From Azerbaijan to Zambia: Successful online courses broaden STEP’s horizons
STEP Council heard in April 2013 that STEP’s training partner, CLT International (CLTI), had successfully developed with STEP an online offering to extend the reach of the international diploma programme (DL+). At that time, there were 50 students on the pilot DL+ system. Less than a year later, over 150 delegates have enrolled on, or completed, courses who would otherwise have been unable to access STEP qualifications. Those students are based in over 30 jurisdictions all over the world, including Australia, Azerbaijan, Belize, China, Germany, Kenya, Panama, Spain and Zambia.
Since 2001, STEP and CLTI have worked together to offer face-to-face training in as many jurisdictions as possible. On occasion, practitioners based too far away from any countries where workshops were available requested distance-learning and were given the option of studying on their own, and then taking an exam in a moderated setting, often involving local colleges or universities.
Rob Rowe explains the thinking behind creating DL+: ‘I was never entirely comfortable with the “exam only” route, since it left learners with less support than I would have liked. I thought we should do better for STEP students and developed the DL+ model to enable the maximum number of students to access the STEP world, wherever they were situated.’
DL+ delegates undergo the same rigorous testing as any other STEP student who has completed a traditional face-to-face diploma course and moderated exam
The learning and development sector continues to undergo significant changes, with online courses heralded as a means of making training at all levels more accessible. Several high-profile courses have turned out, however, to offer training materials alone, with no certification or qualification on completion.
‘Many training providers rushed into the market, but shortchanged students with unreliable web platforms and poorly designed training materials. I felt that it was important to be able to offer online delegates something as close as possible to the quality of face-to-face learning. My team spent a long time researching the most reliable services and worked with course tutors to ensure that training materials would support online delegates properly. Further, the assessment method is identical to the conventional classroom courses. DL+ delegates undergo the same rigorous testing as any other STEP student who has completed a traditional face-to-face diploma course and moderated exam,’ says Rob.
High-quality courses, such as the STEP programmes, go through lengthy accreditation processes, with everything from enrolment to examination and marking procedures scrutinised. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a tranche of the other online course providers, either commercial companies or academic institutions.
‘It’s critical for STEP members that any route to entry meets a high standard,’ says Rob. ‘The highest standard is evidenced by the University of Manchester accreditation of STEP’s diploma courses. The online diploma could not be exempt from the same procedures.’
Collaborative, social learning, achieved through face-to-face workshops, is still seen as the ideal and strongly supported by industry. Class discussions, sharing of experiences and the opportunity to speak to tutors directly can’t be matched by an online course, however good that online course is.
Rob has grand plans for DL+: ‘DL+ is intended for potential and existing members who don’t have access to workshops. The international diploma should be available to all jurisdictions, even those without branches, because accessible education routes to entry are vital to the continued growth and value of the STEP network. With DL+ servicing those areas the traditional diploma can’t reach, we have now achieved that very significant objective for STEP education.’
Details on the availability of certificate and diploma workshops can be found via www.step.org/qualifications
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