Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education and Sports, with the support of the Australian Government via their BEQUAL program, has been actively responding to the situation by testing different innovative approaches to continue training, teaching, learning and monitoring activities even during a lockdown. Those new approaches, often involving digital technology, have many other benefits such as cost and time efficiency, flexibility and are also well adapted for remote areas and areas with difficult road access.
The latest pilot is a test of a blended learning approach to build the capacity of master and provincial trainers to provide ongoing support to teachers. Blended learning is an approach combining face-to-face training and online learning and interaction.
The pilot is led by the Department of Teacher Education and includes 28 participants, six master trainers and 22 provincial trainers in three provinces (Vientiane Capital, Luang Namtha and Savannakhet). The training topic selected for the pilot is classroom observation skills and techniques which is a key skill of teachers that helps them identify students’ strengths and areas where they need support. The participants are firstly trained on how to join and engage in an online workshop using Zoom (a video conferencing software), how to participate in breakout room discussions, how to use Zoom’s group chat and how to independently overcome technical issues and use the troubleshooting guide. Master trainers received extra input to enable them to lead on the delivery of online workshops to provincial trainers.
The blended learning pilot consists of one two-day face-to-face workshop and four subsequent half-day online workshops. The workshops were delivered through the same cascade model that is used for the national teacher training for each new primary grade: The Department of Teacher Education and BEQUAL experts are training the Master Trainers who then train the Provincial Trainers. Following the 3rd workshop last week, the Master Trainers conducted classroom observations in several districts of the 3 pilot provinces. BEQUAL and Department of Teacher Education experts located in Vientiane monitored them on Zoom to measure the quality of the classroom observation carried out by these 6 master trainers. The experience was successful with only minor technology issues despite the remoteness of the schools.
The pilot started in October 2020 and will be completed by the end of the year. If successful, it will then be scaled up to other provinces. The first feedbacks are already positive. The blended learning approach offers the learner convenience and flexibility; they can control their learning pace and learn remotely. It is also very relevant for remote areas, reducing traveling time and costs to training locations that may be difficult to reach. It will allow the Master Trainers to respond timely to difficulties encountered by Provincial Trainers and to provide continuous guidance via remote support sessions.