August 5, 2020
As the pandemic forced TAFEs into emergency modes of operation, it also proved an opportunity for TAFEs to demonstrate how quickly they could adapt. We looked at some of the innovative ways that teachers and support staff have sprung into action around Australia.
New and different ways of learning at TAFE SA
TAFE SA collaborated with other TAFEs across the country regarding education delivery and engaged with peak industry bodies to prioritise components of learning, and working with quality standards bodies in the development of the alternative delivery models.
Following an extensive amount of work by educators, TAFE SA transitioned over 90 per cent of its courses to digitally enabled learning from the beginning of Term 2.
Students were able to learn from the comfort of their own homes or access computer hubs at some TAFE SA campuses, which are following social distancing and cleaning practices based on the latest health advice. These hubs enable students to bridge the digital divide with those who can’t access the Internet or a computer at home able to keep up with their studies.
TAFE SA Chief Executive David Coltman said that a huge amount of work had been done to ensure training could be delivered. “I couldn’t be prouder of what has been achieved to date. Given the practical nature of so much of our training, to have 94 per cent of our courses ready for delivery from April 27 is a wonderful achievement.”
Online plumbing training tackles theory first
Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) made contact with all plumbing apprentices and their employers to help them prepare for online study. A lot of apprentices have been able to work with their employers during the COVID 19 situation, so CIT re-organised units to adapt resources to online and remote training delivery.
CIT Plumbing Head of Department Adrian Clarke said the new course structure allows plumbing apprentices to focus on the theoretical aspects of skills development online, without compromising high quality training. The aim is to re-introduce the practical components as social distancing requirements allow.
Mr Clarke said plumbing courses at CIT were well prepared for online and remote training delivery, as much of the theory content of the units is already available online. "In a normal term our students would do much of their study in a classroom setting via eLearn, CIT's online learning platform, with a teacher on hand to provide guidance. All students’ need is a quiet and private place to study. This could be at home, work or anywhere."
"We have redesigned much of our coursework to allow students to work more independently of their teachers. Of course, we will still have teachers on hand to assist students via a virtual classroom or tutorial setting," Mr Clarke said.
CIT Plumbing will continue to run classes online for about 380 students in a range of units including, reading plans, workplace health and safety, drainage, trench constructions, water supply for irrigation, metering, gas installation and many more.
Mr Clarke added that the Department had previously trialled similar online classes to help students who study interstate, so teachers were already in a good position to know what works and what doesn't.
NSW TAFE teachers think out of the box
With the hospitality industry the hardest hit, TAFE NSW hospitality teachers introduced an innovative way to keep students engaged at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inspired by popular at home cooking products, Hello Fresh and Marley Spoon, teachers Michael Apps and Lindl Taylor sent out fresh ingredients in the form of ‘Hello TAFE boxes’ to the students, who then joined an online live-streamed demonstration and followed along cooking in their own kitchen.
Mr Apps said, “Not only are the students able to learn practical skills, they will also be able to provide their family or housemates with a home cooked meal afterwards.”
Ms Taylor said she contacted each student to make sure they had sufficient Internet access and are comfortable with the new delivery method to make sure the classes ran smoothly.
“We will also be doing theory lessons each week and students can use the chat function in Microsoft Teams to ask any questions or interact with their classmates. We’re also just a phone call or email away if they need anything.
“It’s such an exciting opportunity for the students to engage in connected learning, as it will also provide them with the opportunity to build skills highly valued by employers such as digital literacy, remote working, problem solving and resilience. It’s great that TAFE NSW can continue to equip students with the practical skills they need for employment in an industry that will be booming once it is back up and running.”
TAFE Queensland provides lifeline for high school students
High school students on the Gold Coast in Year 10, 11 and 12 can now access Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications online, providing them with a creative outlet at a time where most other opportunities via school and extracurricular mediums have been cancelled or postponed.
TAFE Queensland General Manager on the Gold Coast, Karen Dickinson said the course offerings have shifted to focus on community services, health and nursing, creative industries, and specific trades in light of COVID-19.
“We are anticipating an increased interest in health related courses due to the heroic and selfless work health care staff are currently undertaking as we navigate through the pandemic.”
In the past, high school students have not had the opportunity to enrol into these courses via a mid-year intake, particularly in the case of community services, health and nursing qualifications.
Not only will these TAFE Queensland courses provide academic stimulation and career motivation during this time, but those students who complete a certificate III will have it count as an entire subject towards their final ATAR score.
Victorian TAFE students attend virtual networking event
The William Angliss Institute took its much-anticipated speed-networking events online to help students maintain and create vital connections with industry during the lockdown.
The four free events gave students the chance to pick the brains of key industry professionals from different disciplines, from their own homes.
The panellists included top chefs, travel and tourism professionals and events experts. The first virtual event was with Payden Rowe, events coordinator of RACV City, a previous graduate of the William Angliss Institute who was awarded the Most Outstanding Events Student Award in 2017.
She answered questions relating to developing a career within the hotel and hospitality industry and gave her top tips for job hunting.
Jacinta Francis, teacher for events & entertainment said. “The virtual networking event was fantastic as the students loved hearing about Payden’s journey knowing she was an events student, just like them, a few years back. They also valued hearing industry tips that she has learnt along the way, which will help them when they begin seeking event roles after graduating.”
Seamless student support
Unlike private providers, TAFEs provide pastoral care to students to make sure they can navigate the personal matters that may affect their wellbeing and get the most out of their learning experience.
TasTAFE was just one example of the student support teams across TAFEs that moved quickly to ensure continuity of services during the coronavirus period, understanding the extra pressure students are under from the increased anxiety and stress.
While student support services are usually provided in one-to-one sessions at TAFE locations, TasTAFE continued to provide assistance, advice and counselling services via telephone and online video conferencing to maintain social distancing.
Support is also continuing to be provided for international students, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disability and for students who want careers advice.
Michelle Purdy. Aboriginal VET Officer at TasTafe said; ‘ students are struggling with many different impacts of COVID-19, including financial hardship, juggling study from home while supervising their children’s own education, missing the social interaction and practical learning and not having online learning basics such as access to a computer and reliable internet.”
She said that students are presenting more frequently with heightened anxiety and concerns over lack of motivation and are reaching out to student support staff in higher numbers to help get them through. “A common catchphrase is ‘I didn’t sign up for this” when they are talking about online learning said Ms Purdy.
WA fast-tracks new COVID-19 hygiene course
When the WA state government launched a mandatory course for all hospitality and tourism staff, TAFEs Institutes in WA acted quickly to integrate it into their existing courses for all lecturers and students studying hospitality, commercial cookery, patisserie and events. They will be equipped with the skills to manage the risk of the virus and act as safely as possible, for both themselves and their customers when they return to their workplaces.
The course has two tiers and covers a mix of skills and knowledge to prevent Covid-19 cross contamination; including venue restrictions, personal and professional hygiene practices and cleaning and sanitising practices.
Businesses will have to display signage that the venue is compliant with all conditions. Students will receive a certificate of completion, a badge and wallet card, which contains prompters of the key learning outcomes from the course.
Venues in WA are not able to re-open unless all staff has completed the first tier, making it essential to finding a job in the industry.
The article was originally published in The Australian TAFE Teacher, Winter 2020