TIV was a face to face trade school offering courses and practical experience in the building and construction industry. Suddenly, they couldn’t deliver their service. And things looked so grim that they thought they would have to let go of staff.
TIV called on long standing employee Peter Giannopoulos, affectionately known as Peter G, to see if a solution could be found. Peter had over 35 years experience in various engineering, project management and teaching roles before joining TIV as a session trainer and eventually a staff manager.
The Move to the Virtual Classroom
The obvious solution was to move to an online delivery of classes but this was easier said than done. Video conferencing through Zoom was the first option considered. However, it was soon obvious that this wouldn’t work because of internet problems.
Peter then decided to go with audio calls. This proved a much more effective method of delivering lessons, but didn’t come without its own early teething problems.
Once lessons began, it became apparent that some trainers couldn’t be heard clearly over the audio. Their voices were muffled and students had trouble following what was said. The problem was resolved with the introduction of headsets.
Since then, TIV have also introduced screen sharing capabilities so trainers can share what is on their computer with those listening and doing the course.
Along with special groups set up by Peter through WhatsApp, the virtual classroom found its feet and began to thrive.
The Benefits of the Virtual Classroom
What started out as a somewhat makeshift response to COVID-19, proved a winner for both students and trainers.
Peter says that even those students who were resistant to the idea of learning via a virtual classroom ended up “absolutely loving it”. Students relayed that it was fantastic because they “could go home – or if they were in lockdown, they were already home – and then it was just a matter of signing in and doing their work. And then once the class was done, that was it.” No travelling long distances to get home.
Peter also recognises that the new set up provides flexibility for trainers. They too can deliver classes from the comfort of their own homes or anywhere else they might need to be.
But perhaps the best benefit has been to those students who Peter says “traditionally sit in the background”. They can hear other people’s questions and then see various responses to those questions – rather than just a trainer’s answer in a traditional classroom.
“Looking after students and getting the best outcome for them. That is our focus”
TIV also recognises that embracing technology and a new way of learning doesn’t come easily to everyone. Peter concedes that it comes more easily to younger students who “are used to gadgets”.
That’s why the trade school has a dedicated student support service that “is available pretty much seven days a week.” Peter explains that a student having trouble just needs to send an email with their mobile number “and we will help them out”, adding that they can even dial into a student’s computer to assist them further if need be.
“The first night is always hard,” Peter says “because students aren’t sure what to do”. But trainers lead students through the process of how the online audio class works and students pick it up pretty quickly.
Beyond COVID – A Silver Lining
When the COVID pandemic is able to be controlled a little better, or even if the problem is eradicated, TIV still sees a future for its virtual classroom.
While the face to face classroom would make a comeback, Peter envisions smaller classes running alongside virtual ones. And he would definitely like to see the retention of the WhatsApp groups because they have proved so successful in terms of student interaction.
Previously, enrolments were limited to those around the Melbourne area who could physically make it to the trade school site. When the virtual classroom started up, TIV found that students from afar afield as Shepparton were enrolling in courses.
Then Peter describes the growth in the target market of students as “dynamite”. He says, “We’re pretty much all over Victoria. We’re not just Melbourne. We’ve had phenomenal growth, even to the point where we had to go back to the government and ask for an increase in numbers. And it has been approved. Who would have thought in their wildest dreams back in March that we’d be in this position today?”
TIV at its Core
The reason TIV has been so successful at changing its business model is because its core values haven’t changed.
First and foremost, as Peter explains, TIV is concerned with “looking after students and getting the best outcome for them. That is our focus”. He adds that this has only been possible with honest feedback from students. TIV need to know what’s working and what needs changing so they can continue to deliver excellent outcomes.
Peter is confident that TIV is meeting student needs because “we’ve actually sold more products than we have clients. That tells us that they’ve bought at least one product after their initial one.” Many students don’t stop at one course and go on to do at least 2 if not more.
The trainers are a pivotal part of this process. TIV ensures it employs people who understand and have practical knowledge of the building and construction industry. As Peter attests, “Anybody can read a PowerPoint presentation. It’s not the PowerPoint. It’s the experience that makes a difference.”
COVID was a shock but it also proved to have a silver lining for TIV, with courses now available to students all over Victoria.
If you want to become part of the TIV success story, please get in touch.