COVID-19: what is business as unusual?

Daniel Howard addresses the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the education sector and how this could change the face of educational infrastructure whereby we forge a new normality for connectivity, inclusivity and accessibility.

During these uncertain times, it feels right to make reference to one of the biggest challenges that we’ve had to face as a collective in recent decades. We’re all unsure of how the situation will progress and, firstly, we’d like to offer our sympathies and best wishes to anyone whose health or the health of their loved ones has been impacted.  

Every sector is currently addressing what their individual ‘business as unusual’ looks like with clear and alarming realisation that there is no blueprint for any of us to refer to.

How this is affecting education

Education specifically, and its supporting infrastructure, has been incomprehensibly tested. Classroom learning, exams, revision, group work are now, for the most part, impossible as children, students and learners are sent home, excluding key workers, and only essential businesses able to remain open.

Exams for GCSEs, A Levels and AS levels have, for this year, been cancelled and those learners will be awarded grades based on their previous outputs and performance. An approach for vocational and technical qualifications is still being worked through.

What about apprenticeships?

As of the time of writing, arrangements for certification based on predicted grades will not apply to apprentices, and there is pressure on the government to find solutions for apprentices who face the prospect of losing their jobs, having achieved no qualification.

Currently the guidance from IFATE for EPAOs is that ‘every effort should continue to be made to ensure that apprentices can continue with their apprenticeship, and be assessed in accordance with current EPA plan and EQA requirements if possible’ and for training providers to ‘deliver training to apprentices remotely, and via e-learning, as far as is practicable.’

 

In response to these changes, we know that EPA Plus (part of the NCFE Group) have already made strides to continue supporting organisations and their apprentices including:

  • introducing ‘proctoring’, which provides remote invigilation for apprentices undertaking online tests, and complies with the new requirements
  • consulting with several EQAPs to agree temporary alternative arrangements where assessment plans include an onsite observation, in line with IFATE guidance.

 

Teaching and delivery needs to adapt

Many learning providers, and learners alike, will be concerned about their outcomes and although grades in some areas will be awarded, the learning that goes alongside this still is yet to be completed in many cases.

With face-to-face learning having become impossible, learning providers are quickly adapting and looking to looking to technology to help to reduce the impact that coronavirus will have of skills development and education.

Support from Skills Forward

eLearning offers a scenario in which the risk of close contact is reduced and our online connectivity is used to continue and enhance education.

As an eLearning provider, our strategy and systems have been developed with digitisation in mind and as things progress, we hope that this supports our customers to try and operate remotely where they can and allow their learners to progress.

Skills Portfolio is a digital portfolio system that manages the complete end-to-end learner journey and allows you to assess remotely, monitor learner progress, create immediate dashboard reports, and manage your quality assurance. It is fully compliant with Ofsted and ESFA audit requirements, giving you the evidence needed during inspection.

eLearning for accessibility

Exploring eLearning and technology to support educational outcomes doesn’t just support those of us who are, or who might be, affected by coronavirus; the power of technology can be harnessed to drive achievement and inclusivity. If learning providers are taking steps to ensure that we are able to get online and operate in the immediate present because of the current threat, this can – and should – be considered for those who suffer with accessibility issues, audio or visual impairments or those who find classroom based learning difficult due to their personal circumstances. Whilst changes may feel forced and by necessity, this can forge a new normality.

eLearning everywhere, 24/7

eLearning offers a scenario in which the risk of close contact is reduced and our online connectivity is used to continue and enhance education.

As an eLearning provider, our strategy and systems have been developed with digitisation in mind and as things progress, we hope that this supports our customers to try and operate remotely where they can and allow their learners to progress.

English and maths online learning and resources  

Skills Builder is an eLearning solution for the initial assessment of the skills required to complete English and maths GCSEs and Functional Skills qualifications and ESOL courses. As well as providing a data rich starting point for each learner based on their results, the Skills Builder software also identifies strengths and weaknesses and signposts to appropriate online resources to for learners to access and improve their skills.

From their computer, your students can access:

  • their learner dashboard – a list of the topics they are working on
  • One Assessment – an initial assessment to measure your learners current level in around 30 minutes
  • high quality resources.

Tutors can also log into the platform and:

  • view learner data at individual, group and whole institution level using an easy to view dashboard
  • set topic–led targets for your learners with completion dates
  • upload your own resources
  • gather evidence to demonstrate compliance
  • offer remote tutor support and manually assign topics for students.

eLearning for accessibility

Exploring eLearning and technology to support educational outcomes doesn’t just support those of us who are, or who might be, affected by coronavirus; the power of technology can be harnessed to drive achievement and inclusivity. If learning providers are taking steps to ensure that we are able to get online and operate in the immediate present because of the current challenge presented by COVID-19, this can – and should – be considered for those who suffer with accessibility issues, audio or visual impairments or those who find classroom based learning difficult due to their personal circumstances. Whilst changes may feel forced and by necessity, this can forge a new normality.

What does the future hold?

There’s a renewed drive to think differently about education and what the future of learning looks like. Change often comes from adversity and how we manage in times of struggle. We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely and offer support where we can to our customers.

To find out more about what eLearning can do to support your learners during this time and beyond, contact one of our team.

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