Leo Chetty

How online competency based education should be designed to up-skill employees

In my travels, I’ve noticed one thing about the landscape of continued learning: the psychology of learning while doing and learning while anywhere.

We know that degrees may not tell much about a candidate’s fit or appropriateness during recruitment. Employers are better placed understanding what a job seeker knows and can undertake.

Harvard Business Review in 2014 presented research about the rise of online competency based education ‘which would revolutionize the workforce by filling in the skills gaps with workers. [It is about] measurable learning objectives that empower students.’

How do we understand online competency based education? Say a newly graduated economics student has the opportunity to work at a tech based company in a marketing role and needs some experience with content marketing? Going back to university for a lengthy period of time does not work and the more traditional institutions may not offer a focused content marketing course. How will this student skill up within a high quality programme that’s targeted and affordable?

This is where online competency based education can fill the skills gap by ‘identifying explicit learning outcomes when it comes to knowledge and the application of that knowledge. They include measurable learning objectives that empower students: this person can apply financial principles to solve business problems; this person can write memos by evaluating seemingly unrelated pieces of information; or this person can create and explain big data results using data mining skills and advanced modeling techniques.’ (https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-real-revolution-in-online-education-isnt-moocs)

The notable distinction is how the learning is structured. The environment and outcomes are flexible and centered around real world deliverables. It is learning hours vs mastery of a skill. Flexible learning doesn’t allow a student to move to the next level until mastery is demonstrated. And mastery is demonstrated though presentations, real life exercises in the field and actual application of the key skill being learned.

Education providers who set up online competency based education portals are conducting direct conversation with corporates stakeholders to further understand core skills needed for placement.

Take the example of cityvarsityonline.co.za.

CityVarsity Online website

When we introduced this new creative online learning portal, we were mindful of the quick and affordable up-skilling that members of the workforce would need to get ahead. Our courses were designed around the most popular areas for recruitment in South Africa. Some of the courses on offer: Mobile App Design, Creative Writing, SEO, Photography, Social Media, Documentary production among other creative disciplines.

Courses are structured according to the following format:

  • Module notes
  • Engaging Videos presented by the SME
  • Online Learning Studio
  • Supporting external content
  • Social Learning via discussions Forums
  • Assessment and Quizzes
  • Assignments
  • Individual Feedback from the SME
  • Academic support from the Academic Advising Centre

Our Subject Matter Experts or SMEs in collaboration with our CityVarsity departments have prepared and delivered course material that is current and relevant. The SMEs create content for online courses based on their knowledge and experience within the working world, allowing them to design and present material of the highest calibre for real world application. Learners begin picking up skills within three weeks from the first entry into the course; these can be applied immediately into the workspace.

CityVarsity Online certificate

Remember too that online learning can’t be propagated without its foundational framework of its enabler — technology. By developing and introducing the latest online learning based technologies from our central hub at Emotion Studios, we are best placed to offer premium online education offerings for a smarter and better skilled South African workforce.

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