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Just as the term alludes, adult education is the imparting of education to adults. This kind of education may take place in different settings; some of the settings being the workplace or the community. On the other hand, vocational training is the imparting of non-academic knowledge for the purpose of practical or manual work. This kind of education is also called technical education but in this excerpt, the term vocational education and training (VET) shall be used. Vocational education and training may also apply apprenticeship either at secondary or post-secondary levels. In this discussion, all aspects of the subject shall be handled with respect to Australia's context. In 1974, the Australian Committee on Technical and Further Education, ACOTAFE, recommended the establishment of a post-compulsory sector of technical and further education. This sector popularly referred to as TAFE, constructed high-profile TAFE colleges which later came to be called TAFE institutes. According to Fitzsimons (2002), the Vocational Education Training sector is organized under the docket of Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) which is under the Federal Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. According to Heikkinen and Kraus (2009) this program is very central in the determination of migrations and labor market trends.
The Queensland Technical and Further Education (TAFE) is an Australian educational institution that offers training that meets both the vocational and business needs of the community, employers and the individuals. The institution has at least thirteen institutes two of which are statutory. All the other non-statutory institutes offer, as non-accredited short courses, Adult Community Education (ACE). These courses have been described as 'a great way of getting a taste for a skill area' and a pathway to immense opportunities. In this piece of writing, it shall be demonstrated how establishment of flexible e-learning for adult and vocational training in Australia would impact on teaching practice in the country. This shall effectively be done through conceptualization, explanation, theorization and a critical reflection of the whole discussion.
Introduction of e-learning at Central Queensland Institute of TAFE
It is obvious that the world is rapidly globalizing especially through advances in innovation and growth of information technology (IT). As a result, all sectors of the information world are also rapidly revolutionizing. One of the concerns at the Queensland Central Institute of TAFE has been how to catch up with the rest of the world in the sphere of information systemized education. So as to actualize the concern, it is to be established a program of e-learning in which both the trainers and the learners would effectively interact for the betterment of service delivery.
It must however be realized that although globalization is real, it takes different fits differently into different countries, regions and localities. The success of any educational establishment in Australia would only be effective to the extent that it puts into consideration the historical developments, forces that influence changes at workplace and roles of vocational educators (Tovey & Lawlor 2007). The duo succinctly stipulated that training had been 'spasmodic' and 'of little relevance' to organizational, management and individual goals wherever it did not consider the country's history. So to say, there has been non-commitment and lack of support on the part of the concerned authorities. It was not until mid-1980 that pressing economic challenges made governments consider trainings as a central policy consideration. Australia was not left behind.
How then could an invention or change in policy be domesticated in Australia? Before this is tackled, crucial it is that the country's architecture of workforce is put into perspective. The Australian workforce is made up of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and also those with totally different educational qualifications. This component applies for both the policy implementers (for instance teachers) and the beneficiaries of the vocational education. There is thus an imperative need to create a common ground for easy diffusion of the new idea into the minds of those concerned. Creation of a common ground is very important and could be achieved through training. It is now universally agreed that it is only through high-order training that a country is able to effectively compete with others at the global scene. To reaffirm the importance of training, the government of Australia, through the Employment and Skills Formation Council published that well trained workers were a key ingredient to achieving high economic productivity and more quality goods. For the Central Queensland Institute of TAFE therefore, this is a great stride in the acceptance of their e-learning program for the Australian citizens. Since the government is supportive of the idea of training for productive (educational) industry, it is only prudent for the institute to consider the characteristics of their vocational workers and train them accordingly.
Explanations and Theorization
What is e-learning and how effective is it in the improvement of service delivery in the Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector? It is defined as the use of multimedia technologies and internet in the improvement of the quality of the learning process. This improvement is attained through a facilitated access to services and materials through virtual exchange and collaboration. As the definition points out, the most immediate effect of technology and internet-based learning is the effectiveness with which results are achieved. The second dimension of the term is its electronic generation and transfer of information through a well knit communication system which is set up through a unique way of networking. The internet plays the greatest role in the networking of the electronic devices which punctuate data- educational data. Before the implications for e-learning programs in Vocational Education and Training (VET) are discussed, the sociological theoretical underpinnings of the subject shall be elucidated.
There is a common disciplinary belief that whatever happens in society could be theoretically explained. In this case, we would be asking ourselves whether e-learning is explainable in either of the sociological theories. One of those pioneering and founding perspectives in Sociology was the notion that everything that exists in society does so for the wider cohesion and functioning of the human collectivity. This perspective, structural-functionalism, proposes that each component in society contributes to the functioning of the whole society (Jureidini, Kenr & Poole 2003). This view was partly informed by the 'organic analogy' of Comte and Spencer that the society functions like an organism in which if one part of the organism became pathological, then the whole organism would break down. If we consider the Robert Merton's analyses, then e-learning would be a 'manifest function' of the Australian academic society as the effort is a purposeful establishment; as opposed to the 'latent functions; which are not intended. In the context of globalization and its forces, the innovation and application thereof for e-learning would be geared towards unification of the wider society. On this basis, it is then true that in the modern society, if e-learning were to be scrapped off, the global village would not be functional; it would be mal-functional and therefore devoid of the swelling global demands for technically sound workers.
One of the most naked truths is the fact that introduction of e-learning into the Australian adult and vocational education programs would affirm the society to be a post-industrial society. According to Jureidini, Kenr, and Poole (2003), the concept of a society even includes the ideas about order and social change. In the light of e-learning, it could be argued that its introduction in the TAFE institute would be am immense realization of social change especially in the way the teacher relates with their adult students. By further applying the ideas of Sociology, especially classifications of societies based on the modes of production, it could be said that the teaching practice as a mode of production would now be an electronic mode of production.
Impacts to the Teaching Practice
The implications for the introduction of e-learning programs would be far-fetched; some negative yet many of them positive. In their Educational policy and social reproduction: Class inscription and symbolic control, John Fitz, Brian Davies and John Evans outlined some of the trajectories relating to change in educational policy and patterns of equality. They base their argument on Bernstein who developed a pedagogic discourse between family, education and occupation. The base line is that while the traditional learning methods led to an upsurge of inequalities, e-learning would even lead to more elaborate inequalities. This is a consequence of upward social mobility (Fitz, Davies & Evans 2006). Moreover, some aspects of the social structure remain relatively unchanged. In fact, the educational policy does not change the social functions of education.
E-Learning would create new opportunities for educators and learners in the enrichment of their experiences. Through the new mode of learning, both parties would be able to easily explore and apply knowledge. It is also possible for virtual navigation in the search of vocational opportunities available for the adults in school. It is further likely that the act would lead to some basic curriculum changes so as to accommodate the new educational order.
General and Specific Implications
The Australian VET curriculum is based on training packages (Smith & Keating 2003). According to my view, an introduction of a new mode of learning would make my teaching practice more flexible, accessible and industry-relevant. If a new e-curriculum were introduced, I would adopt new service delivery mechanisms, include new things in the curriculum and also scrap off the redundant part of the curriculum which stifled educational development. I would for instance adopt new methods of posting assignments on the institute's website such that if my students do not do them within the required time, they would expire. Therefore students would be more hardworking. Due to the new demands, I would also include stricter competency units in my training package. I would envisage serving more vocational trainees due to the enhanced and more effective system of marking of assignments, awarding of grades and evaluation of trainees. Consequently, I envisage a difficult time with trainees who could not understand the operations and working of the online registration of courses, submission of assignments and checking of grades. It is also likely for the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) to upgrade their requirements for training packages which would have a backlog meltdown on the teaching practice. Nevertheless, it would greatly improve the degree of exchange and interconnectedness among all the professional vocational trainers of Queensland TAFE institutes thus leading to improved modes of teaching.
One of the major tragedies of the professional instructors or trainers is their focus on the subject at the expense of the learners. A well integrated teaching program should holistically involve the learner so that as they participate, they are capable of grasping more. An e-learning system would directly involve the learners through creation of personalized accounts through which the instructor could assist the learner by addressing their particular challenges which could not have been otherwise possible in a physical class setting. In other words, teachers are able to employ relevant teaching strategies. For instance, the challenge of geography could be overcome by application of online lectures which could be listened at without necessarily going to class. There is thus a great deal of efficiency since one trainer could attend to an immense number of persons which would otherwise have been left unattended. By considering Merton's dichotomous description of 'manifest functions' all these are considered to be deliberate actions geared towards the success of a learning system through which global competitiveness could be achieved.
In terms of my future professional practice as a vocational education teacher, the most striking issues was the fact that the concept analysis has made it dawn on me that there is an immense and imperative need for me to become a global citizen. This, as illustrated, stems from the fact that we are in a global village in which flow of information is one of the most important things in the digital age. In the Central Queensland Institute of TAFE, I found out that working together as a team in the development of a common training package can not be avoided. It has to be reiterated that the forces of the industry and the global 'marketplace' for skills will be at the forefront in the determination of industrial training for individuals. In functionalist terms, the generic skills acquired by students help the professional trainer in the determination of the level of progression with the newly introduced program (Smith & Keating 2003).
This was a multi-sectional paper in which the subject matter was to be discussed in five different perspectives and critical reflection also offered at the end. The discussion began with description of the background information of adult vocational education and also the institutional academic scenario in which it would be based. After the mention of what issue was to be discussed and also the nature of the institution, explanations and theoretical grounding of e-learning were put into perspective. This was preceded by a contextualization and succeeded by the implications for the establishment of the issue in question. The final bit dealt with my personal views on the subject and how the research has helped me get more insights on the topic.
The first impression I got from the phrase 'vocational education and training' was the classroom-based attitude of boredom due to repetitiveness. The subject has been under mention for the past couple of years and one could easily assume that this has been part and passel of daily lectures. However, after a closer scrutiny, new elements and dimensions became manifest. I could not initially link the subject to any sociological theoretical perspective since I never thought it was an issue of theoretical concern. It was however interesting to learn that its policy and theoretical underpinnings are quite functionalistic. Secondly, I had never imagined that adult and vocational education history was that deep rooted first in global pressures then in the government's commitment to this important program. At a face value, I just thought that it was a product of the people of Australia's need for practical knowhow to operate in the industrial world.
This write up was based on secondary data about researches that had earlier been done on the subject. In addition, the materials were somehow restricted since I had to give priority to those given first before turning to any other source. Nevertheless, I used at least two more sources as I found them very closely tied with the subject matter. There exists a wealth of literature on Australian adult and vocational education (as illustrated by my suggested readings list). I however felt more restricted with my supposed expectation of the use of provided materials for my own opinion. The materials I used were academically good but given another chance, I would use more journals as they are authoritative academic resources.
This assignment is a product of well balanced efforts to elucidate a matter that dawned on me that it was a goldmine of information. I therefore searched a variety of valuable information and whichever information I got has been cited. The part on my opinion may therefore be somewhat 'unfounded' but not absolutely weak. There exists a very strong theoretical grounding for this assignment which makes the part a very strong one.