Going the extra distance

Distance learning courses are paving the way forward says Rob May from the YMCA Awards

Distance learning courses grant unparalleled access to education so that anyone, anywhere, can take a course and those that don’t have the time, the money or childcare arrangements needed in order to travel to classes, aren’t discriminated against or excluded. Not only this, but they also allow an individual to learn at their own pace, while the interactive content ensures there’s a learning style for everyone.

And yet, within certain sectors – such as the health and fitness industry – distance learning courses have been met with an element of suspicion and training providers have faced scepticism from those who believe this type of training cannot be delivered via technology. It has been argued that our societal obsession with all things digital has touched too many aspects of our lives. However, working within the industry, we aren’t digital deniers – we recognise that we are already living in an era that has been transformed by digital and therefore to ignore technology, rather than use it to our advantage, makes little sense.

Addressing the fears around distance learning courses…

Much of the trepidation and resistance to the use of distance learning courses has been focused on the quality of the training. There are fears that because of the nature of remote learning, it could be fairly easy for organisations to attempt to subvert quality training by cutting corners and may therefore deliver a substandard programme. Something that shouldn’t be an issue if a reputable provider is responsible for the development and execution of the course.

There is also an argument, or a fear, that distance learning courses are out to take jobs and to ‘replace’ tutors with technology, but this is simply not the case. In fact, demand has come from both students and tutors alike, who have often felt under too much pressure when in more traditional training programmes. It’s also important to remember that good distance learning courses do incorporate the human element and ensure learners still receive the same support as they would on any other course.

Distance learning courses may challenge the educational status quo but they do so to set a precedent in allowing more people access to training and education.

What measures have industry taken to mitigate the likelihood of low-quality training?

Given that distance learning is all about embracing the digital world, it should come as no surprise that there is a range of novel technologies now being used within the industry to ensure only high quality training is being delivered. While a lot of the reticence in the industry stems from decades of poor quality learning technology being shoe-horned into teaching, innovations in recent years have changed this. 

Online platforms, such as ePortfolios, can ensure every learner is assigned a one-on-one tutor – allowing for more in-depth, qualitative learning. This sort of one-on-one time is unlikely in a more traditional training programme where one tutor is typically responsible for the learning and development of tens of students. So, while the course is conducted entirely online, learners can still enjoy the human element by easily picking up the phone, sending across an email, or participating in a forum discussion in order to gain direct access to expert help.

When it comes to exams and assessments, there is eProctoring – a software that allows learners to sit a theory test exam in a convenient and secure manner while reducing the costs typically spent on postage, travel and exam room hire. For practical exams, students can film themselves performing assessments, upload the videos to a secure community forum and have these marked by tutor experts.

Looking to the future

In a society where a seismic shift in attitudes and behaviours of people towards learning is occurring, more and more people are turning to technology and distance learning courses to access training and education – from medicine to engineering, and everywhere in between.

At YMCA Awards, we’re looking forward to the future and working with a range of training providers who, have the capability to deliver an online course to our required standard. Training providers like ICS Learn, who we’ve recently launched our first distance learning courses – Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym-Based Exercise – and Level 3 Certificate in Personal Training – in partnership with. All of our qualifications are regulated by OFQUAL to ensure that our assessments are fair, consistent and delivered securely.

Ultimately, at YMCA Awards, our aim is to help people to lead healthier, happier and more fulfilled lives. If offering distance learning courses helps us reach a wider remit of people in granting them more access to education and training, then we’re happy to go the distance for our learners.

For further information on YMCA Awards distance learning course, visit: https://www.ymcaawards.co.uk

Rob May is director at the YMCA Awards 



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