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The future of training? Call that fun?

"This is the future of training". I cant tell you how often I have heard this over the last 9 months during

the pandemic. Is it really? I wonder. There are some enthusiastic protagonists for the methods of working on-line or through video conferencing methods.

A colleague of mine from the food industry informed me that all training absolutely will now be done on-line during the pandemic as the food industry was paranoid about its image in the national press for being responsible for major outbreaks, when in reality it has been no more affected than other industry sectors.

No travel requirement, the safety of the home, the food of your choice or preparation are all good plus points with conferencing for sure. IOSH, NEBOSH and even, belatedly admittedly, the ECITB are all now advocating the use of this system. All of them are now pushing the flexibility of combinations of e-learning, when it suits you, mixed with a bit of conferencing plus even a portion of good old face to face (at a social distance with open windows) classroom based training. The type of training and combination means that delegates now have the opportunity on some courses to blend an approach that most suits them.

And what of the thorny issue of exam security? Always a debating point. The ECITB are about to release a conference call technique for the training but are still piloting a secure method of testing the delegates. IOSH have opted for the completion of a writable PDF version of their tests which must be completed under closed book conditions and with a declaration that you never cheated, immediately after the course. I'm sure all our delegates didn't cheat, they looked honest and reasonable to me. I don't think the ECITB would condone this method. NEBOSH on the other hand have gone down the route of an open book exam, doing away completely with a written test while the outbreak lingers. Great news in my opinion. Setting scenarios you are most likely to come across back in the real world explaining how you need to deal with them and how you researched your decision making surely reflects the reality of working environments.

But what do my colleagues think of conference call learning. "its much more hard work for the tutor", i hear. "Difficult to get student engagement", "cant use or see the body language easily", "cant use visual aids, set up viable discussions or get delegates to work as collaborators in groups easily" (Yes I know this is possible on teams but they did use the word - easily).

Personally i'm not a full convert. Trying to overcome the tinny sound, dropped internet and disruptions from families, dogs or mates calling into the delegates phones are all an erosion of what is far more easily achievable in a group. A group where issues can be fully discussed, information, ideas and experiences easily shared and assessments which can be supervised all big scoring points for face to face.

The most important point of all is in the evidence. Just how effective are video conferencing / e-learning methods? It is hard to say. Here at Train to Safety the results from our IOSH courses are mixed and can't be compared properly unless the same cohort completes both training methods and testing. At the moment the average marks for face to face training look to be slightly better but this could be misleading. Maybe a better measure is in the feedback from the delegates. A recent attendee of the conference IOSH course who originally completed the course some years ago face to face told me afterwards that "it was good to be refreshed in the subject once more but in comparison to the original day in the classroom, it was just no fun."


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