Just one year after launch, the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD) has reported that it enrolled more students in 2017 than any other college offering the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing in Australia or New Zealand – a remarkable achievement for a new school competing with well-established colleges, universities and TAFE. According to Directors James Gibbins and Chedy Kalach, 2018 promises even more growth.
Mr. Gibbins and Mr. Kalach established the College having identified the need for a new course when teaching at OTEN and Randwick TAFE. “We noticed falling enrolments and increasing industry concerns with the TAFE NSW delivery of the course,” explained Mr. Gibbins who began his dispensing career in 1983 then began teaching in 1997. “We realised a more flexible and student focused course was needed which, at the same time, gives practice owners and managers improved service and reporting”.
Mr. Kalach, who began dispensing in 2002 and teaching in 2009, said it was with a sense of trepidation that they launched ACOD in December 2016, despite the trend in declining enrolment numbers. To get the College off the ground, he and Mr. Gibbins approached three groups – ProVision, Specsavers and The Association of Dispensing Opticians New Zealand (ADONZ).
“In 2017 we partnered with ProVision to deliver the inaugural ProVision/ACOD Course in Applied Optical Dispensing and this proved to be both an ideal introductory dispensing course for untrained staff and the perfect springboard to the Certificate IV,” said Mr. Kalach. “ACOD is now endorsed by ProVision and we are also a preferred provider for dispensing training for Specsavers in NSW, the ACT, WA and New Zealand. Additionally, ACOD is the preferred provider for training with the ADONZ, which has produced a record number of New Zealand enrolments in one large cohort. We continue to meet with dispensing chains and independent practitioners throughout Australia as the industry works towards training and upskilling its dispensing workforce.”
We realised a more flexible and student focused course was needed which, at the same time, gives practice owners and managers improved service and reporting
Mr. Gibbins said the secret to ACOD’s growth has been simple:
1. Provide a quality optical dispensing course on a blended model which combines online learning materials with a series of comprehensive and work relevant workshops that cover both theory and practical elements of dispensing.
2. Ensure communication is clear and easily available via a one stop website, backed up with speedy replies to all phone calls and emails.
3. Ensure enrolment is simple and may be completed in a timely manner.
4. Make the student learning experience central to everything done.
5. Ensure employers have access to have all questions and queries answered in a timely manner.
6. Collaborate with all industry relevant bodies.
In order to support its growth, ACOD has engaged current dispensing teachers and has recruited a team of new teachers – fully qualified, experienced dispensers – who have completed their initial teacher qualifications while developing their own teaching skills.
Mr. Kalach said ACOD received positive feedback in its first year from students and industry bodies. “For example, having attended the third of four workshops, one student said, ‘I always look forward to the ACOD workshops and I have never been in a more supportive training environment’. An industry CEO wrote to us to say ACOD has demonstrated a willingness and ability to meet ongoing and future training needs for the profession”.