As businesses move their people and processes into the online world of remote work, services and collaboration, an unexpected but obvious benefit has emerged. Almost every business has had to train staff in both the processes and the nuances of remote working. As a by-product, most have discovered that online training can be a powerful tool in upskilling and reskilling, or simply in teaching new skills.
At the same time, as with more forward-thinking schools, many businesses are using the enforced “break” as an opportunity to engage their staff in the use of new platforms, and new ways of working. This means the new era of business training ranges from the simple basics of how to work remotely all the way to developing new competencies and earning certification.
The university Moocs, as “massive open online courses” are known, are already well-established, but qualifications specific to organisations or industries have been latecomers to the online game. In many cases, either the organisations or certification bodies insisted on exams being physically supervised. But, as testing centres closed, the mindset opened.
For example, as the world began entering lockdown last month, Amazon Web Services announced that it would expand a limited range of “online-proctored” exams to all of its certification exams. It’s Cloud Practitioner exams have, appropriately, been available online for some time, with supervision via webcam. Suddenly, that is a standard for all technical certification.
Smartphone and networking equipment giant Huawei has embarked on a vigorous online training strategy for its employees in South Africa. While it already runs global training programmes and courses for its 200,000-strong workforce, it is using the lockdown period to upskill employees here while they are working remotely.
South African businesses offering certification have gone a step further, offering both online exams and free access to commercial courses.
A leading provider of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to the manufacturing sector, Syspro, has offered customers and partners free access to its Syspro Learning Channel, which houses more than 500 online courses. This is normally a paid-for “one-stop-shop for all partners’ educational needs, providing access to training material when they need it”, says Mark Wilson, MD of Syspro Africa.
It offers a range of educational material formats, online access to a library of documents and videos, e-learning courses, and certification via desktop or mobile device. This may be generous, but it also makes business sense: as an opportunity to help their implementation partners become more effective.
“We are committed to simplifying business processes and creating platforms that will enable businesses to have continuity even during these unprecedented times,” says Wilson. “We recognise that through online education we are able to empower our partners to become even more efficient and discover better ways of operating.
“As industries move to working online it’s time to focus on innovation and equip workers with new skills to not only compete but to remain competitive and survive.”
As much as people and organisations want to get back to the office as soon as possible, they also have an unprecedented opportunity to ensure they emerge from lockdown better equipped for the future.
Founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za.
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