Acquistion Of Soft Skills And Affective Outcomes In Online Distance Education: A Secondary School Study
Hertlein, Jody L.
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Canada is facing a shortage of workers skilled in affective outcomes, specifically soft skills. Some fingers are pointing to the primary and secondary institutions for failing to aptly prepare future employees with those skills. While these skills have been considered a part of the ‘hidden’ curriculum in the education of children, outcomes from our education curriculum, especially in primary and secondary schools, appears to not be meeting the soft skill requirements essential to today’s job market. While much literature explains the necessary inclusion of soft skill instruction in distance education, empirical evidence of its permeation and levels of success is limited. Is it possible to teach soft skill via distance educational media? If so, what practices accommodate them and how does this acquisition compare to traditional models of education? A mixed mode method was planned for the collection and analysis of data. Students within three Alberta school districts were invited to participate in this study; however, a lack of student involvement limited the quantifiable results collected from the six online distance education students. Six teachers were interviewed on their school’s policy and individual techniques teaching effective communication, working cooperatively in groups, acting responsibly, flexibility in learning, and creative problem-solving skills. Interviews were held with both online distance education and traditional school settings so that comparisons of methodology of soft skill teaching/modeling could be made. While soft skill teaching and practice is apparent in both types of educational settings, there appears to be a lack of continuity between school and the work force. That the online distance educational setting is effectively teaching the soft skills within the affective domain, with possibly greater degrees of success than their traditional counterparts. Comments and ideas by teachers and administrators are discussed along with possible explanations to be considered. Limitations to this study are also described with the recommendation of further studies into this Canadian problem.