‘Classroom or Online Learning?’ with Victoria Hughes Transcript

Don’t forget you can listen to the audio version, just click the image above

Richard: Hi there thanks for pressing play and listening into the Safeti podcast. We break down the barriers to personal growth in the health safety and environment space to help you improve your knowledge, expand your network and maximize your impact.

Welcome to the safeti podcast with your host all the way from a small green island in the wild Atlantic Ocean, Richard Collins.

Richard: In this podcast there is something for those of you who are considering completing online or class room based health safety environment courses. We have a course tutor from Sheilds who are one of the largest global eLearning and classroom providers. We have Victoria Hughes on the show today as someone who is involved in both the delivery and the supporting of classroom based and eLearning focused courses to give us an insight into some of the pros and cons of each option. So that you can get an idea of what might sit you if you are currently having difficulty deciding which route to take or if you’re thinking about taking another qualification in the near future. Along with the usual links and extra resources, Sheilds Elearning have been kind enough to offer a specific discount on their courses to safeti podcast listeners. So if you’re interested in that just keep listening and I’ll tell you more about that at the end of the show. So let’s jump onto the call with Victoria and see what she had to say. Victoria Hughes thank you very much for coming onto the safety podcast, how are things with you?

Victoria: I’m fine thank you and thank you very much for having me.

Richard: Not at all, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Would you care to give us a little bit about your background and how you actually got into health safety and environment and have ended up as a tutor?

Victoria: Well my background I kind of fell into Health and Safety like a lot of people did I think. I was a health and safety officer for a company called, well you know Mind the mental health charity. That’s where I first got a taste for it and then I took on a new role as a manager for a group of charities in Hull and one charity was a shelter housing scheme in a listed building. There was school for which we were responsible for the fabric of the school. Not the running of the educational facility. But just the upkeep of the buildings. Yeah and a couple of educational grants. so when I got there, there was no ‘health and safety’ in place at all and I decide, I did my NGC (NEBOSH General Certificate) while I was there and realized fairly rapidly that I needed a bit more than that to run a grade two listed building. A sheltered housing scheme and we were doing developments on upgrading the school. We did a first upgrade which was a two million pound upgrade and then we went into the environmental side of it and did, we put up seventy-nine PV solar panels on the roof. Re-roofed it because the roof wasn’t strong enough and I ended up acting as the CDM coordinator. Which is what they were back then and that’s when I decided I needed the degree. So I went to university on a night and then once I got my diploma, I moved to Sheilds, got my environmental diploma and I got my degree last year. So that’s my experience in a nutshell.

Richard: Always learning, which is good!  Obviously I am bringing you on the show today you have a wealth of experience across mainly NEBOSH if I’m correct in terms of actually both taking the NEBOSH courses and providing student support. You’re a tutor at the moment with Sheilds training and you’re exposed to both the classroom and the online offerings, is that right?

Join Safeti for free to access exclusive Health, Safety & Environment discounts

Victoria: That’s correct yes. We run a couple of classroom courses a year and while I’m not dealing with those classes, I act as a tutor support for the diploma courses and some of the construction courses at certificate level.

Richard: I have done, I have said one or two things my site about survey courses I’ve done. I did the NEBOSH general certificate myself in the classroom forum. I went on to complete the NCRQ diploma. Which of course is distance learning as well? But similar to the online learning or e-learning option. So I have had exposure to both forms in terms of the online and the classroom albeit haven’t done the NEBOSH online. But I do know that there is quite a lot of debate and difficulty for students in terms of deciding what might be appropriate for them. Of course we don’t want people to be within their time or making the wrong choices. I’m interested to know what your views are from the tutor’s perspective. So maybe we could kick off by looking at the classroom examples first of all and just try and get a little bit of perspective if you could about what your experience has been what they can really expect if they take this root.

Victoria: Well the classroom. Looking at what outcome you can expect from a classroom course. You’re looking at achieving a qualification in a predetermined time period. Because you’ll have your class at set times. Be it over a series of around 14 weeks or as we do it within two weeks. we run our classroom courses in to block weeks and so students can think well if I take the classroom course, I know it’s going to start on this date and I know it’s going to end on that date and while I’m studying I’m going to have to really apply myself. You’ve got a tutor on hand all the way through your classroom course during the actual classes themselves. The study plan is designed for you. because the tutor will have planned when you would study certain topics, how long you would spend on them, what kind of homework there’s going to be that kind of thing and the resources that you need for that class are provided for you and you have the experience in a classroom or for the class members everybody will come from different backgrounds and everybody will have a valid input into the class with different experiences of health and safety. Understanding how health and safety can be applied to different job roles, different walks of life that kind of thing and keeping with the sort of group analogy. You’ve got group activities and exercises. There’s peer assessments that can be done that kind of thing and that I think helps. Because you’re in a classroom with other people who are learning at the same rate as yourself and so I think in some ways that classroom experience suits certain people much more. Because they can gain input from other students as well as throw out areas that they’re not sure of. For example if you’re confused about hazards and risks and the difference between them; you’ve got other people there who can help you aside from the tutor. You get instant feedback from a classroom course. If you ask a tutor a question you get an immediate answer. Because the tutor is there with you and your examine dates on a classroom course a preset. So you know that you’re going to have an exam at the end of your weekly classes or your block weeks whichever one you decide to do. So those are the benefits of attending a classroom.

Richard: I think you touched on an important point there in terms of and I can say this from my own experience. There is certainly a lot to be learned from the fellow students in the room and I found there was a lot of value for me listening to their experiences and yeah I guess as long as they you are encouraging those experiences to be brought out and discussed with the class. That is really good way of contextualizing the stuff that you’re trying to learn.

Victoria: We do try and encourage people from different backgrounds to  voice you know their own experience and what they found has worked, what they found hasn’t worked and what you find is a tutor as well is that the National General Certificate is so varied. It covers so many different topics. there is more than likely going to be somebody in that classroom who has more experience than the tutor, at least one of those topics. For example you could have qualified electricians and they will know more about electricity and electrical hazards and things like that then the tutor will have experienced. So you could have people who work at a chemical plant, who have more experience of you know things that require josh assessments and controls that can be put in place for that. So I think a health and safety tutor especially needs to draw on that experience and that knowledge. Because all it can do is benefit the class.

Richard: Yeah I mean the depth as you say that is behind each of the topics and the industries within you know within which they may apply I guess on the surface of it. someone’s studying a lot of the things for the first time wouldn’t even you know acknowledge it until you identify as you say someone with the experience such as an electrician or a chemical engineer or whatever it is. Actually you just mentioned there about the peer assessments. Can you explain a little bit more just how that works in the context of a classroom?

Victoria: A peer assessment is when you will set a task or a set of questions or a question and instead of the tutor saying whether or not it’s right or wrong, you’ll get other students to market or you’ll get other students to discuss it and say well actually no I think that at this particular point you could have said X, Y and Zed and what that does is it builds confidence in the students that are you know marking the papers and also the students whose papers are being marked or whose you know whatever activity it is being assessed. It’s easy sometimes to hear that from another student and from a different perspective than the tutor. Tutor can say this is right and that’s wrong. But I feel especially for me I feel that if students can do that amongst themselves, it’s a big confidence builder and it enables them to hear a different point of view and a different way of expressing whether something is right or whether they could have added something else or looked at it from a different point of view.

Richard: The grip learning is definitely valuable. I think that’s one major thing you know the classroom would be a benefit for students. Are there any disadvantages of taking the classroom route other than the obvious ones such as the cost? Obviously that’s a big factor for people.

 

Victoria: It is expensive. But I mean don’t like the word disadvantage. it’s everyone will make up their own list you know of whether it’s worth it or whether it isn’t and some students haven’t been in a classroom for years and they can find it quite intimidating. So that’s one thing that can put students off. whereas eLearning they’re not put in that environment and health and safety you’re getting people from a lot of backgrounds and a lot of people that go into this industry are quite headstrong, quite determined and that again can be quite intimidating for the students. Especially if they’re not as outgoing. So strong personalities can be overwhelming and they quite disruptive sometimes. I have had that experience myself with certain characters in the room have to have something to prove and it can disrupt the entire class and it has a knock-on effect. You’re on a very tight timescale with regards to covering all the topics that you need to before the exam and if you’ve got disruptive students in there, it can take away the time that you have allocated for other things. So it’s difficult to manage from a tutor point of view and it can be quite unnerving for other people who are in the class.

Richard: That’s the interesting perspective. I think it’s not something that people outside of the classroom environment with the experience you have may pick up on. But it’s certainly interesting to hear that and something obviously each student may consider with their individual personalities and so on. Although one thing I suppose you could say is that you know going into the profession and or taking on a role in health and safety environment you need to sort of build that strong personality. Because you’ll be coming up against some strong characters. So we’ll move on to the online stuff then. Since you’ve been you know involved in this, have you seen a growth in the online demand or can you give us a little bit of an insight as to why that’s developed over time?

Victoria: I’ve only been in Sheilds for three years. So I can only give you what I’ve seen over that three years and yes I would say there is definitely a big uptake on the courses. Especially with international students. Because it gives them the opportunity, they may not have classes in their area. So it gives them the opportunity to take a health and safety course and develop their own skills and competencies. So I would say yes there’s been an increase. There is a really good demand for it.

Richard: It is great that people in far flung locations wherever that might be, it gives them access to things that they just say they may not otherwise have had access to and a lot of the naysayers I’m going to come to online learning, a lot of their leverage against the online options would be that the difficulty in terms of discipline and you know having the enthusiasm to execute the studying and so on effectively is sort of a challenge for students. Can you give us a little bit of an insight on what your experience as being not only in that regard, but you know just overall?

Victoria: Well what we do is we do a follow up with our students after two weeks of them being on the course. We’ve recently added a lot more resources that are more interactive and intuitive in how to get started, how to look at the syllabus, how to make a study plan, and different types of study techniques that they can, use different revision techniques. Who to contact, when to contact them, when they can book their exams. What we’ve done is we’ve combined all this into two or three documents that when they launched their first course page they come up at the top of the page and they’ve got hyperlinks in them. So they can go from one section to another very very quickly and they can download those as a PDF and print them off for future reference. So we’ve tried to cover a lot of those issues by giving them the tools to look at. In the courses they have an additional resources section. Where we put things like pass papers, documents that cover things like exam technique, pitfalls of exams you know running up to the exams. We try and keep pushing them as much as we can. Other additional resources we run are the practice questions. We have a student forum. we will put the practice question on and students can either email us messages through the e-learning platform or post to the forum and everyone who answers the question will get an individual email back from a tutor and it will be commenting on the content of their answer and the style in which have answered it. making sure that they understand what the question means, understand what the command word is that has been used in the question and that they’ve written you know in sufficient detail to gain good marks and if they haven’t then we will encourage them to have another go and we try and change them weekly.

 

Richard: This is sort of more like trying to build a learning community where students are able to support each other in the same way that I guess they would in a classroom format. Is that the sort of system that Sheilds have?

 

Victoria: We have that as well. We have a student discussion forum and students can create their own streams and posts and then other people can reply to them. The e-learning platform itself has a like I say a messaging system. So they can contact with the students and what we’re finding more and more, you mentioned technology before. more and more people are putting posts at saying Whatsapp group for students in Cape town and what you’ll find is you’ll get lots of people joining that whatsapp groups and they’re forming their own study groups. Which is absolutely brilliant.

Richard: That would be the way they would counteract any sort of you know missing out of the shared learning experience that we were discussing in the classroom environment. Which is great to see. As you just said there is a learning platform and I’m not obviously aware of the exact nature of it, but is it presented in any way differently to what you would present in your actual classroom course or you know is there any changes that have been made to take into consideration, the challenges of self-study.

Victoria: Yeah we’ve broke what we’ve done is we’ve reformatted especially the diplomas. We’ve reformatted the way they’re presented. So that they follow the learning outcomes that are set out in the syllabus. so the syllabus will give learning outcome one and you need to for example outline the difference between a risk and a hazard for example. What we will do is we have our pages that students can click through and they will follow those learning outcomes exactly with the information that they need to achieve that learning outcome. At the end of each learning outcome we have a summary page of what they’ve covered and they are able to… it’s a bit difficult to explain actually, on the top right-hand side of their online course they have a menu so they can skip backwards and forwards through the pages and because the pages are named after the same pointers in the syllabus, they can cross reference the two. So if there’s something they’re not sure of, if they know the topic they’ll be able to find it and backwards and forwards and we also enable them to download the PDF versions of the online information and they can download it in audio format as well if they wanted to.

Richard: Okay so you try to break down the syllabus into sort of bite-sized chunks to help the students with the learning process for the different themes and concepts in the course. I think that is certainly quite critical from a point of view of the online courses taking into consideration the perspective of the student and you know the difficulties that they might face compared to your classroom. The big elephant in the room that is the NEBOSH pass rates. which there’s always been a debate around those and I know you’re doing the online diploma now which I’m sure is challenging and obviously you have taken steps to  try and make the learning process easier for people. Is that something you have visibility on or can you give us any further information on how the two formats compare relating to exam outcomes?

Victoria: Well we have actually asked NEBOSH for this information and unfortunately the way NEBOSH present their past rates is it’s per venue rather than per exam. So if we have for example students in Dubai, they will give us all the results for any student that sat in Dubai. whether they be a classroom student or an online student and so unfortunately the only way we can correlate the difference would be for somebody to sit and go through all of our results and when you’re looking at 300 plus per certificate exam sitting, just on the general certificates alone; it’s too time-consuming with very little outcome and so at the moment we can’t tell you the difference. not because we don’t want to, it’s because we can’t get the results sent to us in a format where we can actually pull the figures out that we want to do. But what we can say is that our pass rates correlate with the NEBOSH pass rates. When there’s a you know their national and international averages, they’re the same as Sheilds. We’re within one or two percent of the NEBOSH pass rates.

Richard: Okay cool I think your pass rates are important in terms of just giving people an idea. But I suppose I’m sure you wouldn’t would advice as well as I wouldn’t for people not to dwell on how other people do in these things. because it’s not about other people it’s about them as a student and what fits them, what their motivations are and you know how determined they are to achieve what it is they’re trying to achieve. But I think you’ve given us a good overview here of both of the options which both Sheilds and other learning providers offer at the moment. Obviously NEBOSH is still globally you know massive concern world of health and safety increasingly obviously environmental as well and offering you know a range of courses. so it’s great I’m sure there’ll be people from both the UK and internationally, they will have be able to come on and listen to what you’re saying here and I think it sounds encouraging. Certainly from my point of view the classroom certainly has its advantages and there’s no denying that. at the same time the technology is evolving obviously, Sheilds have taken steps to improve the learning process from the e-learning side of things and there’s guys as you say and keep trying getting together on Whatsapp to study together and so on. The barriers seem to be sort of getting lower and lower from that point of view.

Victoria: They are and also people are expecting more. People want more, they want that interaction. I mean we do say we aim to reply to messages and emails within two working days. But people want more than that. They want to be able to access information when they need it. Which is why we put so many resources up for them and we are looking now at developing webinars and more online video tutorials. But that’s something that’s going to take a lot of development and we want to get it right. So that’s something that we’re working on in the background at the moment.

Richard: Okay well you can certainly say you’ve had you’re, I don’t know this is your first podcast experience is it? You can say you started here on the safeti podcast. So I’d like to thank you for coming on the show today Victoria and giving us a little bit of an insight. I’m sure lots of people will find it valuable.

Join Safeti for free to access exclusive Health, Safety & Environment discounts

Victoria: Thank you.

Richard: No worries. Victoria if you don’t mind could you just let us know what the easiest way to contact Sheilds is if anyone has any questions about anything we’ve discussed today or they are interested in any of the courses you provide.

Victoria: If you put Sheilds e-learning into Google it will come up with our website. But sheilds spell S H E I L D S and you can have an interactive chat with one of our course advisors straight off the website. It will be a course advisor that would speak to you first to determine what it is you would like to study and why and they would guide you into finding the right course for you.

Richard: Ok awesome that sounds pretty handy for anyone that wants to ask any questions on any course on the NEBOSH, IOSH or NVQ that Sheilds actually provide. I will of course put some links on the show notes for you to access. Thank you so much Victoria for taking the time to come onto the safeti podcast and share your experiences with us. I’d like to just wish you all the best and hopefully we’ll catch up again soon.

Victoria: Yeah thank you very much for having me on the show.

Richard: Cheers. Bye, bye. Hopefully that gave you a bit of an insight into some of the less obvious pros and cons of taking either the classroom or the online / eLearning routes. Particularly relating to NEBOSH courses which obviously can be difficult in themselves, Sheilds have started to make strides in terms of changing the delivery to suit both styles and obviously it’s up to yourself, which one you think might be more suitable for your style of learning, your personality and so on? I mentioned at the start of the show that Sheilds had kindly offered an extra discount and that they were going to make available for safeti podcast listeners. I know that they already have massive discounts on at the moment in November 2018 leading up to Black Friday. But these discounts will be additional to that. So if you are in the mind of doing any of these courses in the near future, then this could be a good time to capitalize on those discounts and going forward if it’s after November 2018, we hope that you still will be able to use our code and sheilds will have updated their discount accordingly. If you go on to www.sheilds.org and you go to order one of the courses, just put in safeti podcast. That’s safeti spelt with an I, podcast and that should apply a discount to your course cost. As a means of full disclosure, if you do use our code we will receive a small commission. Thankfully this will help us keep producing free content for you guys as you move forward in your journey in the health safety and environment space.

Thank you once again for tuning into the podcast. If you haven’t already done so, please join our email list at www.https://safeti.com to get access to our new content or you can just subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Google podcasts. Until next time keep stepping out of your comfort zone, keep making a positive impact and hopefully we’ll catch again soon, all the best.

Thanks for listening to the safeti podcast. We would love you to tell us which episode you would like to hear. Don’t forget to give us a shout at www.safetopodcast.com. [Music]