The coronavirus pandemic disrupted the education and training of learners across the world. In particular, learners from a disadvantaged background risk falling further behind, as distanced learning continues and the debate rages on about how to get learners back into classrooms as safely as possible.
A recent report published by Cedefop, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, highlights these challenges and the efforts being made across Europe to ensure that learning continues for all learners.
The issues faced by teachers and learners
Teachers and trainers have been facing unprecedented challenges since the sudden closure of schools. These include a lack of equipment and inadequate internet connections to offer online learning.
Teachers also often lacked the training, skills and support to turn their classrooms into digital learning environments overnight. Many teachers also express concerns around privacy issues, copyright and data protection.
Learners are now at a higher risk of not participating in online classes for a range of different reasons. They may also disconnect for longer periods and they are more likely to drop out of their courses altogether.
How can learners be better supported?
Distance or blended learning may need to continue for the foreseeable future for some learners. To help engage learners as we enter the new academic year, there are a number of initiatives and funding that governments have launched to improve access to online education.
Training centres, colleges and schools need to ensure that learners can access their courses online with the necessary equipment and a quality internet connection. Cedefop notes that in some countries, grants are available to provide this equipment to learners who need it.
Training opportunities are essential to ensure that learners have the digital skills and competences to fully engage with their studies. For example, ICDL courses in online essentials, IT security and word processing can make all the difference for learners to feel confident learning online and be successful in their studies.
Learning providers should keep monitoring engagement in online classes, to ensure learners are attending regularly and that they can keep up with the course and get the most out of their studies.
Individualised supports should also be set up for at-risk learners and their families, to support them in their education and mental health. Learning providers should also ensure those who speak another language at home, including sign language, are fully supported and have training materials that they can fully understand.
Cedefop has also produced a toolkit to tackle early leaving, which can be found here.
How can teachers and trainers be supported?
Teachers equally may need digital skills training, as online teaching may be new to them. Providing learning through a computer is an entirely different experience, and those providing the lessons need support too.
ICDL courses provide a flexible and accessible way to gain the necessary digital skills to feel confident teaching online, collaborating with colleagues and learners, creating workbooks, monitoring learning outcomes and much more.
Teachers and tutors should be provided with the necessary hardware, software and a quality internet connection to keep lessons running smoothly.
Educational providers must also look after teachers’ wellbeing. Whether that is more regular check-ins on a one-to-one level to offer a chance to have their feelings heard, access to wellness training or an employee assistance programme, schools and colleges should think about how their staff should be supported to work to the best of their ability in the ‘new normal’.
Digital skills for life
More than 80% of 15-24 year olds worldwide are online. This gives the impression that by having access to digital technologies, people, and particularly young people, automatically learn how to use them.
However, the disparity between self-assessed skills and those measured in practical tests was large. For example, in Switzerland 85% of survey respondents indicated that they were ‘good’ or ‘very good’ in using the internet and email, whereas, in reality, only 34% of them answered a series of practical questions correctly.
To ensure learners and teachers have the skills they need to succeed in the new normal, programmes such as ICDL are essential. Find out more about offering ICDL to your learners and staff.