the process of developing a digital platform to implement the blended mode of delivery. Our online learning platform is designed for the TVET space catering to theory and practical skills which include English, Entrepreneurship, Digital and other value-added skills. The weightage on these components depends on the nature of the course. The content is provided on online platform for both Trainer and Trainee to access.
Our trainers currently are creating their own lecture videos and are adopting additional open source materials to conduct their training. They conduct classes through WhatsApp and video conferencing
Ridhima Mehra: How are you planning to put the online learning processes in place?
Ketul Acharya: A Learning Management System (LMS) is being developed by our Technology team. Session plans for blended learning is being prepared by our Technical Leads directing a stipulated time frame for online study, offline study, self-study and practical sessions. The blended session plans including the content will be curated and embedded into the LMS. Post this, a Training of Trainers (ToT) will be organised for Trainers and Trainees to explain the pedagogy, delivery mode and usage of LMS.
Ridhima Mehra: What are the challenges of skill-based learning through blended mode of training?
Ketul Acharya: The entire skilling ecosystem is new to the online mode of learning. There are various challenges that need to be addressed as we adopt e-learning as a method of study and imparting training. One of the major challenges is availability of stable internet connectivity. Trainees from rural/remote areas may not have access to internet facilities, smartphones or other digital devices. The consumption of mobile data during video conferencing sessions too is a challenge as it is a cost that the trainee has to bear.
Skilling in TVET space is mostly about hands-on experience and it is difficult to deliver this training online. E-Learning is undoubtedly a challenge. People are not accustomed to online mode of learning. Mindsets need to change, and trainees need intrinsic motivation to complete the entire course. Keeping trainees engaged through a digital medium can be a challenge. The sessions have to be specifically designed to make them highly interactive and engaging to hold the attention of the trainees.
Ridhima Mehra: What is the best way forward for the blended mode of training?
Ketul Acharya: As blended learning is the key; we need to focus on both the aspects of skilling i.e. the domain as well as platform skills. The knowledge part could be easily gained through online platforms. For the practical training, all the DDU-GKY, PMKK and other state centres could be used for practical training while keeping in mind the norms of social distancing and hygiene. These training centres should be available to trainees; a small fee could be charged to access and use the infrastructure of these centres. This will help the trainees as well the training partners. This could be the best possible way forward to implement the blended learning model integrated with online assessments for theory part and hands-on practical assessments for the practical part of the curriculum.
Coping with this unprecedented time is difficult, yet inevitable. It is imperative that the TVET space should have the perfect balance of knowledge and skill. Solving basic issues related to connectivity, providing training to the trainers and engaging the trainees in the most innovative way should be the focus of the entire skilling ecosystem.