Forced online learning in the age of COVID presents major challenges

Forced online learning in the age of COVID-19 has presented significant challenges to VET and university learners in Australia and overseas. 

Literacy and numeracy: The Reading Writing Hotline has released its report on Online Learning and Digital Isolation during COVID-19: The report concludes that with cessation of face-to-face classes, many learners were unable to continue their study, inequalities between learners increased, and it has become clear that many adults don’t have the skills or access to technology to succeed in online study.

University: The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) has released its report, Foundations for good practice: The student experience of online learning in Australian higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic, based on responses from 118 providers: “A very large proportion of respondents … commented that they did not like the experience of online learning and did not wish to ever experience it again,” says the report. One “surprising and somewhat disturbing” issue raised was a reluctance by some students to use the video in Zoom because “they did not wish to show their colleagues the interiors of their homes because they were concerned about the physical contents and appearance and also the presence of family members”.

SurveyMonkey conducted similar research among US college and university students, and found that 86% of students found the transition to be disruptive, and only 37% are extremely or very prepared to shift to online learning.

CCA conclusion: “Online learning is not a panacea, not a way to reduce costs. A majority of VET and post-secondary students – not just those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, both in Australia and overseas – have reported major challenges and difficulties in studying through a forced ‘online only’ mode. It is essential that governments – which are under tremendous pressure to increase training – understand this,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia.


On the positive side, a number of organisations have developed and distributed free resources for post-secondary education providers.

ASQA (Australian Skills Quality Authority) has published a large set of up-to-date resources for Australian VET providers on how to stay compliant when adopting distance learning options, with sections on planning, marketing and enrolment, student support, training and assessment, and reporting and record keeping.

Microsoft Australia has published research, examples and success stories to help make the transition to hybrid learning with digital platforms that enable high-quality learning experiences in hybrid environments.

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