The education industry is a wonderful place to be in. Those that love it, truly enjoy training, teaching, mentoring and learning. They enjoy helping people develop new skills, generate awesome learner outcomes, and they have a passion for learning and development in general. The industry is rife with many challenges however. Since the start of the year, I have had discussions with over 50 RTOs and training and education providers. I have had conversations with over 150 people at different levels in the industry: CEOs, RTO managers, principals, deans, trainers and assessors, IT managers and also learners. As a trainer, I also encounter the highs and lows of the industry every day. Most of my conversations I have, name the same ‘pain points’. I get the usual feedback with regard to what ‘gets in the way’ of VET providers achieving outcomes and delivering the best level of education that can be offered.Let’s take a look at some of the challenges faced by the industry:
- Time pressures of working in an industry that is heavily compliance driven. There is a lot of added work that goes in to maintaining funding, showing evidence and producing outcomes.
- The drivers of change in the industry are very offensive in VET. The changing political, economical, social and technological (PEST) environment means that VET has to keep abreast of all the changes and address these, or be left behind.
- Increased competition locally. Globalised economies and international competition indicate the need for competitive systems, procedures and innovation.
- A highly compliance focused industry that is heavy on auditing, rules and procedures imply the need for efficient, scalable and agile business models.
- VET Reforms. The upcoming VET reforms seem to leave many education providers a little nervous and edgy. These reforms simply suggest that we just need to deal with the fast paced and rapidly changing industry with a more offensive, rather than defensive strategy.
- A lack of funding signifies the need to incorporate streamlined, efficient operating procedures and strategies not only from an operational and administration perspective, but also for learning and delivery.
- An ageing population in Australia, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealing in the 12 months to 30 June 2013, the number of people aged 65 years and over in Australia increased by 120,100 people, representing a 3.7% increase. The percent of ageing population is projected to increase and this could have several implications for health, labour, employment and housing.
- Consumerism and fluctuating demands are growing due to consumers demanding more and these will continue to change. The consumer is expecting high quality training and delivery that is not only flexible and engaging, but also personalised to meet their needs. The competition is too severe to ignore what the consumer is spelling out quite clearly. Demands for training will vary based on environmental factors. This implies that industries in high growth areas require the market to respond to their need for training and skill shortages.
- Learner engagement. Learning outcomes are key to it all. After all, we are in the business of learning. The industry is measured on the outcomes they produce, with the risk of losing their operating license if failing to deliver. We should be concerned if we are not meeting outcomes, as we are losing the learners somewhere in their study path. It is either on account of not engaging them, or not meeting their individual needs. Learners today require mobility, flexibility and highly engaging learning that provides options in learning and offers creativity and diversity.Educationalists are seeing the visible changes in today’s social, collaborative, blended and mobile learning environment, and are recognising the importance of moving to such a model. If we choose to ignore the importance of such a model, we are failing to recognise the changing face of the learner today, or to provide them with a service that meets their needs.[/vc_column_text]So if we recognise the main challenges and know our ‘pain points’ well and we know what we should be doing, what then is inhibiting us from implementing a solution? Is it because we don’t recognise the solution? Or is it our traditional mindset and our fear of change?
From my personal experience and conversations, I have encountered mainly the following barriers to implementing technology in education:
- Mindsets can be hard to change. Though is what really holding us back, the fear of change? Or are we just too lazy to implement or consider having to work on actually thinking about what we can do differently? Our traditional model of teaching is archaic and has been around since medieval times. By refusing to budge on ‘how’ we train/ teach and deliver we are completely ignoring the needs of the world.
- Short-term focus. Instead of focusing on administration and compliance, and worrying about the coin purse, we need to think about what strategies to incorporate that will provide us with the results we need long-term.
- A shortage of funds. Yes, we are all short on funds and more would be great, but nothing is changing on that front. You have to spend money to make money and the investment you make in implementing a change in your business today will reap the rewards tomorrow. Going digital will end up saving your business up to 40% within the 5-year period of implementation. Smart investment I think!
- Audits, compliance, evidence and reporting. The focus has become admin-centric within the VET industry. What are we in the business of? Let’s bring it back to being about the learner, about education and outcomes.
- Input-focused. We have become too input-focused and are not thinking about the outcomes.
- Student experience. We seemed to have forgotten about the person at the centre of what we do – the learner. What is your learner asking for? What is their profile like? Are you providing them with the learning they need? Do they have smartphones? Do they use technology? Do they like writing assessments, watching videos, sitting and listening to lectures? Do they have social media?If the learning you provide does not incorporate technology and a blended approach then what are you really training? Technology is a major part of our life and if you ignore it, you disengage the learner. The NMC Horizon Report 2014 for Higher Education is an international report produced by a consortium of educationalists and outlines the trends in education. The report highlights a rapid move towards hybrid, blended, online and social media use in learning.
In order to get the outcomes you need, for both your organisation and the learner, in a rapidly changing highly compliant industry, you need scalable, smart and efficient solutions. The usual responses I get from VET providers are that they see the need to implement such agile practice. They are either considering it or have already implemented some changes (but they are not giving them the 100% results they were looking for).
In most cases, many are slow to move as they don’t know the ‘how’. The solutions are quite simple and lie in incorporating technology and making it work for your organisation to achieve the outcomes you want. So to get from your current state to where you want to be, what do you need to do?
- Implement technologically sound and advanced learning solutions that are mobile and engaging.
- Implement smart operational procedures that will detract from the duplication of work, administration and operational waste. This will give you your time back to do what you do best – training, education, and learning. You can keep excelling in the face-to-face delivery while spending more one-on-one time with learners.
- Conduct a complete analysis of all aspects of the organisation to provide a holistic approach to the business. This entails developing a solution that specifically addresses your need and is not a one size fits all.
- Create a long-term focus and vision for the organisation. What are your biggest priorities and how can you meet them? Unless you intend to be here just for today and not tomorrow, you cannot afford to ignore your long-term vision.
- Ask the experts about what to do. We go to a specialist when the GP can’t help, so why not go the experts in the field of education. The investment in your organisation will pay off. Education Consultants are there to provide specific, tailor-made solutions for your business. All you need to do is pick up the phone and call.
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