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Open learning and Telecom Training Services

Frank Gallagher
Telecom Training Services
This session was presented to the conference by a one way video, two way audio link with Telecom Training Services in Melbourne. The editors have prepared the following summary of the speech, graphics and video excerpts used in the session.


Telecom has over 80 000 employees, revenue of about $8 billion, and operating profit of about $970 million for the year 1988-9. Complex and rapidly changing technologies are the basis for Telecom's business, and the corporation must adjust to the new operating environments that are being created by deregulation. There are particularly critical needs to maintain high skill levels with present and future employees.

Telecom Training Services

Training is an integral part of Telecom's activities and must be an effective contributor to corporate goals. Telecom Training Services (TTS) was established in 1988 as a shared resources unit which supports the business and functional divisions of Telecom. TTS brought the previous training units into one unit which now has to operate on a full cost recovery basis. TTS deals with other Telecom divisions as clients who may, if they choose, seek providers other than TTS for meeting their training needs.

Telecom's investment in training is estimated to be $250 million per year, including the costs ascribed to travel and accommodation for trainees and their absences from their workplaces. TTS, with about 1050 people and an annual budget of about $104 million, provides about 70 to 75% of Telecom's training. The activities range from initial technical and trade training to corporate management training. Operations of TTS are directed from the national office in Melbourne, which includes a national design and development unit for research into training delivery, materials development and other topics. At the five regional levels, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Northern Territory, and Western Australia, the major activities are delivery of training, although some customisation of national courses is undertaken. Regional office people may also participate in the work of the national design and development unit.

Telecom Training Services has a business plan. The four main objectives are

To meet these objectives TTS has sought to attract, develop and reward good trainers. TTS seeks to earn a reputation as a "leading edge" trainer, a change agent for promoting Telecom's corporate goals, and an effective marketer of its services to Telecom's divisions and regions. The development of an open learning environment with its associated technologies is a key thrust. Greater responsibility for learning will be placed upon the learner, because Telecom will then have people who know how to learn and who want to engage in continuing updating and expansion of their skills.

Open learning principles

Telecom Training Services adopts a perspective on open learning which is both client and learner centred. The client is a Telecom division paying for the training of its people, who are the learners. Clients and learners have similar interests in obtaining training at times and places which meet their needs and in many other aspects of openness in training and education.

TTS is working towards improved access through greater use of distance learning and communications technologies as in telelearning and video conferencing. Training has to be timely, available when the client and learner want it, and responsive totheir needs. We are moving away from reliance upon "front end" training towards a life long learning perspective.

The content of training has a client focus. TTS uses skills audits to ensure that training is job oriented, and modular approaches that permit clients to select what they need. Integrated skills training is important, particularly in relation to developing a customer and business orientation for Telecom's technical people. Competency based assessment is also important, needing to satisfy supervisors that skills are being transferred to the job. Challenge assessments are used because there is no need for trainees to study for skills and knowledge if they can demonstrate prior acquisition.

The introduction of open learning approaches into TTS activities represents an evolution rather than a revolution. The gradual introduction of new techniques appears to give better acceptance by clients and learners. Trainers need to be introduced into a new way of working, in which learning is less centred upon the instructor and the roles of facilitator, tutor and designer become much more important. New methods for training have to be coordinated with other changes, such as the recent restructuring for the technical officer grades.

Current open learning activities

TTS prepares a wide range of materials for training, including learning guides, kits, models and videotapes. Self paced study packages, some of which are purchased from external suppliers, may use a a range of delivery techniques for which TTS provides local tutorial support, as in fleximode, or in telelearning. Traditional face to face classes may be mixed with self paced study and with computer based support. Use of computer managed learning, being trialled extensively at TTS's Hartwell and Rhodes Centres, is likely to grow considerably, particularly as a management and student interactivity technique in distance education.

Telelearning, in the form of audiographic teleconferencing, is giving encouraging outcomes. The Optel Telewriter, for example, has been used for point to point and multipoint conferencing (refer also to Bresa 1990, in this volume). Audiographics can be very successful with certain types of courses or parts of courses, and there are attractive savings in the costs of travel, accommodation and absences from the workplace. Video conferencing is used for some types of training, for example the induction course provided to newly recruited engineers. Depending on the needs, this may be two way video and audio as in Telecom's 2 Mb/s service, or one way video, two way audio, like IBM's ISEN (refer Cheng 1990, in this volume). Videodisc and CD ROM technologies are at a research and development stage at the present time.


Open learning is critically important in the business plan for Telecom Training Services. It is being used in staff development for TTS people. Open learning developments will enable TTS to offer a client and learner centred focus, with responsiveness, flexibility and cost effectiveness.

Please cite as: Gallagher, F. (1990). Open learning and Telecom Training Services. In R. Atkinson and C. McBeath (Eds.), Open Learning and New Technology: Conference proceedings, 154-156. Perth: Australian Society for Educational Technology WA Chapter.

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