Prepare Your RTO for Training in a COVID-19 World

Tips for Your RTO to Survive COVID-19

As the world responds to COVID-19 (aka novel coronavirus or NCOV), many training organisations are asking themselves how they will get through this coming period of uncertainty. Australia is locking down, closing borders, self-isolating & we may soon have strict quarantines. One thing does seem certain – the disruptions will continue for months, and many businesses will need to adapt to survive.

As a supplier to the Australian VET sector, we are already seeing a mix of reactions from clients. Some seem to have already put it in the “too hard” basket and intend to simply stop delivering training if they can’t do it face to face. But many more are rapidly implementing strategies to get through these tough times.

I strongly believe many RTOs must now reconsider how they conduct “business as usual” and transition from their traditional face-to-face training programs and embrace online & blended delivery models wherever possible to continue trading.

RTOs have an obligation to continue training their existing students and provide them pathways to completion. Of course, you and your staff will also need business and employment through the crisis to keep food on the table. Your business and personal spending will contribute to broader Australian economic health. At the other end of this crisis, Australia still needs registered training organisations operating and ready to help with the economic recovery.

And yes, some industries will benefit from coronavirus. Supermarkets are struggling to keep shelves stocked, and related industries such as logistics are going gangbusters to keep up with the demands being placed on supermarket supply lines. Delivery services are experiencing massive and rapid growth because many households are already voluntarily self-isolating and need new, safer ways to get their groceries and other supplies.

In the coming months, students will still require training and certification to meet the needs of industry – and that includes practical, hands-on courses that require skills to be performed by the student and observed by the assessor.

So how do you adapt your RTO to a self-isolated world?

Online Training Delivery

Digital Training Resources

We offer a huge range of digital training and assessment resources. Most of the package we have developed in-house are specifically designed for online training delivery and can be set up and deployed rapidly by your RTO. We also offer a significant range of digital materials from our partner publishers with a range of inclusions and features.

Almost all the packages we have developed under our Compliant Learning Resources & Precision Group brands are supported by Simulated Workplace Sites.

These contain a huge range of common workplace documents and other resources you need to be able to delivery training via online or distance training.

This is critical to online course delivery, especially now that many more students will no longer have access to a real workplace.

We have developed a huge range of workplace resources including policies, procedures, forms, templates, case studies, client records, meeting minutes, agendas, travel records and more, depending on the unit or course requirements. These are ready to use now and will save you months or years of work to create your own.

The other benefit is this allows you to deliver training in situations where students would not be allowed to access real files due to confidentiality and privacy concerns – things like patient or client records, medical records, financial information and more.

Please get in touch for more information, Anthony will be happy to give you a private walkthrough of these sites to see how your RTO can implement them to get up and training ASAP.

LMS Options

An LMS is critical to online course delivery. It’s a fast, efficient way to deliver training materials to students and manage their studies. We offer our own LMS solutions, and part with other LMS providers to offer a range of options to our clients.

ESkilled

Our new LMS platform, Eskilled, is a fully-featured LMS platform that includes many of our most popular training resources set up and ready to use, out of the box. Our team continues to add more training content to give you more resource options, plus you can contextualise, add your own training resources & supplemental materials to deliver your courses exactly how you want.

Check out the Eskilled platform here to find pricing and training resources currently in the platform: https://eskilled.com.au/

Check out a demo unit here: https://eskilled.com.au/try-elearning-resources-demo/

Coassemble

We partner with Coassemble to offer an affordable BYO and build-your-own LMS platform solution. Coassemble includes easy an drag-and-drop editor so you can take our digital training resources and set them up exactly how you want to use them as elearning/LMS resources in your virtual classroom.

Get in touch about this option today – get unlimited student license resources, set them up how you want, and pay only a very affordable monthly fee to use the LMS platform!

Print vs Digital vs eLearning Resource Models

Per student licensing models – the most common way print and many e-learning resources are offered – are deceptively cheap. The $10-$20 per student, per unit costs quickly add up…

Consider a common qualification such as the CHC33015 Certificate IV in Individual Support (Ageing) and a middle of the road resource cost of $15 per unit, per student.

The resource cost per student will be 13 units x $15 = $195 per student.

A typical class of 20 students will have a resource cost of $3900 just for training materials, plus add on training & assessment costs, administration costs…

Your second class adds another $3900, your third another $3900… suddenly you’ve paid $11,700 to train just 60 students.

In most cases, our unlimited student license digital resource model will allow you to break even in just 1 class of students or less. From that point forward your training resources are effectively “free”, plus you have the benefit of being able to edit & contextualise your materials to suit the exact needs of your RTO and student cohort.

If you still wish to print materials for your students, this is also allowed under our license model. Materials can be used with minimal changes, uploading and implementing directly in an LMS platform – meaning this is the ideal model to support flexible delivery approaches.

We already have a number of “eLearning ready” resources that have been converted to SCORM-compliant HTML5 format, with more content being rapidly developed.

Webinars & Virtual Classrooms

Huge number of video conferencing software and services available now. Some common options you can investigate to find the one that suits your needs include:

  • GotoMeeting & GotoConference
  • Zoom Meeting
  • Google Hangouts
  • Skype
  • FreeConference
  • UberConference
  • Facebook Live
  • Youtube Live

These conferencing apps can be used to provide a “virtual classroom” environment so trainers can talk with the class, utilise PowerPoints, demonstrate skills and more, without requiring any physical contact between students, or between trainer and students.

Finance

Business Banking

Federal & state governments are already responding with economic stimulus packages. Banks are likewise acting quickly to provide personal and business assistance.

For example, our banking provider NAB has already announced measures to support businesses through these times by deferring loans and credit cards, unsecured business loans, rate cuts.

They are also offering personal banking relief in the form of pausing home loan payments, lower rates, redraws, and reduced payments on variable loans. Learn more here: https://www.nab.com.au/personal/customer-support/covid19-help

This is an opportunity to get cash flow for capital investments, regular expenses, salaries, or unforeseen costs that pop up as you transition to an online training delivery model.

Economic Stimulus Packages

As of Sunday 22nd March, 2020, the Federal Government have announced two major economic stimulus packages. This includes several measures to help businesses keep staff employed, stay on top of regular expenses, and make equipment and asset purchases required to adapt to the current business environment.

This includes:

  • A tax-free, cash payment of between $20,000 and $100,000 for eligible not-for-profits and small businesses.
  • The Commonwealth will guarantee unsecured loans of up to $250,000.
  • An extension of the instant asset write-off allowing companies with turnovers of up to $500 million to make assets write-offs of up to $150,000.

Summary of the first stimulus package: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-12/federal-government-coronavirus-economic-stimulus/12042972

Summary of the second stimulus package: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-22/coronavirus-second-stimulus-economy-federal-government/12078982

It’s worth consulting with your accountant on eligibility criteria for these stimulus packages and how you can best use them to keep your RTO healthy and trading.

Business Expenses

Now is the opportune time to consider where you can reduce regular business expenses to keep cashflow healthy.

With many RTOs transitioning to work from home arrangements, offices will be empty – it may be appropriate to suspend or switch off power, internet, regular orders of office supplies and other services temporarily to reduce monthly outgoing expenses. This can save thousands a month for many RTOs and help to offset the acquisition and provision of other equipment & services, which brings me to:

Equipment

There were a few photos of massive queues at computer stores circulating on social media last week – obviously many people discovering they don’t have all the equipment they need to function effectively from home.

RTOs should consider providing or subsidising essential utilities and equipment to help staff set up a safe and functional work environment at home, including:

  • Desks & Chairs
  • Computers & Screens
  • Webcams, Headsets and Other Conferencing Equipment
  • Air-Conditioners, Heaters & Other Climate Control Devices
  • Power
  • Internet Connections & Backup Wireless Internet Services
  • Whiteboards & Other Training Aids

There are already deductions in the tax system to help reduce the impact of these expenses on individuals providing their own equipment and facilities for work. Of course, I recommend all readers seek professional tax advice on what can and can’t be claimed as a tax deduction, and what evidence should be provided to support your claims.

Remember that you also have an obligation as an employer to provide a safe work environment for your staff, even when working from home.

Workplace Health and Safety

The Australian government has released many guidelines for social distancing & general health and safety advice during these times.

Your RTO may still need some staff work in your office or training facility in order to provide training services – for example, so you can utilise specialised training equipment & aids to complete practical assessments.

The general recommendations to keep workplaces safe under the current conditions are:

  • Stay at home if you are sick
  • Stop handshaking as a greeting
  • Hold meetings via video conferencing or phone call
  • Defer large meetings
  • Hold essential meetings outside in the open air if possible
  • Promote good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene and provide hand sanitisers for all staff
  • and workers
  • Take lunch at your desk or outside rather than in the lunchroom
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly
  • Consider opening windows and adjusting air conditioning for more ventilation
  • Limit food handling and sharing of food in the workplace
  • Reconsider non-essential business travel
  • Promote strictest hygiene among food preparation (canteen) staff and their close contacts
  • Consider if large gatherings can be rescheduled, staggered or cancelled

And we can adapt their general guidelines for schools to a training context:

  • Require students to stay home from training if they are sick (this may mean rebooking or offering extra training support so students can keep up with the rest of the class)
  • Sanitise hands when entering class and at regular intervals
  • Maintain 1.5m distance between students in the classroom
  • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces regularly
  • Consider opening windows and adjusting conditioning for more ventilation

You can access the full fact sheet on social distancing guidelines here:

https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-information-on-social-distancing.pdf

Training and Assessment Strategies

Just this week we had a client remark that he couldn’t run his courses online because of the physical equipment necessary to complete the practical observation requirements.

Let’s consider how his course could be reconfigured to continue delivering training while still maintaining safety for both student and trainer:

  1. Deliver main course content and theory via webinars, pre-recorded videos, text-based learner resources and other digital/online educational resources.
  2. Conduct theory assessment online or in digital format. If students must be supervised during assessment (eg if it’s a closed book exam or test) this can still be done via video conferencing. You can even control the computer environment by using remote access software to allow students to complete tests remotely on a computer system you control.
  3. Where practical observations need to be completed:
    1. If appropriate physical resources are available to students in their own home/workplace, then tasks can be performed and recorded with a video camera for submission.
    2. Roleplays can be designed so students can simulate many scenarios and conduct them with volunteers at home, or with other students via video conferencing, and observed or recorded for submission.
    3. Where specialised physical equipment & machines are required, limited face to face instruction may still be required. Where safe to do so, this can still be conducted in your training centre provided:
      1. Appropriate social distancing is maintained (1.5m between students, and between students and trainer). This may require reduced group sizes or even 1 on 1 trainer/student sessions to minimise risk of exposure and transmission.
      2. PPE such as masks and gloves may be appropriate, depending on your training environment.
  • Equipment is appropriately cleaned & sterilized between each student.
  1. Hand sanitiser should be provided in every room and used regularly, plus of course soap in the bathrooms (I hope this one was a given!).
  2. Multi-lingual signage for students to ensure appropriate caution and hygiene practices are followed.
  3. General increased and improved cleaning measures throughout your training venue.

Very quickly we’ll see more and more recovered cases of coronavirus – people that the current available science indicates will no longer be contagious and will most likely have some level of immunity to the virus (how long and how much is still to be determined).

Those people may be called on to be rapidly trained into new skills and take on new jobs to keep our country running and essential services operational. There are many people in critical roles who fall into particularly vulnerable & high-risk health groups who may no longer be able to safely perform their job soon due to high risk of infection.

What We Are Doing Now

Our companies, Compliant Learning Resources, Precision Group (Australia), and Eskilled, plus our associated brands TotalVET Training Resources and RTO Learning Materials, are incredibly fortunate that almost all our staff can perform their entire job from home. Our products are digital and online training resources that can be delivered anywhere in the world in moments with no physical contact required.

We acted quickly once we saw the COVID-19 situation escalating and moved our entire company to work from home on Friday 13th March to minimise their risk of exposure. Apart from a little cabin fever setting in (I’m up to more than 1 week of self-isolation after recent international travel as I write this) we are still operating at almost 100% capacity.

Our development teams will continue to create new learning content over the coming months to service upcoming training package changes and ensure we can meet the needs of our clients.

Our eLearning team is rapidly converting our learner resources to eLearning format for easy plug-and-play compatibility with popular BYO LMS systems.

We also have a full eLearning solution available very soon (Eskilled – https://eskilled.com.au/ ) that will allow RTOs to access all our eLearning content and add more of their own.

Our focus now has turned to what we can do to meet the needs of our clients, RTOs, TAFEs, universities and schools, to help them transition rapidly to meet the needs of our new world.

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