Once the extensive activity that was required to respond to lockdown subsided, the opportunity to use the time to take stock, update, improve and future-proof services became apparent. As did the true value of collaborating with like-minded, open-minded organisations and individuals.
Active IQ pivoted quickly to meet the new demands, working closely with other awarding organisations, the Federation of Awarding Bodies, CIMSPA, Ofqual and the Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education, in the best interest of its many training partners, learners and leisure employers.
Far from creating policies to ‘just get through’ lockdown, some of the adaptations and ideas brought improvements that are here to stay.
Versatility of virtual
The irony – and opportunity – that many students had more time to study and prepare while working from home or on furlough, was not lost on Active IQ.
The team moved quickly to introduce assessment adaptations for its Level 2 Gym Instructor and Level 3 Personal Trainer core qualifications to keep learners on track. Online theory assessment, outdoor or home-filmed practical assessments and professional competency assessor interviews enabled learners to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and competence.
“The COVID-19 lockdown proved that digital learning and assessment can be highly effective,” says Jenny Patrickson, MD of Active IQ. “Remote and adapted assessment models for our centres, learners and apprentices worked well. We were also pleasantly surprised to find the format of our virtual meetings with training providers yielded great new business opportunities, as everyone was thinking more quickly, clearly and innovatively than before.
“Taking everything online enabled us to recruit learners from across the UK,” says Ben Tomlin at UK Sports Training. “We recruited people who couldn’t previously commit to fully face-to-face delivery, as they could fit the virtual sessions around their needs. We were bold in our decision making and backed by Active IQ whose confidence allowed us to be flexible in our delivery.”
Most training providers and students were already using a degree of digital delivery and learning, but with lockdown came full reliance on e-learning, e-manuals, proctored exams, online assessments and digital certificates.
“Digital learning allows for individual pacing, enabling people to take longer over more tricky aspects and make swift progress in areas that come more easily,” says Patrickson. “This can be better than classroom learning, where the pre-ordained pace and simultaneous targets can see some people pushed on too fast, while others are held back.”
Trying new tactics
Early in lockdown Active IQ offered its online Skills Hub CPD and Chief Medical Advisor training resources free to all fitness professionals, enabling them to maximise their enforced break. Sign-ups rose by 103 per cent as fitpros took the opportunity to learn new skills and broaden their knowledge, ready to return in a stronger position.
Another first for Active IQ was launching its Level 3 Diploma in Working with Clients with Long-Term Conditions, online as well as in-person.
Personal trainers were looking to upskill ahead of clients returning to the gym post-COVID, while fresh impetus from the Government’s obesity strategy, combined with people struggling with health conditions that went unaddressed during lockdown, made this launch well-timed.
“Knowing people had more time for online learning, we tried a five-week ‘fast track’ timetable,” says Luke Johnson, CEO at the Personal Trainer Collective. “Setting times for live group tutoring on Zoom, with units/videos to watch, Active IQ manual sections and worksheets to complete and regular theory exams focused everybody. This supportive/intensive learning model boosted business and is now here to stay.”
Being agile, alert and open to new ideas and possibilities has seen Active IQ and many of its partners learn valuable lessons in lockdown. Some concepts will naturally end when the pandemic ends: but others will remain, making business practice all the better.