Gaps in TVET Online Survey: Students without facilities might not have participated – ADB
By Paneetha Ameresekere
The gaps in an Asian Development Bank (ADB) online survey, conducted on technical and vocational education and training (TVET), are that a bulk of students without online facilities might have dodged the survey, the ADB, in a booklet titled COVID-19 Impact on TVET in Sri Lanka, uploaded on its website on 8 March2021 said.
It said that an online survey conducted from 21 July – 18 August 2020 showed that between 60 and 70 per cent of major TVET courses continued during the pandemic.
“The survey showed 92 per cent of institutions provided at least one online TVET course and 93 per cent of student respondents attended online learning mostly through low-tech solutions using social media,” the ADB said. Among course offerings, 82 per cent of the TVET institutions could deliver online TVET for information technology courses. However, other major courses, such as automobile mechanics, beautician, building and construction, electrical engineering, electronics and telecommunication, and tourism and hospitality were within the range of 60-70 per cent, the ADB booklet said.
These finding were based on and included results gleaned from seven qualitative interviews conducted in October 2020 (through voice calls using WhatsApp) with TVET instructors and trainees in four public/ Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) TVET institutions (i.e. National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), Department of Technical and Training (DTET), University of Vocational Technology (UNIVOTEC) and Vocational Training Authority (VTA)), it said.
Meanwhile, two quantitative online surveys conducted in this regard showed that student participation for online TVET was around 90 per cent across genders, general education certificate level and income background, but this may be due to the limited sample size where students with good internet access were more likely to participate in the survey, the ADB booklet cautioned.
“While self-selection in the online survey participation remains a concern, nevertheless, the above figures were a significant achievement considering that only 36 per cent of TVET institutions had provided distance learning before COVID-19. Many respondents agreed that online offerings were useful to continue their training during the pandemic,” the ADB said.
However, through audio online training only, instructors could not read facial expressions as to whether students understood the content of lectures. Consequently conducting lectures even this way was challenging, the ADB booklet said.
“Professional training for online training delivery is also needed for TVET instructors because they still use the traditional in-person curriculum and pedagogy for online teaching,” it added.
Online technical and vocational education and training (TVET) provides new opportunities for utilising massive open online courses (MOOCs) for professional training of instructors and even for student course completion through credit transfer of MOOCs or online TVET content created by TVET experts in Sri Lanka, the ADB Booklet said.
“However, for this to occur essential conditions need to be in place,” the ADB cautioned. While the mindset for blended learning needs to change, instructors are beginning to realise the advantages of saving time and transportation costs and enhanced flexibility in sharing resources, the ADB study however said.
“Instructors stress that blended learning needs to strike a balance between online training, in-person classroom teaching and practical training, depending on the nature of the subject,” ADB further said.
Moving forward, around 60 per cent of TVET institutions emphasised the need to support equipment purchases and instructor training for online TVET, the ADB booklet nonetheless said.
“Without this foundational infrastructure and capacity, it would be difficult to provide existing TVET courses online,’ it warned. COVID-19 forced students to continue their education and training online, a learning approach which, however, is not completely new to the TVET sector in Sri Lanka, the ADB booklet further said. The Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) deployed ICT in an effort to achieve a sustainable system of distance learning for post-secondary education through the Distance Education Modernisation Project in 2003, the ADB further said. However, the project focus was more on higher education institutions than TVET and distance learning adoption was limited in the absence of sound track records and proper accreditation of distance learning courses, it said. Prior to COVID-19, only 36 per cent TVET institutions provided distance learning, the ADB booklet added. Nonetheless, the use of online platforms for delivering training accelerated during the pandemic, ADB said. “Online offerings are important in mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission and TVEC has facilitated the open access to e-resources during the pandemic,” ADB said.
While TVET institutions resumed face-to-face training in June 2020, some institutions remained closed due to the partial lockdown and still continue to rely on online technologies, ADB said.
The expectation that TVET could continue during the pandemic was high, although only one in five households owned either a desktop or laptop in Sri Lanka, the ADB booklet further said.
Meanwhile, TVEC developed a road map for distance learning in Sri Lanka’s TVET sector and a series of measures were considered for the future. “Further policy planning and implementation will benefit from the evidence clarifying the challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic,” ADB said.
Some participants in the seven qualitative interviews conducted, however, criticised the use of online training because they said it resulted in duplication, as lectures had to be recapped after face-to-face training resumed. Nevertheless, the recap was necessary because some students could not access their courses online while the institutions were closed, ADB said. (Next Monday: Challenges in TVET Online Education)