TAFE Western Sydney’s Open Training and Education Network (OTEN) was named Large Training Provider of the Year 2016 in Sydney last night, at the NSW Training Awards, held by the NSW Department of Industry.
The online learning system, managed in collaboration between TAFE Western Sydney and TAFE NSW, triumphed at the awards, which celebrate outstanding achievement in the vocational education and training sector.
The Large Trainer of the Year award recognises a registered training organisation that demonstrates excellence in all aspects of vocational education. Entrants were required to meet criteria around being leaders in vocational education and training, strategic planning processes, its student, employer and market focus, human resource capability and partnerships and links.
A commitment to keeping up with digital developments, and a focus on the learner experience is what sets OTEN apart from other training organisations, says Robin Shreeve, Institute Director, TAFE Western Sydney and OTEN.
“Since becoming a registered training organisation in 1998, OTEN has grown exponentially, adopting new technologies that are leading the distance education sector in Australia. Our students are at the heart of our operation and in this digital age, it is crucial that their learning experience is seamless and suits their individual learning styles.
“We’ve embraced a number of integrated e-learning technologies to ensure we’re providing the best online experience we can. We’re also fostering our online communities with collaborative learning spaces, user-generated material and interactive designs to keep our students engaged throughout.”
Virtual classrooms, a 24/7 “gateway to learning” complete with live chat and assessment submission functions, and an out-of-hours tutorial service called YourTutor, are just some of the resources available for OTEN’s 107,000 students.
But a “human touch” is still a significant part of the education journey, says Mr. Shreeve.
“We are committed to our individualised and learner-centric approach, which requires a balance of digital resources and personal interaction. We have 43 specialist teaching help desks providing advice, mentoring and information to our students for 51 weeks of the year.
“At the end of the day, it’s about making sure our students feel supported and part of a community, despite the distance.”
Successful partnerships have also extended the reach of OTEN, such as its affiliation with the University of Sydney’s POCHE Centre for Indigenous Health, Sydney Rotary and the Centre for Oral Health Strategy, Westmead. The partnership aims to address the poor oral health issue in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, by delivering a dental health program aimed at increasing the number of indigenous Australians working in the dental industry.
Visibility of OTEN was enhanced to a new level when it partnered with SEEK Learning in 2006, providing OTEN with the channels to reach potential students with course information in a more simple and targeted way.
Internationally, OTEN’s partnership with Origin Consulting Group provides dentistry training to students in Bahrain, enabling them to gain an Australian qualification without leaving their home country.
“OTEN’s flexibility is one of its biggest drawcards – delivering relevant skills and qualifications for people looking to upskill in their careers, but who lack the time or location to attend classes,” says Mr. Shreeve.
“The fact that OTEN has gained a 90.6% satisfaction rating from graduates, and played a part in 84.2% of learners gaining employment or undertaking further studying following course completion, shows our efforts are appreciated. Being named Large Training Provider of the Year 2016 is further validation of that, and we are proud recipients of the award.”
The 2016 NSW Training Awards presentation event was held last night at Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, in Darling Harbour. Hon. John Barilaro MP, Minister for Skills, Regional Development and Small Business, presented the winners, who go on to compete with leaders from all states and territories for the Australian Training Awards in November.