When we went into lockdown last March, online education had to adapt fast. But I think there’s definitely been a positive change in mindset around virtual learning and in the standard of online education being taught.
As an educator myself, I know the challenges of online learning. Ensuring both students and teachers can see the detail of haircuts, and, if you’re teaching live, there’s always going to be that delay over Zoom to work around! But we adapt – we’ve all found the best lit spots in our houses and the camera angles that show off all the finer details now.
But I really think the positives outweigh any negatives. For example, learners don’t have to travel long distances to access education, they can work in an environment they feel comfortable in and they don’t have to find models that can take the day off work or that need paying for their time.
Another benefit of online education is that you can teach on a one-to-one basis. In many ways, it feels more personal and bespoke than an in-person class. At the moment five colleges use the Mike Taylor Education online resources and I got some feedback that learners wanted to be taught how to cut left-handed. Now I’m working to offering this, but I don’t know if I would have ever got this feedback in person. People are more honest behind a screen!
As a trainer I can fit in more educational sessions too. I’ve been helping colleges and not just with cutting. People feel more comfortable having a careers talk over Zoom now. I’ve talked to colleges in Northern Ireland and Wales recently. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have had the time to travel all that way for a talk, but I’m much more open to colleges contacting me to talk to their students online. I think people can be more generous with their time online and it’s crucial to support the next generation.
And barbering learners need all the support they can get right now. After the first lockdown, colleges opted to go into an ‘adaptations’ phase. So although there was still criteria to be met, it was much reduced so the colleges could complete the learners. For example, for an NVQ Level 2 you would usually complete six haircuts but in adaptation you only had to compete three. For the future of the industry, I really hope adaptations don’t come in this year. My hope is that colleges stay open over the summer holidays to make up for the education time lost.
A word of warning to any learners who think they can teach themselves on YouTube. In haircutting, everything is about standardisation. There’s so many different ways to cut hair and you’ll find a real mix on YouTube. At least if you’re buying into someone’s education platform you’ll get a standardised approach. It’s essential to know the fundamentals and opt for a course rather than bouncing around YouTube!
My predictions for the next five years is that we will head towards a 50 / 50 split between online and in-person education. Of course people need face-to-face education too, but online learning will rise to such a standard that it will hold its own. There’s so much more opportunity for British barbering to lead the way in online education, so why not embrace it?