How to search & evaluate vocational training equipment
This is the most comprehensive guide to evaluating technical training equipment.
In this guide you will learn everything you need to know about searching, comparing and evaluating which equipment to get for your classroom, laboratory or training center.
We have polled a high number of TVET educators and found that educators spend a significant amount of time every year searching for and keeping up to date with new teaching equipment.
In this 15-minute guide we will show you how to search for, find, compare and evaluate the right teaching equipment for your training center – in just a few hours.
Our aim is to help educators save time with administration, so that they can spend more time with their students.
Let’s get started:
About the author: Timo Wohlin-Elkovsky
During the last eight years I have been involved in the education equipment industry, both as an executive heading up different companies, as well as an outside consultant to other companies.
In my previous roles I have met with hundreds of educators all over the world. What I have found is that all have the same difficulties in finding the best lab and training equipment for their specific needs. Thus, my team and I set out to solve this problem by founding edquip, more info here: About Edquip.
The below guide will show you how to use the various tools we built to cut a vast amount of time from your research process and find the best tools and equipment for your specific needs.
This guide is most useful for educators, teachers, trainers, lab-technicians, professors, administrators or anyone else who is involved with teaching students in the field of digital fabrication, technical and vocational education and training (TVET), career and technical education (CTE), or engineering education.
Let’s jump right in!
Chapter 1: Baseline Analysis & Preparatory Work
If you are reading this blogpost about evaluating didactic equipment, you or some of your colleagues have most surely already gone through a lot of preparatory work necessary for developing a course, a training program, a training center or a vocational school.
The steering documents which are outcomes of such preparatory works are very good tools when starting to investigate equipment acquisition. Thus, for your convenience we have summarized such preparatory work into five steps which are roughly explained below:
1. Training Needs Analysis
Your training center (whether its public, private or enterprise) has identified all possible foreseeable workforce needs for your country, region or enterprise. Essentially this means that you have a clear list of which jobs (trades & occupations) will be in demand and you have prioritized them accordingly.
2. Job Analysis
For each job identified in step 1 – you have established a panel of experts consisting of: subject matter experts, top trainers, coaches, assessors etc. with a deep level of understanding of the job function. This panel has closely reviewed, listed and segmented into units the various work tasks associated with each job. Essentially this means you already know clearly which tasks needs to be performed at each job.
3. Identification of Competencies
The list of tasks identified in step 2 has thereafter been mapped by the panel to the awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and competencies which the learners need to acquire, in order to do the job well. Essentially this means that you have traced back and identified what the learners need to learn.
4. Competency Development Framework
The competency development framework you have developed is neatly tying together the different jobs, units, individual tasks and the awareness, knowledge, skill, attitude and competencies that learners needs to acquire to perform each task. This is formulated into learning areas and the key is that each piece of learning is measurable and verifiable to a standard level required.
5. Development of Curriculum & Training Programs
The successful German dual education system combines apprenticeships in a company simultaneously with education and training at a vocational school, within one course. The competency development framework from step 4 above, should be translated into curriculum and teaching material for both on and off the work training (for dual systems), alternatively just for class-based training systems. Emphasis should be on both theoretical and practical exercises and ideally plotted to existing courses and resources.
As explained in the five steps process above, you should have a clear understanding about which jobs your training centers should be preparing learners for. You should understand which are the tasks necessary to be performed in each job, and what awareness, knowledge, skills, attitudes and competencies the learners need to acquire to perform their job well.
You should also have a competency development framework (CDF) which indicates measurable and verifiable learning experiences to a standard level required. When that is then translated into curriculum and teaching materials you have a good foundation of steering documents for supporting your acquisition process for didactic training equipment.
If you don’t have any of these documents, reach out to your colleagues and try to find them, we promise it will be very useful for you. If you need support to develop this, then reach out to us and we will help you to get in contact with an expert consultant.
In the next chapter we will go deeper into the search process.
Chapter 2: Establishing Important Parameters
Before starting the search, we recommend that you establish the parameters you will use for comparison and evaluation of the training equipment. The relative importance of each parameter is always different for each educator and each situation, which is why we have combed the internet for a complete list presented below in no particular order.
What are the costs implications of this didactic system? What is the one-time cost of the system? What are the ancillary costs of shipment, import clearance (if duties apply) etc? Are there any recurring costs on a yearly basis (i.e. software licenses or similar)? Does the producer charge for installation and training? How about any costs associated to after sales technical service and support?
Does the producer speak your local language or a secondary language which you can use for any support related functions? Alternatively, does the producer have a local sales agent in your country whom you can deal with in your local language? Is such local agent well trained in the producer’s products?
Is the producer helpful in any pre-sales support? Can you get access to the information you are looking for? How do they prove the didactic impact of their products? What is the student population like in their use cases so far? Does it match yours? Do you have access to input from any other educators whom you trust?
Installation & training
Does the producer provide installation and training support? How deep is the training and what can you expect to learn? Will you cover setup, operation, trouble shooting, didactic implications, theory etc.? Can installation and training be delivered when I have my colleagues available?
After sales technical support
How much support can I expect from the producer once the system is commissioned and paid for? Is there a service level agreement in place which clarifies goals and objectives, response times etc?
Is the content language available either in the mother tongue of my learners, or can they manage with content in a secondary well spread global language?
Clear product descriptions
Does the product description clearly define the didactic process of the training system? Which learning components will be used and how? Are the learning goals matching my identified goals from the Competency Development Framework? Is the scope of delivered product what I need in my training center?
Does the optimal setup of the training equipment fit well within my learning center? Can I provide any necessary inputs for the system (consumables such as correct voltage, clean water, gases etc.)? What are the necessary health and safety considerations associated to this equipment?
Effectiveness of teaching
To which extent does the training equipment transfer; subject knowledge; technology literacy; and hands-on preparedness to the learners? What non-biased proof of such transfer exists?
Workload on educator
To which extent does the training system add to or decrease the workload of the educator? Does it improve upon current existing processes which the educator needs to perform anyways, or does it add more administrational tasks for the educator which might not have an obvious value?
Product delivery time
Do you have a deadline for when the product needs to be delivered, installed and training received? Can the producer meet such delivery time from the point of your order? Keep in mind that many producers will produce to order, which means that when they receive your order they will turn around to their supplier to order parts they will build and test the system and then make it ready for delivery, this can be time consuming.
As you can see there are many parameters to consider when choosing didactic equipment, what is important is that you tie them to your specific situation. Our research shows that the three top-voted underlying parameters when choosing didactic equipment are the following: Clear technical requirements, Proven effectiveness of knowledge transfer, Budget.
Once you have prioritized or chosen the main parameters its time to start the search, which we will deal with in the next chapter.
Chapter 3: Searching for Didactic Training Equipment
Use an aggregator
The easiest way to go wide and get a lay of the land quickly is by visiting an aggregator or meta platform which is listing equipment from leading producer’s into one website and categorizing them for easy search and comparison.
The only such website for didactic training equipment is EDQUIP where you can search and compare products from quality producers and anonymously request quotations directly from the producers.
Reaching out to peers
Most surely there are peers in your country, region or similar enterprises who run training centers already. Reaching out to these other training centers and getting their input on best practices – what works and what doesn’t, can be a good exercise when going wide to get a lay of the land. If you don’t know where to start you can browse through the resources and network on the UNESCO-UNEVOC website.
There are many trade publications, blogs, journals etc. where you can read about successful approaches, best practices and industry developments. Other sources of good information are industry associations, for example WorldDidac or ACTE. Also watch this space, we plan to regularly publish useful and actionable advice as well as guest blogs and comments on industry happenings.
Visit trade fairs
There are many yearly trade fairs globally focusing on teaching materials and systems in one form or another. They all have a bit different profiles, early childhood, digital solutions, corporate learning etc.
For your convenience we have listed all of those with an important footprint in the field of Digital Fabrication, Technical Training and Engineering Education, you can find them under our page for Education events. If you decide to visit such fairs to meet with producers and see their training equipment live, then make sure you reach out beforehand to schedule a meeting with them.
At the point of writing we are experiencing the spread of Covid19 and all major education events planned for the next 3-4 months have been either cancelled or postponed.
The majority of producers of didactic training equipment around the world have websites where they list and display their products. The difficulty here is that to get an overview of the specific product category which you are researching, you will have to visit and search through many producer websites, some of them easily navigational while others not so much.
Meeting local distributors
In most markets there are distributors or resellers available which can find you a solution for a specific need. It can be easy to have them come to you for a presentation of the product lines that they offer but your choice will be limited. These distributors are very rarely giving you various options because they don’t represent competing product lines from different producers.
Hire a consultant
If your budget allows you to get expert advice and facilitation on either preparatory works or deeper product evaluation, this can be a further assurance that you do things the best way.
As you can see there are many ways of searching for didactic training equipment, some more qualitative and independent than others, some quicker and easier than others. The main goal from the search is that you have a handful of 2-5 products which at first sight meet your needs, which you can dig deeper into and compare more thoroughly.
In the next chapter we will go through how to compare the equipment the right way.
Chapter 4: Comparison of Didactic Training Equipment
When you have identified the products which best seems to meet your needs, it’s time to dig deeper into the comparisons with the goal of deciding which training system to acquire. In chapter 2 you decided which are the most important parameters for your situation, now we will discuss how you collect and compare information for each important parameter.
Contacting local Distributors
As discussed earlier, local distributors can be a good option for meeting local language requirements and will have a good understanding about the local education system. If they are well trained on the producer’s products, they can often explain the systems and answer any product questions well.
The undesirable part is that competing producers don’t use the same distributors which means that if you want to compare the top five products from different producers in a specific niche or sub-category, you will have to meet with five different local distributors who will all propagate that their solution is the best.
The producers are often the best at explaining their didactic systems and answering any specific product questions. Often, producers lack local language skills, network and specific knowledge of the local education system, which is why they use distributors in the first place.
Comparing products from different producers you would need to contact them all separately. Producers can sometimes refer to case-studies about specific student learning impact from their systems, or educator endorsements, but none of these can be considered non-biased or independent.
The comparison page of Edquip was put together to allow for non-biased and independent comparisons of technical training equipment. Any user can browse the products on its website and add 2-5 products to this page in order to provide a side by side comparison of different products.
Any registered user can from this view anonymously request a bid from the producers of 2-5 products and get a formal offer from all these producers within ten business days (in a comparable format!). Some private information (contact details etc.) will be collected by Edquip to validate the bid-request, while some open information is shared with producers so they can make an offer for your request.
Comparable and structured information at the time of writing can be summarized as per below:
- Product name
- Product code
- Product rating (from independent reviews on edquip)
- Content language
- Product category
- Voltage availability
- Teacher materials
- Student materials
- E-learning modules
- Quality labels (CE/UL)
- Production lead time
- Support languages
- Producer name
- Country of origin
- Purchase costs (provided by bid request)
- Other costs (provided by bid request)
- Possible delivery (provided by bid request)
How to use Edquip
Below you can see a 1-minute video walk-through (with subtitles) about how to use Edquip.
There are benefits with collecting information for comparison directly from producers (expertise) or distributors (language) but neither of them will be an independent source of information and your work would have to be five-fold because you need to contact everyone independently and try to find the correct information.
An online aggregator or meta platform such as edquip can give an independent and non-biased answer in a fraction of the time it takes by contacting distributors or producers one by one.
Whichever way you decide to search and compare information on didactic training equipment you will have gathered valuable experience which could be very useful for your peers.
In the next chapter we shortly discuss how you can give back to the community, join us!
Chapter 5: Giving back to the Community
Write online reviews
Write a case study
If you have implemented a successful education program with products listed on Edquip and would like to share the experience and your findings with our readers, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.
We will elect a few user case-studies for publishing every year. This could allow for your peers to get an understanding about what kind of program you have implemented, the purpose of the program and how the results have materialized.
As you can see there are various ways to give back to the community should you want to help others to be successful in their building of a training center or education program.
We hope you enjoyed this guide, that it has given you a good insight into the world of didactic training equipment and that you have a good baseline for moving forward with your project.
As a summary, in this blog post we have talked about the importance of a baseline analysis, including identifying and prioritizing which jobs needs to be trained for; which tasks needs to be performed at each job; identification of competencies; setting required standards and further rolling them into curriculum development.
We have also talked about the importance of establishing the right parameters for your project and we gave examples such as budget; effectiveness of knowledge transfer; educator workload, etc.
Further in chapter 3 we covered the different ways you can search for didactic equipment, such as visiting industry fairs, reaching out to peers; or hiring a consultant.
In chapter 5 we learnt that comparing different didactic training equipment manually is flavorsome, but fortunately there are simple to use and independent non-biased aggregators available such as Edquip.
Finally, we covered the importance of giving back to the community which can easily be done through producer and product reviews or by writing up user case studies.
If there is anything you miss from the article or if you just want to give us a word of appreciation, please send us some feedback below!