The Center on Education and Training for Employment’s New Normal: We Were Built for This

Written by Marcie Kamb, July 31, 2020

The Coronavirus forced organizations all over the world to function in a way that would have never been entertained before. While being asked to work from home, shelter in place, and meet the evolving needs of partners, family members, and sponsors The Center on Education and Training for Employment (CETE) settled in for a new kind of journey.

As a Translational Research Center, CETE is accustomed to learning new ways to apply best practices to work and exploring next-generation approaches to solving societal problems. “Right now, you don’t have the same tools or the luxury of having access to the same people in the same way. CETE as an organization fosters a culture of agility and adaptability. Everything we do is about solving problems for the people that we work with, so these current conditions have strengthened our flexibility and help make us more relevant than ever before.” Traci Lepicki, Director of Strategic Operations, states.

The 50+ senior leaders, program leads, associates, faculty, and graduate and undergraduate students at CETE sprang into action to figure out ways to help our partners, including helping navigate new online spaces for those who were used to a brick-and-mortar, in-person experience.

The Curriculum and Training Program helps lead the 27,000 adult students supported by Ohio Aspire adult workforce readiness education and workplace education services. When adult students and the programs they participate in went virtual, it expanded the role of distance education for Ohio’s adult learners. Aspire professional developers sprang to action canceling in-person offerings, providing timely topics via webinars, web meetings, and by establishing drop-in sessions to provide targeted assistance on topics ranging from Formative Assessment at a Distance to Google Classrooms to Teach Your Favorite Lessons.  Over 600 educators accessed these newly developed training.

Lepicki said “People are engaging in professional development in ways that maybe they’ve not before. Part of where CETE comes in is figuring out how to uncover what the needs are for the people you can’t connect with in person. How do you find out what they need when you can’t find them, or you can’t talk to them?”

Connecting with Students and Families

Students, families, and Elementary School Educators were also looking for new ways to engage outside of the physical buildings. In partnership with Columbus City Schools and Eakin Elementary school, CETE’s Educators and Families for English Learners partnership put together a series of video recordings and educational programs geared for the Somali Bantu student population who are second language learners and their families while schools are on recess.

The Family Engagement Program developed ways for schools to gather feedback from their families, listen, and work to maintain a strong collaboration. They started a series of digital newsletters offering both news and guidance shared with over 900 superintendents, principals, and state support team members across the state and partners outside of the state. They created a series of videos with evidence-based strategies to implement during this time to help meet the needs of families and school districts.

Unlocking Resources

Professionals in the workplace were also looking for ways to expand their knowledge while at home and continue the momentum in their professional development. CETE, home to a catalog of asynchronous online modules on high-engaging topics, felt strongly about filling this complex void. The online module on the topics of Principles of Competency-based Education was offered free of charge (typically $200) to 100 individuals. This online module gained international interest, with learners ranging from Egypt to Afghanistan looking to upskill while at home.

The Center leverages the expertise of its own Director, Ana-Paula Correia. She is an Associate Professor of Learning Technologies in the College of Education and Human Ecology and an international leader in online learning and teaching. She brings her expertise to the foreground of the Center’s activities. “I am happy to announce the release of ‘Making Training Virtual’ in August 2020. This is a 100% online self-paced learning experience on tools and strategies needed to take in-person training to online and virtual formats. It comes in a time when we are all being asked to develop skills to teach and train at a distance. We knew we had to use the expertise within the Center to develop an introductory online learning experience to meet this need. This module explores how to teach online in a very effective and engaging way” said Correia.

The DACUM (an acronym for Developing a Curriculum) Program quickly translated its trademarked in-person workshop to a virtual instructor-led training with digital tools, customized exercises, and interactive activities. Previously scheduled participants were able to continue in this virtual format to meet the needs of their organizations regarding job task analysis and training.

“We know people need access to quick resources now. They don’t necessarily need to learn about the theory behind teaching or training in an online space, they need someone to show them how. We are translating evidence-based research into an approach to immediate online practice. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on individuals to perform right now, and they are too stressed out to figure out if something works. We have done the research legwork on the backend to provide what works in a way that is meaningful to them.” Lepicki states.

The Assessment Program worked with The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to quickly set up a reporting feature in their secure, online testing system, WebXam to allow districts to upload 228,000 course grades to meet the reporting requirements. CETE associates also participated in ODE-hosted webinars to train those responsible for inputting data, ensuring that it would occur smoothly.

The phrase “new normal” has now become a widely accepted phrase in meetings, schools, and households. CETE continues to thrive in this state of uncertainty, and there are 50+ sets of ears to the ground listening to how we can translate research into strategies that fit within this new normal.