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Adult educators go back to school to learn to be better trainers

The Covid-19 crisis has driven significant shifts in the way trainers, or adult educators, conduct courses for adults. More are having to upskill themselves, including using tech to be more effective online.

Mr Alan Tan was among the first trainers to take IAL’s WSQ ACLP programme in June 2019. PHOTO: THARM SOOK WAI

Mr Alan Tan, 38, always felt equipped as a freelance trainer at the Textile and Fashion Industry Training Centre (TaF.tc) in Singapore - until Covid-19 forced everyone from the classroom to behind closed doors.

The crisis that began early last year changed the way trainers like him had to conduct courses for adult students.

Today, trainers, or adult educators, have to think about camera angles, close-ups and projecting confidence in front of the camera - and be trained to do so.

Mr Tan was fortuitously ahead of the curve, having been inspired by the adult learners' passion to improve themselves.

In June 2019, he was among the first trainers to take the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) Advanced Certificate in Learning and Performance (ACLP) programme, which aims to improve the way adult educators facilitate their training. The course was conducted by the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL).

The IAL is an autonomous institute under the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) that provides training and upskilling opportunities for adult educators, and undertakes applied research for the development of training and adult education (TAE).

Mr Tan, who teaches drafting and sewing at TaF.tc, says: "I had reservations as my course relies heavily on face-to-face and hands-on learning, but the programme made me think of ways to harness online teaching."

The WSQ ACLP programme's technology-enabled learning delivery module taught him how to better conduct online training, which has become a crucial skill in the age of Covid-19. His TaF.tc course itself has changed from purely in-person classes to include online learning.

"Now, I use different camera angles when I'm filming lessons, including close-up shots when I'm demonstrating techniques, so my students can follow," says Mr Tan, who also has a bespoke fashion label called narsesizem.

"Practising during the ACLP module also built my confidence and helped me to ease into conducting training in front of a camera."

He noted that the idea of becoming a student again might be challenging to some: "Having not studied for a long time, coming back to be a learner gave me a lot of stress and pressure. But my coursemates and trainers were very supportive."

"What I learned during the ACLP course is that nothing is impossible if you're willing to try, and I'll continue to apply the valuable lessons and experiences that I picked up to my teaching."

She thrives using tech tools

Ms Salmah Samion, who is in her 50s, is a firm believer that keeping up with the times is a critical part of being an adult educator.

"I have to be current in my skills, especially now in conducting training virtually and using tech tools, with most face-to-face training converted into virtual classrooms due to Covid-19," says the training associate in the NTUC LearningHub, and founder of training company Salsamion Learning Solutionist.

As part of the nine-month WSQ ACLP programme, Ms Salmah Samion discovered new online learning platforms to help her students. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SALMAH SAMION

Despite ample qualifications as a trainer and curriculum developer, she enrolled in the WSQ ACLP programme in February. "I want to hone emerging skills that are in demand, and master blended learning tools that can improve my training delivery," she says.

As part of the nine-month programme, she discovered online learning platforms such as Edmodo and Google Classroom, and used them in her work as a trainer to prepare virtual lessons that students can take in their own time.

She has also tapped on digital tools such as Nearpod, used to create interactive activities and exercises, in her online classes after learning about them in the WSQ ACLP programme.

"I've really enjoyed the ACLP programme so far, and it has been a good experience in learning new things and revising things that I may have lost touch with. Networking with other trainers and sharing our experiences is also something that I look forward to."

It is not enough for educators to be experts in their fields, she stresses. "Possessing domain knowledge is insufficient. You have to engage your learners, and that means making use of tools that are available."

She adds that she has become a better adult educator by taking the WSQ ACLP modules and other previous courses. "I've covered gaps in my competencies, enriched my skills and knowledge, and become more confident in conducting workplace training, blended learning and other types of classes."

'Important to keep abreast'

As an adult learner herself, Ms Siti Nurhidayah Idrus knows what her students need. The 32-year-old joined the SUSS in 2018 as a learning and development specialist after achieving the WSQ Diploma in Adult and Continuing Education from IAL (now the WSQ Diploma in Design and Development of Learning for Performance).

"I preferred lessons that are succinct and fuss-free, and those are the kinds of online courses that my team and I at SUSS have created for its adult learners," she says.

At SUSS, Ms Siti Nurhidayah Idrus develops lessons for the university's students, and works with non-profit organisations to create courses and modules for their staff and volunteers. PHOTO: THARM SOOK WAI

Before she took up her role in the SUSS, she was a digital learning developer in the Singapore Armed Forces' Medical Training Institute (SMTI), producing digital learning assets for their life-saving courses.

"I was curious about how lessons were planned and why they were done a certain way. My SMTI team leader cultivated my interest and guided me on how to start becoming a learning designer. It was almost like workplace training," she says.

At SUSS, she develops lessons for the university's students, and collaborates with non-profit organisations to create courses and modules for their staff and volunteers.

For example, a Suicide Prevention Online Module for a local non-profit organisation and a Workplace Harassment module for staff and students of SUSS.

"This way, I feel that I am contributing to society through my experience and expertise as a learning designer to make learning accessible to others," she says.

She plans to take two WSQ ACLP modules - Design Learning Solutions to Address Performance Needs and Adopt Skills Framework for Professional Growth - to upskill herself.

"These two would keep me up-to-date on industry requirements and trends, so that I am aware of their needs and can remain current and adaptable," she explains.

"It is important for adult educators like myself to keep abreast of the latest methodologies and frameworks so we can continue to do our best in helping others to learn."

  • To learn more about IAL's programmes for adult educators, click here.

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