During recent months, once ordinary day to day processes and activities have changed massively for many across the logistics sector. With travel restrictions, lockdown, and social distancing to adhere to, there has no doubt been an effect on how those within our sector are delivering training and employee development strategies.
For our podcast series, the Talent in Logistics team recently caught up with Simon Tindall, Head of New Business BDU, and Liz Hanway, Sector Lead for Transport and Logistics BDU, from the Open University to find out how learning and development has changed, in particular in relation to e-learning and distance learning.
In part one of a two-part blog, we see what they had to say about distance learning trends, why it’s a good thing, what the challenges are, and how to take the first steps towards implementing online learning in your training and development.
Read on to learn more or listen to the full podcast now.
When we look at trends since Covid-19 hit and we went into lockdown has there been an increase in people enquiring and enrolling on courses at the Open University?
[Simon Tindall]: I think what we’ve seen is not necessarily a huge change as such, but a significant acceleration of demand. So, prior to Covid, we always knew that people are increasingly looking at smaller and more modular courses. They were looking to do more education on the fly if you like and continue to upskill throughout their career, and this move towards generalists, rather than specialists that employers are looking for.
Within the first eight weeks of the lockdown, we saw something like a trebling of activity on Open Learn which is a free educational portal. We saw over a million enrolments on courses within the eight week period and, although that has plateaued a little bit as Lockdown has progressed, we’ve certainly seen this huge adaptation towards people looking at online learning and distance learning options as being very feasible. So, we expect, as we come out of recovery, for that trend, to pretty much continue.
[Liz Hanway]: Interestingly, our PR agency has also helped do some polling to see what activity has been going on. Almost half of the people on that pulse said they felt very uncertain about their current job role, and 24% of them have taken on additional learning opportunities. That is in part to increase their employability skills, but also a sense of feeling the need to protect the value of their skills in their current workplace, so that if redundancies are being made they are showing that they’ve got the highest skills possible to keep their current job.
The biggest rise that we have seen – 39% – is among 18 to 24-year olds. One in four of those admitted that they would like to have more direction from their employers when it comes to learning new skills. With younger team members at 38%, most keen to have a steer from their leaders on how to remain employable post coronavirus.
So, what we’ve seen at the Open University is a change in that the age population of who we’re educating has also come down. Prior to this, we were probably more post-25, and now we are seeing more 18 to 24-year olds as well.
At the moment, there’s a logical reason as to why people might look at Open University or distance learning, because we’re in a time where it’s not as easy to get into a classroom to train. But why do you think students choose distance learning over more traditional classroom-based learning?
[LH]: – I think the world has been changing – we’ve been moving more to a digital world and Covid has just accelerated that. I think people are thinking more and more about the lifestyle they want and the costs – I know for myself, I’m actually saving quite a bit of money not commuting into the office. I’m actually having more time with my children to play Monopoly. And thinking more about what my personal drivers are in life, not just my work-life balance.
I think this is what people are now reflecting on during the Covid pandemic – what do I want to do? My future career? How can I progress maybe in that company? And protect my job? But, equally, is this a wakeup call to doing something differently?
So why people might choose distance learning? Number one is, ultimately, we are a great university, but we are, because of our major delivery, cheaper than traditional universities. It doesn’t cost £27,000 to do a degree with us. We can give you the flexibility and lifestyle that’s around it. So, we don’t, dictate that you come on campus and have to do lectures at a certain time.
The sort of person that comes and studies at the university is really self-driven, they are doing it because they want to do it. I know that sounds daft but when I went to university, it was the thing I had to do because my parents said, “pick a course, off, you go”. We find people at the Open University have very much decided it’s a personal journey that they are on. These are people that are very confident, self-motivated, and able to balance that online learning.
The Open University was set up to educate adult learners that probably weren’t as confident in learning, and we still have that in place, so people will come to the university who haven’t studied before and can go at a pace that suits them. The Open University were top within the UK, potentially Europe, for disabled students, with 17% within that category, so a lot of students are attracted to our accessibility. All our courses are designed with dyslexia or colour blindness in mind
We have extra validation so course can be delivered online. Most universities will primarily face to face teach, and then whack on a PowerPoint at the end. When we say distance learning education, what we’ve actually done is research around the methodologies that actually work.
[ST]: Ultimately it just comes down to flexibility, so the way the courses are structured, and the delivery mechanism allows people to build their educational balance or education around other commitments, be that work or family commitments.
I think one of the key areas is particularly if you have ties to staying in the home environment, for example if you’re a carer or, in the current situation, when you’re isolating or shielding in some way. That flexibility and the ability to access from home becomes really important. It’s like working from home – prior to the crisis, people did it, but it was generally still seen as people should be in the office. I think some of those myths have been largely broken over the last 3 or 4 months.