Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Opinion/ColumnRide Hailing newsTaxi industry news

Is it a Diploma Mill?

I can remember when there was career training offered on almost every pack of matches you saw. Photo: Etsy

How does DRVRhub, which is providing fully-online training during which no human instructor ever meets the human student taking the multiple-choice quizzes, provide students with access to certified instructors?

Rita Smith

As Taxi News was told by other bidding suppliers, Toronto was insistent that bidders on the VHF training contract have Ontario-certified trainers on staff, and that bidders provide the names, titles and credentials of these trainers. No one knows how that works in an online course with no instructor present; so I logged in and asked the question through DRVRhubs chat function.

“Send us an email at [email protected] to schedule a call with one of our intructors,” Jake the Chatbot told me when I asked on the DRVRhub site.

So, I did – as a fully paid-up participant in the DRVRhub training program, I hoped to ask an instructor a question. An Uber driver also taking the DRVRhub training did the same.

It’s been 7 days for me, and 5 days for the Uber driver, waiting for a DRVRhub instructor to reply to an email. Finally, I wrote Toronto’s media office to ask about it. These are verbatim answers from Licensing and Standards staff:

Q1: What is the time limit for having an instructor reply to an email with a question? Is it limitless? 

A1: The criteria provided by the City during the call for applications asked training providers to provide the instructor to student ratio, based on mode of delivery. The criteria did not specify the timeframes within which instructors need to respond to drivers.

Q2: How many DRVRhub certificates have been presented to Toronto L&S to date by Vehicle for Hire candidates? 

A2: As of June 27, 2,822 drivers have taken the training offered by DRVRHub.

“I’m shocked,” says Lesley DeRepentigny, president of DriveWise Training says of the lack of access to DRVRhub instructors.

“I was hoping that these things had slipped through, but that when it was brought to their attention that someone could easily obtain one of these diplomas without really learning anything, that staff would take a second look at their approvals process. But so far, that does not seem to be the case.”

Almost 3,000 new Vehicle for Hire drivers have been licensed in a period of days by answering multiple-choice questions so easy, you can guess at the answers as many times as you need to in order to pass without ever having never seen or spoken to a human instructor.

In my educational experience, this would be called a “diploma mill.” It’s reminiscent of the training that used to be advertised on packs of matches: “Become a lawyer, at home!”

Photo: Etsy

Ben Spurr of the Toronto Star, who also took the online training and wrote about it on June 27, quotes Mayor John Tory as saying that he trusted city staff to select courses that provide adequate training.

“To me this is a process of continuous re-examination and if people think these training programs and so on are inadequate then we should be reviewing them to make sure they are (adequate) and using technology to make sure certainly at the very least the people who take the test are who they say they are.”

If review is not made necessary when the City discovers the student is never required to prove their identity; that multiple choice quizzes can be taken repeatedly until a passing grade is achieved; and no certified instructor is ever required to communicate with a student in any way – when does Tory expect such a review would need to take place?