Tuesday, October 6, 2020

BTVI Embraces Online Reality

The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute has adapted to the use of technology to deliver content during the COVID-19 crisis with the intent of  later having staggered boot camps, while enforcing social distancing protocols.
From left to right: BTVI President, Dr. Robert W. Robertson: Administrative Assistant, Tamara Whyley and Dean of Construction Trades and Workforce Development.  Photo: Del-LaMarr Davis

As the shift to online and blended education has underscored the importance of digital skills for all technical and vocational areas, the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) has embraced this new reality, according to President, Dr. Robert W. Robertson.

“Online and blended education are here to stay. There will now be more use of and appreciation of simulation and technical options,” said Dr. Robertson, who recently made a presentation at the Rotary Clubs of West Nassau and Nassau Sunrise.

“We have had to adapt to the use of technology to deliver content whether through readings, simulations, lectures, assignments and quizzes whether synchronous or asynchronous,” he added.  

Dr. Robertson pointed out that the TVET paradigm has evolved during the COVID-19 crisis, resulting in the necessity of upskilling during a time of technological transformation. As the classroom landscape has pivoted to online platforms and tools, Dr. Robertson added that the work landscape has made similar shifts.

“There is now a reliance on short, specific, job-ready, professionally certified courses and training. Technology skills and competencies are the new job security during and post COVID-19,” he said.

Meanwhile, BTVI has adapted to these changes for internal and external clients. Dean of Information Technology and Distance Education, Anthony Ramtulla, said with the onset of COVID-19, BTVI had to “radically change.”

Mr. Ramtulla and his team in the Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE) at BTVI have set up a series of technology courses and nanodegree programs. Further, BTVI is a Cisco Academy and many of the courses offer industry-recognized certifications such as Cisco and CompTIA.  

Over the past six months, BTVI faculty and staff have accumulated more than 11,000 hours of training as the institution seeks to improve teaching capabilities in what has become a new reality. For example, BTVI partnered with the Commonwealth of Learning to train 22 faculty members in the best practices regarding online learning.   

BTVI’s first nano course recently offered was Teaching Essentials, which was taught to 250 Ministry of Education teachers. It focused on teaching and learning online, using the Microsoft Teams platform.

“Nano courses are designed to provide quick skills introduction or a refresher to many different career areas via an online modality. We are evolving to meet the needs of the country and to stay ahead of COVID. Digital credibility is the new wave of credentials,” stated Mr. Ramtulla. 

After completing any module, students will be awarded a digital badge to prove to employers their achievement. There are security features which allow employers to verify the badges. 
BTVI’s digital badges are managed by City and Guilds of London via DigitalMe. The badges are stored on Credly – considered as the world’s most trusted credential network in the blockchain. 

Additionally, as of September, cohort five of the Citizen Security and Justice Program began virtually, expanding beyond the Bahamas Department of Corrections. Besides 80 inmates, this cohort includes 25 former Ministry of Education JumpStart graduates and BTVI dual enrollment students. This is in addition to 13 students from Teleos Christian Academy.

Since the Citizen Security and Justice Program started in 2018, will also include for the first time the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) core curriculum. The curriculum includes: Basic Safety; Basic Communication; Basic Employability Skills and Basic Material Handling; Rigging and Introduction to Construction Math, Introduction to Hand Tools; Introduction to Power Tools and Introduction to Construction Drawing.

According to BTVI’s Dean of Construction Trades and Workforce Development, Alexander Darville, while the first two weeks will be virtual, the remaining eight weeks will include a staggered boot camp with all social distancing protocols enforced. 

“Technical education goes on. They are still receiving the necessary skills training through virtual means. We are even able to reach the family islands. We are about to have a 10-week-  NCCER training with participants from Abaco, Moore’s Island and Grand Bahama as well,” said Mr. Darville. 

Participants will receive a Core NCCER certification once successful. NCCER is considered the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals. Formed by leading industrial contractors some 24 years ago, its mission is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce for craft professionals. 

Dr. Robertson noted that BTVI is excited to be constantly improving its virtual education options.

“We live in a very different world, and our engaged, well-trained and supportive faculty deserve credit for their hard work through the transition over the last six months. Our common goal is to assist students to learn a trade and earn a living,” said Dr. Robertson.