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ANZSOG’s shift to blended learning will keep teaching and learning quality high

4 July 2022

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By ANZSOG Dean and CEO Professor Ken Smith AO

As the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on travel recede, ANZSOG is now in the process of shifting its key education programs away from primarily online delivery to a blended format which we believe will combine the best elements of online and face-to-face learning. We will, of course, maintain online programs where appropriate to properly meet the diversity of demand.  

We are making the shift for major programs to ‘blended learning’ with the same philosophy we took to the shift online: that our priority will always be delivering high quality education that meets the needs of our participants and owner governments. 

We are currently undergoing a careful process of identifying which programs, or parts of programs, can best be delivered online and which should be delivered face-to-face. How much of each program is delivered online will depend on the logistics of the individual program, as well as what participants and governments want. 

For example, a fast-growing part of our work is working with individual governments or agencies to design and deliver custom education programs that meet their specific capability needs. In many programs in this area, we have already returned to face-to-face delivery when it is clear that the governments and agencies, we are working with are comfortable with that approach. 

Other face-to-face events, such as the launch of two new chapters of the ANZSOG-auspiced National Regulators Community of Practice in SA and ACT, have already occurred. 

While most of our university partners returned to full face-to-face delivery at the start of 2022, ANZSOG has had a different set of needs to balance.  

Many of our programs are run across the ten jurisdictions, including Aotearoa New Zealand, and uncertainties over travel at the start of the year meant many participants preferred online programs. Shorter programs, such as our Executive Education programs, are also more suitable for online delivery, but longer programs lend themselves to a blended format, and in some cases to a full return to face-to-face delivery. 

In the second half of 2022, our flagship Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) will begin to shift to a blended approach where some sessions are online, and others are face-to-face. The second year Public Financial Management subject will be delivered in a blended format with face-to-face elements to be delivered at Melbourne Connect, and the final sessions of the Work Based Project and the final first year subject Managing Public Sector Organisations to be delivered face-to-face later this year in Wellington. 

Both Towards Strategic Leadership (TSL) and the Executive Fellows Program (EFP) will be delivered in a blended format later this year, with both combining online learning and face-to-face components to be held in Sydney. 

What we will not do with the EMPA, or any other education programs at this stage, is offer a two-tier experience, where some participants do face-to-face, and others participate online. Every participant in every program will get what we consider the best mix of online and face-to-face learning. 

Beyond the obvious benefits of online delivery – greater flexibility for participants to balance education with work and family responsibilities, and the ability to use guest presenters from across the world – we have learned a huge amount in the last two years about how to deliver high-quality online programs. We have put a lot of resources and effort into building and maintaining a high-quality online learning experience, and we want to take advantage of that work in the medium to long-term. 

Feedback from the cohorts of participants who have attended our online programs shows that satisfaction levels have remained high and that, over time, participants became more familiar and comfortable with online systems and learning. The virtual delivery of the EMPA, and the preparation and evaluation involved, has also led to stronger connections between subject leaders and core subjects and an improvement in teaching and learning.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of strong leadership by governments and the value of high-quality public services able to innovate and adapt to a volatile environment.  

During the last two years, I have been heartened by the strong responses to our education programs – highlighting the desire among public servants for high-quality programs designed for the public sector, and the need for new tools and fresh thinking to help them cope with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19. 

We have increasingly moved into a ‘COVID-normal’ phase, but the global environment remains unpredictable as economic, environmental and social issues which were neglected while we battled COVID-19 now beginning to re-emerge. 

In this environment the work ANZSOG does to educate the public sector and build capabilities is more important than ever. We will continue to deliver the highest quality programs that meet the current and future needs of our governments, using the best technology and teaching and learning approaches available.