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21 May 2020

Education Transformation

Impact of COVID-19 on the training and educational landscape


Emmie Pietersen of Peritum Agri Institute shared her insights, as panel member on the webinar recently hosted by PMA, on the changing landscape of training and education and the challenges and possible solutions they foresee to meet the industry’s needs.

Impact of COVID-19 on the training and educational landscape.

The shift in the training and education landscape came rather quick since COVID-19 was declared a national disaster in South Africa on 15 March. In merely two months we saw a rather rapid shift towards:

  • A total and rapid close out of conventional contact training across the board.
  • Online and distance training/education, examples being the many webinars, live broadcasts, social media video-based learning and development interventions going live! Most of the tertiary institutions activated their online learning platforms by now. Schools slowly started moving into this space too. The vocational sector is, however, still exploring ways to adjust.
  • A strategic shift in the human resources agenda from what should be in the training plan, to where and how e-learning from various sources and formats can be hosted on an integrated platform.
  • A quest for micro-learning solutions also developed. Need-to-know content for compliance training, self-enablement, managing disruption and developing digital competence.
  • Related to some extend to the job losses or no-work-no-pay period we saw the rise of the entrepreneur in South Africa – with home-based manufacturing and delivery of anything from masks, to biscuits and educational activities to keep children busy. In the Agri sector farmer groups structured their marketing by adverting on e-platforms and delivering directly to the consumer.
  • Job losses or no work no pay.

Shift of transition to virtual/online learning

The transition from contact-training to virtual/online learning will certainly be attractive as it comes at much lower cost than traditional contact-training. It also has the added advantage that you can enroll one learner at a time, so you pinpoint and be much more specific in addressing real training needs.

It would however not be without challenges, more so in the agricultural sector that tends to be rural based. Some of the challenges we see:

Challenges Possible solutions/Ideas




How to include lower level workers.


Whom in most industries do have access to personal computers for work purposes.

  • Nano learning hubs in areas where workers are concentrated
  • Micro-learning communities of grouped workers that work with a facilitator assistant (picked and trained from the employee group) – trained to coordinate small group learning
  • Video-based comic or story-telling learning interventions
Broadband (or the lack thereof) in rural areas and on the farms.


Expensive in comparison to the rest of the world.


A positive learning EXPERIENCE requires a minimum of 5 megabytes, preferably 10-megabyte lines.

  • As more and more business meetings as well as shopping will be conducted online post COVID-19, the urge to upgrade networks will grow
  • This is a typical public-private partnership programme, for the sake of business and education
  • Employers have the option to buy downloadable learning programmes and run it on own platforms
Human resistance to change.


Online learning is nothing new, but in the past three years most sectors, but specifically agriculture did not leap.


Even on operational level many employees still prefer manual or alternative methods to get the job done

  • Over the next 3 – 6 months the intensity of online solutions will grow extensively for all forms of contact (meetings, conferencing), but specifically for education and learning.
  • Companies could through proper communication and change realization efforts assist the more resistant employees to make the shift
  • We also need to keep track of the impact of the millennials and zenials in the workplace for which individualized, online mode of operation comes naturally

Training and education post-COVID-19

Shorter term

  • We will not merely move back to contact-training on the scale we had up to March 2020.
  • Online/e-platform based will continue for the immediate future and we will see the likes of webinar and live broadcast training more.
  • Much more micro-learning solutions/ Just in time and much of it! DIY-based (YouTube videos based and more organisations will run their own YouTube video channels to host these.)
  • Stronger shift towards Managers being performance coaches standing in to teach and demonstrate skills.
  • The need for new commercial farmer development/emerging farmers will continue to but with a strong focus on business management and information and data management ability.
  • Business management as well as Agri Tech Management and understanding of farm data management and application of artificial intelligence in high tech precision production will take a prominent place in the qualification structures going forward.

Longer term (3-5 years)

  • Practical training based on virtual 3D and 4D imaging will soon be available even here for vocational training.
  • New jobs as old jobs becoming redundant – and swift skills renewal strategies – 4th industrial revolution.
  • A shift to compassionate leadership midst managing disruption.