Vocational Training – it is time to rethink

rethink.jpgWould-be students; graduating from school or requiring further education down the track, have commonly approached TAFE for training solutions. A variety of reasons account for this. Traditionally government grants have been available and tuition costs heavily subsidised. There are also a large number of sizeable campuses and due to this the assumption exists that a broad range of courses are available and offered regularly. Another factor which increased the student drive to enrol at TAFEs was a reasonable and instinctive reaction against the plethora of rogue private colleges which began to emerge, chasing both local and foreign student fees, but presenting deplorable training.

It is, however, time to rethink.

For many years now legitimate and proficient private providers have been honing their expertise. They tend to specialise in related skill sets. This focus, together with their strong links with industry; for work placements, content direction and lecturer sourcing, has resulted in impressive standards and course offerings.

To keep the ‘baddies’ out, or to ensure providers remain honest and in line, the Australian regulators have now stepped up and are ever-vigilant. In fact, these accrediting bodies have become the bugbears. Maintaining the high standards that they demand, however, does provide comfort for genuine educators. It is gratifying for them to know that their competitors are working just as hard to provide note-worthy learning. Another benefit for training companies is the deterrence of undercutting by unscrupulous outfits.

The advent of online learning, which may be synchronous and/or asynchronous in style, has gone some way to making the campus redundant. Furthermore, it has begun to alleviate one of Australia’s greatest burdens – ‘The Tyranny of Distance’ - a term coined by the historian Geoffrey Blainey. Students based outside of capital cities have been expected to finance travel and accommodation, over and above various other costs, to attain qualifications. This relocation from more remote parts of Australia also entails a range of separations which can be challenging.

The technologies that are now available to teach students online are remarkable; a book on a screen (and the associated isolation of the learning experience) is a method rarely used. Various approaches are available and they include live webinars which enable students to interact with each other and with their lecturers, online forums and ‘in class’ group projects, access to remote laboratories and online softwares.

The brilliance of this system is that the best instructors are able to be sourced because their proximity to a campus is unnecessary.

Synchronous or live online methodologies are more expensive than their asynchronous counterparts, but it is still possible to keep the costs lower than it is in traditional campus-bound colleges. This is an advantage for all would-be students; but particularly for those who are situated remotely, where a range of savings is possible.

On the issue of tuition fees, significant TAFE increases recently hit the news. On the 23rd August ABC News reported that the Training Minister, Terry Redman, had confirmed a cap on tuition fees of just over $600 per semester would be scrapped from 2014, while the hourly rate at which fees are charged would almost triple

It is a time to rethink! With a range of proficient training options available the selection process needs to entail a little more research than was previously required. This will ensure the best possible match between student and provider.