Off-site Learning in TVET

The fast pace of technological advancement has landed to discuss the merger of info tech and biotech, whereas the least developed countries are still toiling for the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.  The increasing population growth has necessitated to use the technology to increase the productivity and the pace of production as well. Education has not been spared from the exigency of adaptation and adaptation to the technological gadgets in its entire process. The recent pandemic of COVID-19 has been the another enabling environment for shifting to technologically aided teaching learning and to distance learning. This paper will try to elaborate different aspects of the inputs and resources along with preparedness needed for e-learning especially in vocational education.

Preview, view and review are the different modes of teaching and learning in general education. The education takes place in classrooms for didactic subjects and laboratories for practical subjects and the works in laboratory comes out to be very costly that’s what the verification of the output of laboratory needs further verification in real populace. Therefore, the laboratories are also called simulating environment as opposed to real one. In vocational education there are classroom based didactic subjects and workshops based applied subjects. The workshops are nor simulated ones but the real ones necessitating no need to verify the output of workshop in real populace. The didactic methods in vocational education are similar to the general education but they are entirely different in the case of applied works. The observation, practice under the guidance of professionals, and independent practice at work places are the three methods. These three methods are carried out not in simulated environment but in real work. Therefore, the vocational education is also called work-based education too. At the onset of current pandemic, distance learning seemingly e-learning, has been widely thought one of the best alternatives maintaining social distances to prevent and curb the contagious outbreak. In subsequent paragraphs preparation of academic materials, transforming them to media friendly form, uploading to media, transmitting through media, downloading it to recipients, monitoring and feedback and infrastructure management will be discussed. Preparation of workforce and their capacitating will be another issue of discussion.

Preparation of academic materials: The ratio of didactic and applied practice in vocational education is 20 and 80. The applied works, as explained above, are observation of the real work by professionals, practice of real work under the guidance of professionals and independent practice of real work, the entire practical work is 80 percentage. Out of these three methods, the only one method that can be carried out in-house in simulated environment is the first one. Other two methods need real work and can’t be learned from distance but can be learnt on-site and in person only. Let’s suppose individual method carries equal weightage among three    i. e. 27 percentage.

The total weightage of work that can be learnt off-site is 47 percentage. This amount of education can be delivered through distance learning. The methods to approach the students are reading, audio, video, audio-visual and interactive. The media are printing; radio and FM (frequency modulation) radios; TV and You tube and interactive websites etc.  The polytechnic schools and technical schools are teaching and training students for years using both on-site and off-site. They have lesson plan, handouts, manuals and the teaching notes. In most cases, teachers are required to submit these teaching learning materials (TLM) to the school management.

The assessment, tracing and collection of the existing materials and initiation to produce additional materials can be successfully done employing the dedicated teachers. The training institute for technical instruction (TITI) can facilitate the teachers providing guidelines and framework to make the materials. If need be, TITI can capacitate teachers to produce them as well. These materials must be handy especially for teachers because there is no teacher while learning the content. Mobilization of the respective subject teachers from the champion schools in the coordination with provincial offices can produce the expected result. The final product will be the ultimate and main material for printing, alongside it will be the content for all other media too.

Transforming TLM to media friendly form: The academic materials prepared, as explained in preceding paragraph will be taught out in a real class or in a virtual class. This teaching will be recorded using audio, video or audiovisual aids. The recording produced will be stored in compact disc and USB pen drive etc. The secondary resources, though costly, needed are experts to record them and the paraphernalia for recording.  The experts for recording can be capacitated from within CTEVT staff or can be outsourced.

Uploading and transmitting through media: The next step is the uploading and transmission. The transmitting media can be set up by CTEVT or outsourced. The radio and FM for audio, and TV and youtube for audiovisual transmission can be used. Web portal and interactive web portal can also be used. These media can be established or outsourced. The employees can be trained for these jobs too. Outsourcing will be cost effective.  

Downloading it to recipients: Reading materials are very simple. The students will get the printed materials free of cost or with paying due price. No additional facilities like energy and input are not required. However, for other mode, it needs record player and radio; TV; internet etc. For them, you need to have access to them along with energy and unerupted service to your doorstep to receive them.  The teachers at the receiving end must be expert enough to handle the gadgets and they have to train students how to use those gadgets.

Infrastructure management: The initiatives described so far terminate at the zenith point that is e-learning. The infrastructures needed have been described in the preceding paragraphs. This requires heavy investment along with high-tech, therefore there must be concrete plan differentiating into short-term, mid-term and long-term. This expenditure is actually a huge investment in the distance or e-learning.

The academic and technical aspects have been described so far. The socio-economic aspect is the pivotal factor for the success and effectiveness of the approach to adapt and adopt this e-learning. The economic affordability of students to purchase necessary gadgets, know-how to operate these gadgets, reliability of the primary and subsidiary facilities to ensure uninterrupted service etc. are the precursors to go for this alternative. The program monitoring and evaluation for sustainability and up gradation are not dealt here.

For the description in the paragraphs above, the teachers and students must know how to use the technology and receive the messages through them. The know-how for using the gadgets is not just for grace. It is economical issue. In the descending order the cost of acquiring the media increases drastically. The cost of printed book, radio, mobile, television, computer, internet etc. goes on increasing while the population affording them goes on decreasing. Use of the distanced media is one thing in efficacy but unsurmountable task in terms of access and affordability. But we can effectively use them to deliver the classes in humanities and social sciences including to deliver observatory skills.

However, they are the most useful tools to teaching learning maintaining social distance. Therefore, everyone speaks about e-learning. The distance learning, virtual learning and off-site learning culminates in one common point e-learning. But the crux of the issue is whether, e-learning can maintain the sanctity and gravity of vocational education or we are simply talking everything virtual for the sake of public consumption?

Bhattarai  is the director of the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT)