Louise Allen, Group Director (Business Development), NOCN

In March last year when the country went into lockdown, I don’t think anyone imagined that one year on many in the sector would still be working remotely, trying to navigate the ‘new normal’ and all of the challenges it brings.

The first lockdown saw an almost complete shutdown of in-person skills training and as providers rallied to re-engage, deliver online and keep learning on track, the scale of the problem started to emerge.

By the time the pandemic is over most young people across the UK will have missed over half a year of normal in-person learning.

The difficulties and inequalities in accessing high-quality remote learning have been well documented and we are likely to see the effects of this for years to come.

We must learn lessons from the last year and adapt if we are able to support and provide opportunities for young people as we come out of lockdown and over the years to come.

Over the past decade we have seen how sectors such as retail and manufacturing have leveraged new technologies to enhance customer journeys. We’ve also seen the demise of established brands who haven’t adapted and embraced new ways of working.

The pandemic has highlighted how we can improve some of the out-dated learning models in our own sector and create an enhanced, digital-led learning experience to support and engage the younger generation.

Face-to-face training has been the norm for many years and while this environment will endure post-pandemic, it will undoubtedly be bolstered by robust digital solutions which will make learning more engaging and accessible.

So, how can we use technology to enhance the learning experience?

  1. The majority of young learners have grown up using tablets and smart phones, it’s how they consume most of their information, so it makes sense to incorporate these tools into the learning experience. Not only do they simplify access to educational resources, but many also believe that using these familiar tools helps learners stay more engaged.
  1. Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used within education settings. It assists tutors to create more innovative and engaging lesson plans to hold the attention of their classes. Improving the engagement of learners is proven to help them retain new concepts and information, resulting in better outcomes.
  1. Technology enables online education, distance learning and access to up-to-date information. This can enhance individual learning because everyone interprets information differently. By giving learners these tools, they can go back and research subjects that are more difficult or skip through the areas they don’t understand, allowing each individual to learn at their own pace.
  2. The pandemic has highlighted the need for better communication tools to help learners interact with their tutors and peers whilst learning remotely. Virtual Classrooms are more than just a screen share – they allow for live interaction between tutors and learners as they participate in learning activities and enable greater engagement. A Virtual Learning Environment with built in chat functionality can also facilitate greater interaction than traditional methods such as email. The ability to share information and advice almost instantaneously allows for a more collaborative learning experience.  
  3. We’ve started to see greater use of technology in the assessment process as a result of the pandemic. NOCN Group amongst other organisations has developed a solution to offer remote assessments and invigilation to learners unable to sit their exams at a centre. As we move forward technology will start to play a greater role in tracking learner progress and ensuring accuracy in assessments.

As lockdowns begin to ease and students return to the classroom, a clear digital strategy will be essential for learning providers moving forward.

Multidisciplinary teams will need to work together to drive change and innovation.

Multidisciplinary teams will need to work together to drive change and innovation. From course design through to delivery and assessment, a range of roles will be required to develop a digital-led approach to education. Staff training and robust technical infrastructure will also be essential to ensure a seamless move to technology-based learning for staff and students.

We must also come together to address the digital divide. An Ofcom survey carried out between January and March 2020 found that 9% of households containing children did not have home access to a laptop, desktop PC or tablet.[1] To ensure greater participation, it will be vital for all learners to have the same access to technology.

Whilst the past year has undoubtedly been very challenging, it has been an opportunity for us all to learn and develop new ways of working. If we can continue to build on this experience and drive innovation in education, we will be well placed to support younger generations and make learning more accessible for everyone.

Louise Allen, Group Director (Business Development), NOCN

Louise Allen has over 20 years’ experience in strategic business development. Louise has extensive knowledge establishing new sales channels, creating new partnerships and negotiating high value contracts. For the past 10 years Louise has worked in senior positions throughout the education sector managing and developing sales teams of various sizes.

NOCN Group is a market-leading international Awarding Organisation (AO) specialising in regulated UK and international qualifications, End Point Assessment, Access to Higher Education, assured short courses, SMART job cards, assessment services, consultancy, and research. We are a progressive educational charity and are trusted by employers, training providers and learners to provide a high quality and flexible service. NOCN Group has recently launched NOCN vLearn - an innovative, learning ecosystem that supports your organisation's unique needs and brings virtual on-demand learning to life!

[1] Technology Tracker 2020: households with children access to internet and devices – data tables

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