Training in the time of Covid

Induction to the first 2021 live online Diploma of Financial Counselling group.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly presented challenges to many people, and Registered Training Organisations (RTO) are no exception!  Not only are potential students challenged with their own circumstances, they also have to embrace new technologies and ways of connecting to continue their learning opportunities.  

ICAN Learn has diversified its delivery of the Diploma of Financial Counselling to a ‘live online’ model.  Weekly classes continue, with students meeting with their teacher and classmates to gain the essential knowledge and skills to become financial counsellors.

Michelle Ludwig, a part-time teacher at ICAN Learn, was the first to trial this approach for a group of new students in late 2019. Online learning was the only way these students could participate in the Diploma of Financial Counselling, so ICAN Learn set about meeting learning needs using Zoom.

Michelle, what has been the best thing about delivering your classes via the live-online approach?  

‘There is no denying it is nice to come together in a face to face setting; however it is not always possible. Personally, there didn’t appear to be too many challenges with the transition to online learning. Once the technical issues were ironed out and students became familiar with using the ‘Zoom’ portal, classes continued to run as normal.’

You are also teaching some other students that have had to transition to live online delivery. What have been the challenges for them not learning in an in-person live classroom setting?  

‘Some students may prefer a face to face setting as it supports their style of learning. As long as you offer additional supports and resources to those that need it, delivery continues to run smoothly.’ 

Leanne Khan, ICAN Learn teacher and experienced financial counsellor, has been supporting new interns in their education and working with a group of students in the far North West of Victoria.  

Leanne, you have been working with students in remote Victoria and throughout NSW using the live–online approach before COVID even hit. How do you motivate students to continue to be an active part of the class in the live-online approach?  

‘I use several strategies to keep students connected and motivated’, said Leanne. ‘These include quick quizzes, developing a case study and building on it in each class, and including activities so students can get to know each other better regardless of the physical separation. The use of real case scenarios interests students, and they love the demonstration of expertise through case discussion.  We spend a lot of time supporting the students, and ensuring that we meet their needs, providing safe and confidential learning spaces with clear boundaries and expectations.’  

Natasha Syed Ali is a full time teacher ICAN Learn and is involved in live-online delivery of the Diploma of Financial Counselling to our Queensland students.  

Natasha, you have no doubt had to adjust your teaching delivery to the live-online format. Can you tell us a bit about the skills you have gained through this process?

‘Delivering sessions to simulate the classroom has been a fascinating process. ICAN Learn has always prioritised quality learning experience through personal, interactive and stimulating classroom experiences. I’ve had to utilise very different communication skills to facilitate learning and understanding.  

‘My skills are evolving. The challenge is to create positive classroom dynamics and ways to encourage and motivate the students, things that are not learnt from a textbook. I often wish that I could pull out fireworks to maintain energy levels and combat screen fatigue! I strive to deliver a fun, interactive session whilst maintaining professionalism and keeping on track with content. This has been the biggest learning to date.’

Robyn Shepherd-Murdoch, Teaching, Learning and Course Manager at ICAN Learn, has provided enormous support for teachers and students to traverse the impacts of COVID-19 and remote learning.

 Robyn, what would you say has been most challenging to students and teachers in adjusting to this COVID response?  

‘I would have to say our biggest challenge was moving over to Zoom full time because teachers and students miss the in-person interaction that the classroom offers. All our teachers enjoy attending the classroom, engaging with students and talking over financial counselling using an integrated approach.  Zoom’s breakout rooms have been a real help to students when they can’t catch up or study together in person.

‘We have always been used to conducting remote meetings and more informal web-based learning opportunities to support students’, says Robyn, ‘but now our teachers are really leading the way.’  

ICAN Learn continues to work using the live online platform providing education for financial counsellors and financial capability workers across the country.  

‘What we have realised is that the ability to engage weekly through our adjusted approach has lots of benefits’, says ICAN Learn Executive Office, Bernadette Pasco. ‘Not only have we been able to continue our programs without too much interruption, but we have built teacher and students skills with everyone becoming more IT savvy. We have been able to start increasing our resource base to provide the industry-focused financial counselling and capability education we pride ourselves on.’