Further education is feasible also during times of crisis: TÜV Rheinland Academy’s training operations had actually settled down again with virtual classrooms and hybrid offerings, but in mid-December 2020 Corona struck again harder. The second lockdown led to the renewed closure of the seminar centers. Nevertheless, it goes on because further education and online certifications are feasible even in times of crisis – Virtual Classrooms make it possible!
In 2020, TÜV Rheinland Academy hosted more than 700 further education seminars with approximately 6,000 participants in virtual classrooms (VC). Adobe Connect software plays a key role in this process by connecting instructors and learners. On the learning platform, content is jointly designed and edited online, eliminating the need for physical presence. Learners participate from home using their tablets or laptops and can interact with each other securely and flexibly in the VC. To set up this new structure, the trainers had to adapt their didactics and methods to the VC platforms in a very short time in March. Although some seminar centers had already been working with VCs, complete virtualization was unexpected in March and meant a lot of improvisation. In the second lockdown in mid-December, too, flexibility was paramount, but a grown routine compared to the first lockdown was already noticeable.
Further education: Fast move to virtual learning platforms
A change in thinking was required from one moment to the next. With a great deal of commitment, what had previously seemed unthinkable in this consequence succeeded: “It was a huge challenge, what our interdisciplinary teams achieved,” recalls Dr. Julia Köneke, Seminar Area Manager in the Seminar Area South at TÜV Rheinland Academy. “Learning content was adapted overnight for electronic learning formats. Everyone pulled together to meet the organizational, pedagogical, and didactic requirements. ” Over the summer, the seminar centers then slowly reopened their doors. Even though fewer participants were recently allowed to sit in the seminar rooms, from the end of May onwards further education could once again take place in face-to-face formats, subject to compliance with distance and hygiene regulations.
This is because some courses cannot be taught purely virtually. In particular, courses with a high practical component require the presence of the customer. However, TÜV Rheinland Academy also developed a solution for such practical requirements. To adapt the group sizes to the corona, some participants learn virtually at their desks at home, while the others meet in person in the classroom. Modern camera technology and good organization make it possible. And for those in quarantine or domestic isolation, VCs are the only way to participate in vocational education offerings at all.
High satisfaction with further education by VC
The feedback from seminar participants is therefore probably also clear: “How nice that TÜV Rheinland Academy now also offers VCs,” is a frequent reaction when registering. Travel and often hotel stays are no longer necessary. For many customers, the compatibility of family and professional development with VC seminars is also a clear advantage. Experiences with VCs are almost universally positive. Participants are surprised that the content is conveyed so well in the VC seminar. However, the interpersonal encounters during the breaks are sometimes lacking.
Seminar manager Christiana Kath from the East seminar area confirms this impression. On the one hand, organizing a VC seminar is easier to do because, for example, only digital documents are required. On the other hand, however, the personal exchange with the participants and the face-to-face seminar opening are missing. “What surprised us, however,” says Christiana Kath, “is that for seminars with a TÜV test, the effort required to conduct the VC seminar has increased. “
Online exams with a fast certificate awarding
There are good reasons for this. Final exams take place in groups during normal times, for which one supervisor is sufficient. For online exams such as certificate courses, however, it is necessary for one examiner to supervise one customer at a time synchronously during the digital work. For this new testing procedure, TÜV Rheinland Academy adopted a sophisticated system that complies with all the regulations of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The trainers register the examinee for a test. This already certifies that the candidate meets the admission requirements. The examinee then makes an appointment and receives instructions on how to take the exam. Due to the nationwide distribution of the examiners, the appointments can take place at any time. The examinee downloads an examination software, via which he logs in with his access data fifteen minutes before the start time. The software works via a normal browser. After logging in, however, all other functions on the end device are frozen. Googling answers or browsing digital documents is thus prevented. The examinee authenticates himself via the web camera and then the test supervisor activates the test. So far, the test has consisted of multiple-choice questions. The trainers are currently preparing a procedure for open questions and discussions. After passing the test, customers receive their results immediately and can download their certificate.
Fit for the restart – further education just in the lockdown
The new VC offerings from TÜV Rheinland Academy are an opportunity for skilled workers on short-time work in particular. They use their time for their professional development. And they get themselves fit for the restart because at some point the pandemic will end. Then it’s good if they can show current certificates and thus provide their employer with new know-how and – in case of emergency – present good reasons for continued employment. This is another reason why the demand for VC seminars remains high. The seminar centers have already advertised 1,630 seminars in virtual classrooms for 2021 and had already successfully held 69 of them by the end of January.