COVID-19 lockdown underscores the importance of face-to-face learning

JOHANNESBURG – April 02, 2020 – All over South Africa right now, children in middle class and wealthy homes, whose families have access to technology including Wi-Fi and mobile data, have begun a phase of their education that nobody foresaw when they were first enrolled at their current schools – home-schooling.

And all over the country, social media is discussing this new phase. As it was never meant to be the teaching model in this instance, it is essentially regarded by most as being a stop-gap measure, with many educators as well as learners – and no doubt their parents – hoping for a return to normality soon.

“These families, of course, are the fortunate ones in that at least some measure of education is continuing using online platforms,” comments Marinda Clack, executive marketer at adult training solutions facilitator, Triple E Training.

“For less privileged families, their children’s education has temporarily ground to a complete halt. However, the current situation does serve to place under the spotlight the value of face-to-face teaching and learning for the vast majority of learners, both children as well as adults.”

Part of the philosophy of Triple E Training is that education is a fundamental human right, and the company offers tried-and-tested adult training solutions to organisations, individuals and communities.

“These courses naturally make use of technology,” explains Clack, “but there is always a strong human-centric element involved, which enhances our success rates. Technology is a wonderful thing in that it has opened up so many channels for commerce and communication, allowing us to grow our businesses and our networks. In fact, we see technology bringing efficiency advantages to business operations, such as the sending of emails instead of making phone calls, and holding conference calls instead of driving to meetings.

“And yet it cannot be denied that the use of technology can lead to situations in which human interaction is removed, and – while there will be those who argue the point – we believe that this is not always a good thing. To use an interesting example: think of learning how to swim. Could you really learn to swim online?”

Clack paints a picture of a learner in a room lying on a small narrow table, imitating the arm, leg and breathing movements of a proficient swimmer in a training video. Having reached a point where the would-be swimmer has developed a great rhythm and is feeling confident, she says, we see them climbing into a pool and attempting to emulate in the water what they have been practising following the online tutor.

“Needless to say, most people would not expect a successful outcome to this scenario when the would-be swimmer experiences the reality of the water,” she says. “And so it is useful to keep this image in mind while we compare online Adult Education and Training (AET) sessions to face-to-face training.”

Clack first offers the proviso that there are, of course, people with technological understanding who are perfectly capable of learning new skills online, and who, by all means, should take advantage of this type of training.

“But for employees in a workplace who lack foundational training and need to be taught the basics at grassroots level, online learning is arguably not a good starting point when some have never operated a computer before, or even held a pen in order to write their own name,” she says, “and it is important to have empathy to this reality. Attempting to train someone who is functionally illiterate using technology is like trying to teach someone to swim using an online course. They are going to become despondent, disillusioned and determined never to try that again.”

Returning to the swimming pool scenario, she explains that a real swimming lesson where the coach is in the water with the learner, supporting and demonstrating where necessary, is a perfect illustration of what face-to-face training programmes offer – a facilitator, in the classroom, supporting and demonstrating where necessary.

“Employees in an organisation who need foundational training cannot learn in a tech-based, online environment because they lack the very foundations that grasping technology requires,” she advises. “Learning skills, such as foundational workplace AET communications in English and Mathematics, are best accomplished in a classroom-type setting, accompanied by face-to-face teaching with a skilled facilitator.

“Training programmes should be streamlined so that employees don’t feel overwhelmed or discouraged when they start with their training. It is important to encourage your employees to ensure that they not only progress but reach the desired end goal.

“We remind organisations that, once we are safely on the other side of this daunting health pandemic, the government will be implementing the Employment Equity Amendment Bill of 2020, to ensure mandatory training of employees in a workplace, meaning that companies will have to comply with this legislation.

“However, training just for training’s sake is a waste of time and money. If you are going to spend the money and take the time to send your employees who need it the most for foundational training, make sure you choose a programme with proven results: one that comprises a hands-on approach and which won’t leave your employees feeling as if they have been thrown in the ‘deep end’ of the swimming pool without a coach,” concludes Clack.

About Triple E Training:

Triple E Training (Pty) Ltd is a unique education and training provider of General Education and Training (GET) and Further Education and Training (FET).

We offer adult training solutions to organisations, individuals and communities. Our products and services include Adult Basic Education and Training (ABET) / Adult Education and Training (AET), Foundational Learning Competence (FLC), Rapid Effective Accelerated Life Long Learning – REALLL (Fundamentals Communication & Mathematics NQF 2 – 4) and Workplace Learnership, amongst others.

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Triple E Training, 011 668 4343,,

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