Hopwood Hall Further Education College has been using itslearning for over 9 years as part of their blended learning model. Located in North East Manchester, with 2 campuses they serve over 8000 students.
In this article, Becki Lee, Head of Quality Improvement and eLearning at Hopwood Hall College explains how they have used itslearning to minimise the disruption caused to learning during the Coronavirus Pandemic and offers advice to schools and colleges when considering remote learning.
Prior to the Coronavirus pandemic we were using itslearning to deliver teaching and learning as part of our blended learning model. The model covered using technology and tools to support teaching, learning and assessment online which can take place anywhere at anytime. Staff were familiar with how to communicate through itslearning, how to track engagement and monitor learning, where resources were and how to access them. Many of our staff and learners were also used to setting planned work, marking and feeding back via the VLE and so we were quite well placed when the lockdown began. However, there were a few gaps that we identified related to non-teaching staff and also staff and learner access to IT off site, both of which we addressed quickly.
Increasing Technology Confidence
Since the start of lockdown, we have seen a significant increase in usage as you would expect but we have also seen lots of creative ways of using the tools available. Staff that may not have had the confidence to try new things are really pushing their boundaries. Planners, messenger and the embedded zoom and teams have seen the most usage during the college closure. These tools have enabled our college to continue to offer a high quality learning experience. However, all the features are being used by different areas across the college, there isn’t a set expectation and so depending on the outcome the staff want to get achieve will lead them to use different tools. We have realised over the years, variety is best. Keeping the work fresh and challenging, asking the learners to get involved, asking them what they like or asking them to create part of the next lesson etc encourages engagement and participation. We have had some really positive conversations in our management meetings too about how well staff and learners have adapted, with a seamless move to full offsite working.
The Importance of Interaction
Being able to still keep in touch with our learners and staff has been huge. Day to day communication and also more formal online sessions have enabled us to keep some structure to learning for our learners and also some social interactivity. We have also introduced challenges that keeps a sense of fun to our online life! It has been clear that learners have appreciated that there is some interaction between staff and learners as it keeps a sense of normality plus we have been able to provide additional support such as mental health and wellbeing as we have a dedicated area on the VLE. We can also put in swift interventions should any learner or staff member need more individual support via our ‘report a concern’ feature and our online counselling service.
Planning is Key
My advice to schools or colleges that are new to online learning and are looking at implementing remote learning in the future is to start planning now, work with key stakeholders to formulate a strategy and break it down into realistic goals. A clear project/timeframe should be developed and communicated to all from day one so everyone can start to adapt to our new way of working and learning. Reflect on this crisis and use this to inform your remote learning plan and finally, look at it as part of your offer not something that is just deployed in times of crisis. Education will never return to the traditional model now that we know how technology can enhance what we do and so look at creative ways remote learning can be implemented to benefit the learners, the staff and the wider community.
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