Associate Professor Greg Nolan, Director of the University of Tasmania’s Centre for Sustainable Architecture with Wood (CSAW), predicts that online education and training can change the game for the Australian and New Zealand timber and wood products industry.
Professor Nolan said ‘the wood products industry has always faced natural disadvantages in education and training. It is a regional industry, so it’s generally a long way from major educational institutions. Then, it is a dispersed industry, scattered around the country. This makes bringing a viable group of students together for traditional educational and training courses very difficult.’
As a result, education and training providers are constrained in the services they can provide economically and industry has a generally low level of accredited education and training.
‘However’ Professor Nolan said ‘developments in online education and training are set to change all that’.
Major education providers such as the University of Tasmania have been investing heavily in ways to improve flexibility learning for their students and ‘online educational systems are a large part of this’ he said.
‘These systems are really changing how and when we teach and how and when students learn. It is now quite easy to receive a question from a group of students by email, record a video presentation to answer it, and then make that available online to students anywhere in the world within a couple of hours. They can then download the presentation as a video or audio podcast, and listen to it as they drive home that night.’
So, with the roll-out of broadband, accredited education and training can now come to students in industry, wherever they are.
The University of Tasmania’s Centre for Sustainable Architecture with Wood (CSAW) has been moving to take up the opportunities these changes present.
In 2011, it introduced an online Graduate Certificate in Timber (Processing and Building), the first course of its type in Australasia. ‘It can be completed part-time and largely online, from work or home, using the University’s online MyLO system’ he said. ‘It is quite amazing using the new systems. Students of ours in Western Australia and Queensland can hear the lectures at home or in the car an hour after I finish recording them in Tasmania.’
2012 enrolments for the GradCert Timber are currently open.
CSAW is also investigating the potential to partner with a registered training organisation to jointly deliver accredited training.
While change is likely to come slowly to an industry that has gotten used to having few educational and training opportunities, Professor Nolan believes that it will come and, as it does, large changes are likely.
‘There is a lot of scope to improve production efficiency and recoveries in the Australian wood production industry’, Professor Nolan said, ‘and these will only come about with an educated and trained workforce.’
The Graduate Certificate in Timber (Processing and Building) is part of the School of Architecture & Design’s continuing timber education and skills program. For more information contact Associate Professor Gregory Nolan, ph. 03 6324 4478.