SKILLS training institutes are taking the changes brought on by the movement control order (MCO) in their stride.
These changes, however, come with their own set of challenges.
For many, the headache is how they will cover a large chunk of their syllabus which comprises mainly of practical, hands-on training.
Some technical and vocational education and training (TVET) worry about keeping their colleges afloat amid the MCO but are trying their best to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
No time to waste
Even before the JPK guidelines were issued, Keningau Vocational College, Sabah lecturer Niel Solimin has been doing video tutorials.
The vehicle transmission system lecturer did not want to waste time by delaying the migration from physical classrooms to the virtual platform.
“I give them simple skills-based practice which they can do on their own vehicles using tools they have at home.
“I add materials to my videos from YouTube and Google which I find are helpful for the students, ” he said, adding that he then shares the video links in his class Whatsapp group chat.
Among the video tutorials he’s shared include lessons on how to open and install a car’s front wheel drive shaft. Most of his students, Solimin said, work on their parents’ car to perfect their skills.
“So far, it hasn’t been difficult for them to keep up with their lessons because they can refer to the recorded videos.”
Moving their lessons online wasn’t hard for E-Access International College (EAIC) as the skills training institute was preparing to conduct e-learning classes since last year as part of its digital transformation plans for 2020.
So, EAIC lecturers were ready when the closure of all educational institutions, and the Human Resources Ministry department of skills development’s (JPK) guideline on conducting online training and learning, were suddenly announced.
Chief operating officer Chue Wai Sum said lecturers had prepared teaching materials before the MCO was announced.
“We contacted our students soon after the announcement to start their online lessons.
“Initially, it was hard to gauge how much material we needed to prepare because we did not expect the MCO to be extended.
“But we are using this period as our opportunity to transform digitally.
“Before this, we hesitated as many of our students did not have access to devices, and also because the syllabus is such that 70% of it requires practical training.”
To help her students from the B40 community, Chue got them smartphones so that they could communicate with their lecturers and access the online content.
Some notes, she said, are sent to students via Whatsapp.
Video tutorials are uploaded on the college’s website, demonstrating practical training such as how to dismantle machines and vehicles.
Additional classes will be given to students once the MCO is over, she added.
Thinking about the financial effects of the closure of her college has Chue worried as no enrolments mean zero income.
She, however, is adament about focusing on the positive.
She is determined to continue providing her students with online lessons for the theory portion of the syllabus, and short videos for the practical aspects.
“We can’t achieve 100% online attendance because of problems like students having devices but no WiFi connection or mobile data to support their learning.
“At the moment, the participation rate is less than 60% but our lecturers are trying their best.”
The future is now
The closure of educational institutions is no excuse to not continue students’ learning and training, Geomatika Skill Institute chief operating officer Mazmadi Mohamad said.
E-learning is not difficult if both students and lecturers are willing to cooperate with each other.
“Students have paid for their fees and we can’t just allow them to be at home and not continue their education.
“We must start somewhere so we are teaching them the theory aspects first, which take up 30% of their syllabus.
“Once that is done, we will do the practical aspects via video.
“It is not hard because for automotive lessons for example, most students have either cars or motorcycles at home which they can use for their practical lessson.”
Likewise, for cooking, sewing and welding, lecturers can demonstrate to students through video tutorials.
E-learning is the future, he said, adding that the skills training sector is currently bogged down by too many restrictive rules such as the one lecturer per 25 students in class requirement.
With e-learning, there is no such regulation, he said.
“We can teach as many students as we want.
“This helps skills training institutes and providers reduce their operational costs, ” he added.
As we face the fourth industrial revolution, Mazmadi said alternative teaching and learning tools aremore important than ever.
A learning curve
Still adjusting to her online lessons, a student who only wants to be known as Azrina, is finding it tough to find her footing.
The graphic design student from Meatech College, Kajang, said the conversation between students and lecturers are limited.
“It is hard for those of us who don’t have a strong Internet connection at home as it can get very stressful so I prefer face-to-face learning because when I submit my assignments, the lecturers are able to provide instant feedback while checking my work on the spot, ” she said.
The environment at home is also not conducive for online learning, the fourth of five siblings said.
While her lecturer shares design ideas through Whatsapp, she’s not used to that method of learning.
“We are now doing our final project which comprises many tasks; it is hard to do it without our lecturers beside us as we can only connect virtually.”
Similarly, Nuqman Irfan Mazli prefers face-to-face lectures.
The 20-year-old graphic design student is finding online lessons difficult as he is not used to it.
“My lectures give us assignments online. I do what I know and skip the parts I’m unsure of.
“I’m not used to it because unlike physical classes, I don’t have my lecturers or friends present to brainstorm ideas with them. “We just message each other.”