2020. Wow, it’s been a year like no other. Since March most of us have been teaching remotely and I must admit, that although I’ve been teaching now for 26 years (Wait, what? How did that happen?), this has been the most challenging time I have ever encountered.
But despite all the challenges we have faced, I think everyone in the FE community has coped admirably!
And wouldn’t it be great if our teaching life returned to normal in September? But I don’t think that’s going to happen for a while yet, so in this blog I wanted to set out three potential scenarios we may encounter when we return after the summer and how Kenny and I see the Travel Training Academy helping you cope during these uncertain times.
So, being a bit of an optimist, I am going to start with scenario one, where we do get to return after the summer with all our students.
Will this mean life will return to normal? Well, to an extent maybe it will. So, you’re thinking, if that’s the case, maybe we won’t need to consider online learning anymore? And you’re right to an extent as your students will now be back in your classroom and face-to-face teaching can recommence.
But, imagine this for an idea. Loads of your time is taking up with teaching a LOT of theory isn’t it? And, maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I find that stuff kind of boring and I much prefer doing the fun practical stuff!
So, why not join the many colleges who have already been using the Travel Training Academy with their students? A lot of colleges tell me that using the Travel Training Academy has revolutionised the way they run their classes.
What they do is they get their students to complete a lot of the underpinning knowledge in their own time using the Travel Training Academy. Then they spend their valuable classroom time doing the practical training which is so vital for our students. Last year I was speaking to a lecturer from a college who had used New2Crew Masterclass to help teach her students employability skills. The students worked on New2Crew Masterclass in their own time and had an incredibly deep insight into how travel recruitment worked.
Then, using resources supplied by the Travel Training Academy, she was able to hold a full (mock!) assessment day with her students. She could send them out email invites to the assessment day (which we supply) telling them what documentation to bring along on the day as well as how they were expected to dress!
Students then turned up on the day and were greeted by the “recruiters” (who were actually mature students on a different course!) and their assessment day began! They had to take part in a reach test, a tattoo check took place and then it was into the group activities. Unfortunately, many didn’t make the cut and had to leave the assessment day. Others did much better and made it all the way to the final interview. And those who were successful received their email congratulating them the next day!
Everything the college required to hold an assessment day was included as resources within the Travel Training Academy. The whole assessment day was recorded by students studying film-making and the travel students were able to watch the video back and receive advice from their tutor on how to improve their performance in future.
The students loved how realistic the whole experience and many of them went on to be successful at assessment days I am delighted to report!
Now, doesn’t that sound like a fun day at the office? And that is just ONE example of resources we supply with the Travel Training Academy. There are over 200 of them!
Our online Courses
So, if you are looking for a range of amazing resources for teaching cabin crew, retail travel, resort repping, airport ground operations or hotel front office skills, we can help!
And, of course, you also get access to over 20 online courses as well!
And, let’s talk about these online courses for a minute.
Because, right now, in our wee rosy world, all our students are in front us and face-to-face teaching is back.
But Coronavirus, unfortunately, hasn’t gone away.
What happens if there is a local outbreak and all schools and colleges are closed again (as has happened recently in Germany and China?). What happens if one of your students gets a call from the track and trace team and are asked to go into self-isolation for 2 weeks? What happens to their education then?
What happens if, heaven forbid, one of your students catches Coronavirus and is absent for a while whilst they recover?
What about when the winter returns and people with underlying health conditions are asked to shield again? Or they live with someone who shields?
What if they are a key worker and can’t commit to a full-time college course?
And, let’s talk about the elephant in the room- the schools returning!
It looks more and more likely that schools are going to be allowed to return with 1m social distancing. And, whilst many politicians would have us believe that this will allow all pupils to return this is far from the truth.
In fact, many headteachers and teaching union representatives claim that the move from 2m social distancing (where only around a third of pupils could return) to 1m social distancing, will allow for around half of all pupils to return- a far cry from all pupils back in school (BBC News).
So, how will this one work in practice?
What if one of your students is expected to be in college on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. But their child is only in school on a Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday. It’s not going to be easy for them is it?
So, even if we did have all our students back in the classroom after the summer, it’s going to be fraught with difficulty isn’t it?
But using the Travel Training Academy could help. Any student who is missing class time due to any of the reasons above, could easily catch-up in their own time. And, it wouldn’t be the normal catch-up where we spend ten minutes with them at the end of the class, trying desperately to summarise a 3- hour lesson (or is that just me?)
Instead, they would be able to cover exactly the same content as their classmates but be able to do it at home in their own home and at their own pace. So, you can rest assured that they aren’t falling behind.
So, let’s consider scenario two.
This, I think will be most the most likely scenario.
I’ve seen it most commonly mentioned as blended learning which as you can imagine, is a “blend” between online learning and face-to-face teaching.
All good in theory, but here’s the thing. Online teaching is difficult. Most colleges have paid lip service to it over the years and this lack of investment in this area is, in my opinion, now coming back to haunt them.
Colleges have not invested enough time and money into eLearning (as its commonly known) and are suddenly just expecting lecturers like us to make this incredible pivot and like some kind of magician, create fabulous online learning.
But it’s far from simple isn’t it? What authoring tool do you use? Do you think scenario- based training is best? What’s a MOOC and is it any good? What on earth is EdTech? Asynchronous learning anyone? Is VOIP a good thing or not? And what about instructional design- do I need to do that? What’s a SCORM? Or a Tincan? Should I be encouraging my students to use gamification? Are badges a good thing and what do my students do with them? Is it safe to use open source material?
Because whilst we have all been beavering away in our classrooms, an e-learning revolution has been taking place with the market predicted to be worth $325 billion by 2025 (Bloomberg 2019). And colleges are now expecting us all to jump onto this e-learning bandwagon and make a seamless transition to blended learning.
A reality check
Let’s take a wee reality check here. Kenny is an award-winning e-learning technologist and has been working in e-learning for over 15 years, so he really does know his stuff. I write the courses and then Kenny designs them, using his e-learning know- how.
And, even with all that knowledge and expertise behind us, these online courses we create for the Travel Training Academy take us a long time to put together.
New2Crew Masterclass, which teaches employability skills, took us TWO YEARS to create! Yep, you read that correctly! I only teach in a college one day a week, so for four days a week for two years, under Kenny’s expert guidance, I worked on New2Crew Masterclass. Now, we are very proud of that course but I’m not going to lie, it was an incredible amount of work.
So, for colleges (and politicians) to think we can simply pivot and move our provision online is quite simply ludicrous. They seem to think that we can just invite all our students along to a zoom class and carry on face-to-face teaching, but this approach is wrong on so many fronts and is not an effective way of teaching remotely.
And, that’s to say nothing of the fact that it’s impossible to get all your students there at the same time and all the technology is faultless!
To me, it’s an insult to suggest that we can create high-level, engaging e-learning in the timescale we have been given. And the fact of the matter is, is that we are all exhausted. We have all worked tirelessly with our students since lockdown and now that summer is on the horizon, we really do need a break.
We want to help.
When we started up in business, it was borne out of a frustration. And that frustration came from the fact that we felt there was a real disconnect between what was being taught in FE colleges and the skills the travel industry was looking for.
So, we set out to create a range of online courses that would “mirror” the skills that the travel industry was looking for. We always worked with people employed in the job roles we were trying to emulate, to ensure our training was as realistic as possible and would prepare students well for their future. And we are proud to say that we feel we have achieved this.
To date, most colleges have used our courses as a course enhancement, as they have been able to see the advantages of giving students an opportunity to take part in this “real-life” hands on, scenario-based training.
Working with qualifications authorities has never been high on the agenda for us as we have always focussed much more on what the travel industry have been looking for.
However, like you, we realise now is the time to make some changes to help support you, our colleagues in FE.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have been working on mapping our courses to the qualifications you offer. Whilst I have been pleased at the incredible amount of “overlap” there is between our content and the underpinning knowledge required by the qualification authorities, there are some gaps.
Some of the units have no gaps at all and map over perfectly ( City and Guilds Level 2 Resort Rep unit 214 for example), others map over with small gaps, and some with larger gaps.
Kenny and I are committed to filling in as many “gaps” as we can over the summer. We have indicated in our mapping documents where these gaps are, and we have given you a date on when we plan to fill in these gaps.
So, you may be wondering why we are doing this?
It’s simple really.
If we do have to adopt a blended approach after the summer, the Travel Training Academy is a fantastic way to do so. Written by a lecturer like yourself (albeit an old one with 26 years teaching experience!) and designed by an award-winning e-learning technologist, you can rest assured that our courses are good. Incredibly engaging and yet designed to ensure deep learning takes place, you can be confident that your students will enjoy a first- class learning experience.
Yet, we want to take this one step further for you. We want you to be confident that for certain units, all the under-pinning knowledge required by your chosen qualification authority is covered in its ENTIRITY by the Travel Training Academy.
So, what we are imagining is a situation where your students would complete all their underpinning knowledge for particular units at home. Then you could bring them into college into small groups- to allow for social distancing- and assess the practical elements of the unit.
Imagine the work this could save you? And, for only £25 per student licence. It’s a steal!
So, that’s how we see the Travel Training Academy supporting you if we use a blended model after the summer, which I personally see as the most likely.
And, I don’t even want to imagine the third scenario, but here goes!
What if there is this so-called second wave of infection come the autumn or winter and we are locked down again?
I really, really hope this doesn’t happen, but if it does, then you know that, as before, the Travel Training Academy has got your back! 2,000 of your students have registered since we made it available in late April and as I am writing this blog, there have been over 1,400 course completions, 2600 courses are in progress and your students have completed more than 2 years of training in less than 8 weeks!
These are remarkable figures and they show you that students really engage with this stuff!
We’ve been sent a few emails from your lovely students thanking us for giving them access to our courses.
So, to finish, I’d like to handover to your own very capable students and their thoughts on the Travel Training Academy:
“Really enjoyed doing Learn2BeArep at my own pace and even though we have done some stuff at college the course has given me a view of what the job is really like in resort.“
“Easy and fun way of learning during this quarantine“
“What I enjoyed was the way you can leave and pick up where you left off when you join the next time. It is a really fun and simple way of learning“
“I have just completed Learn2BeaRep. What I enjoyed most was the scenarios because it gave you a proper feel what it would be like to work as a holiday rep. I think the travel academy is a really good online learning process and it very helpful and gives you a lot of different jobs you can do in the travel and tourism industry.“
“I really enjoyed the tests and quick courses, which enables me to learn at my own pace, gaining certificates for free. I think it is good for students to learn quickly and effectively gaining certificates to help with the future and job opportunities.“
Thanks for reading my (very long!) blog and I hope you found it useful.
Any questions at all, stick them in the comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org