College’s new digital Summer School will help ensure smooth return in September
Furness College has revised the way it will introduce students to its campuses as part of a digital transformation accelerated by the Coronavirus global pandemic.
This year it will launch a Digital Summer School for all new and returning students to prepare them for the future way of working in September.
Kerry Culley, learning resources manager, said the team had come up with the idea to ensure that students at both the Channelside and Rating Lane campuses had a head start on their studies and could hit the ground running.
“The pandemic brought about swift changes to our day-to-day working as all lessons moved online,” she said. “We had to adapt to the change and we’ve been really impressed with the response from our students so far.
“To ensure a smooth transition for new and returning students in September, the learning resources team has adopted some fresh-thinking and we’ve come up with a comprehensive package of sessions to be delivered on our virtual learning environment.
“The sessions will ensure all students are familiar with the college systems they will using well in advance and they will be able to access all systems they will need from day one.”
She said information covered will be delivered in a fun and engaging way.
It will include how to access the virtual learning environment and their own Office 365 account, sessions on using Microsoft Teams to communicate with tutors and participate in online classes, ways to access online library and learning resources, online study skills and masterclasses on assessing and improving digital learning skills.
Alongside learning there will also be an online induction to college life.
Details of the Digital Summer School will be sent to each returning student and those enrolled on the college’s wide range of programmes – from A levels to BTECs, GCSEs to degrees – from September 2020.
Furness College’s CORE programme (Creating Opportunities for Real Education) supports students who struggle in a traditional college environment and give them the skills and confidence to progress into the workplace.
During lockdown due to Covid-19, the CORE programme has seen 82 per cent positive progression into employment, Further Education or apprenticeships.
Job opportunities were posted on a ‘moving on’ section on the Teams site with people taking up roles in care homes, retail in supermarkets and enrolling for higher courses at the Channelside campus including engineering, construction and hair and beauty.
Others will now go to sixth form in September to study animal care in the college’s new partnership with Myerscough College.
CORE Operations Manager and Senior Coach Ami France said: “Of our 45 students, ten per cent are unable to work but we have been able to find progression routes for 82 per cent of them so far. By keeping in contact with them and posting available and suitable roles on the site many have secured employment in lockdown.”
Another example that shows the high level of engagement is the fact that one group of 18 students filled a Teams feed with over 1,100 messages as they communicated around a project.
“Our achievement rate is over 80 per cent and that is high given that circumstances in lockdown meant we could not offer the usual 1-1 support that students in this group are used to. This can be a hard to reach group but they really did adapt to a new way of working, often overcame barriers with access to IT and engaged independently.”
Another group worked together in the digital space on a high quality presentation about the impact of Covid-19 on mental health.
Ami said they team had done some home visits and follow up phone calls but once students got involved in the online learning, they really embraced it.
“I’ve been so proud of them and what they have achieved,” she said. “To have 85 per cent of students engaging with us in lockdown is impressive and a real testament to the staff and the students themselves and this is what has led to so many of them achieving jobs and places on further education courses.”
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Throughout March staff observed the news of school closures in different parts of the country as the pandemic rapidly developed. To prepare students for the eventuality of closure, we incorporated an induction to Microsoft Teams into a regular enrichment session. Students were sent emails and links to access information on the college VLE and webpages.
When the college closed due to COVID 19 students left the college with a “how to guide” on accessing systems. Student contact details were checked and updated and students were asked to confirm they could log into the system. Information was sent out for a second time to both student and parent emails. As remote online learning became a reality, we also supported our students by offering a loan agreement for devices for any students that required this.
Delivery During COVID 19
To kick start each session we ask students to access the online check in area in Teams to ensure they are online for student wellbeing and that they are ready and able to receive support for online learning.
Students enjoy checking in with staff and this has been important to “touch base”.
To support student wellbeing, we have developed a student area. In this students can access links to:
Pastoral support (mental health support, emergency contact numbers, how to request home visits).
Moving on – Progression opportunities are shared here, such as college courses, part time employment and links to develop skills such as Barclay’s Lifeskills Virtual Interview.
General updates – this includes reminders about attendance, bursary updates, celebration updates
Praise board – To celebrate the fantastic work students are producing online, or even just managing to get online.
In addition to this we have developed am online Teams class for student voice which is led by the college’s Student Liaison Officer allowing students to have their say confidently, freely and to give accurate feedback on their experiences and to take part in opportunities that may be available to them.
Staying in contact
Core is using Teams to keep in contact with students, this is being done in a variety of ways such as group calls, direct messages and comments (depending on risk assessment).
All students receive a regular call from the teams Pastoral Support. If staff identify any concerns with a student this can lead to daily calls or home visits.
There are many wellbeing resources and links on our Teams pages and we update staff regularly with information that can be applied during the regular home conversations.
Staff have regular staff meetings through Teams with staff wellbeing an agenda item.
Making work accessible online
We have provided a wide range of materials, links and resources on our Teams pages. For students having difficulty accessing learning online, paper based work is emailed to agency support workers or has been delivered during home visits.
As time has progressed through learning online, the team are working together and in weekly meetings improvements for online learning are discussed, highlighting concerns, sharing knowledge and experience of online learning tools and the encouragement of staff CPD. We are finalising a standardised approach to online learning, based on an ongoing review as part of the regular team meetings so students have the same “classroom experience” in every virtual classroom, for example the same way to check in, receive praise and access assignments according to their identified needs.
Staff have developed tutorial videos for both peers and students to make the students learning experience accessible and meaningful.
The team are continually exploring new and inventive ways for delivery, considering the students learning styles and their preferred ways of learning.
Supporting students, parents and carers.
We use weekly phone calls with parents and students, and when difficulties arise we put action plans in place to support student re-engagement in their education. We recognise the challenge for some students to learn at home, and for this reason we have been flexible in our approach to assessing and supporting students.
Throughout the pandemic with the business need in the area for temporary work, some students have successfully gained temporary employment. Through one to one appointments we have been able to offer flexible learning for students, to enable them to access both work and learning.
The college safeguarding team are using robust information management systems, as well as meeting weekly to discuss concerns regarding students. This also includes student access to a daily duty member of the safeguarding team, drop-in sessions within the college and notifications for how to access support on the pastoral support page on Teams
When the Coronavirus hit and lockdown began, Barrow Sixth Form College physics tutor Vincent Leonard decided he did not want students to miss out valuable career experience.
He worked with the Ogden Trust to access their summer internship programme with 70 hours of work.
The Coastal Energy Internships programme normally provides bursaries for sixth form students to undertake a 20-day placement with a local energy company in the summer.
The internship would usually be done in a company environment but this year the programme found another solution, offering project-based internships that could be carried out at home.
Vincent said the opportunity was opened up to all first and second year A Level students with three so far taking up the challenge.
“Having the chance to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life scenarios will stand them in really good stead whether they decide to go on university or straight into employment after sixth form college. It will enhance their STEM skills, help them build connections with a business and enable them to see how they work in an energy sector environment.
“Our students represent the future workforce of these companies. They are full of fresh ideas and I hope the businesses will really have their eyes opened by the innovative thinking they apply to these projects.”
Students will be linked to one of three supporting businesses – Vattenfall, ScottishPower Renewables and James Fisher Marine Services – who launched the projects via a recorded webinar to the students.
The projects range from developing and building and offshore windfarm to designing a work-class remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for use in subsea activities.
Media student Jack Griffiths has been recognised by his tutors for overcoming the challenges of learning in lockdown and making impressive progress.
Jack, who studies the Level 2 Media Diploma at Furness College’s Channelside campus, said he had developed his study skills and improved his own time-management.
“It was a new way of learning which I wasn’t used to and it was difficult at first,” he said. “However, the tutors made communicating easy as they were always there to help me and to answer any questions that I had.”
Due to the swift suspension of face-to-face teaching due to the global pandemic, Jack found he didn’t have all the software installed on his computer to enable him to complete the work at home.
However he was quick to get in touch with college to raise this and is one of more than 50 students who borrowed a college laptop to ensure they could continue learning.
In order to keep a routine of college work flowing, Jack would email his tutors at time his lessons would usually start to check in and to see which work he needed to prioritise.
He is full of praise for his tutors saying: “The tutors were very helpful and showed me many examples to ensure my work met the criteria. Margaret Graveson was especially helpful as she ran through the different steps of each task.”
Jack used the circumstances to develop his own set of time-management skills, setting himself deadlines to complete unfinished work alongside any new work.
“Working from home has taught me to be more independent and has enabled me to use my own resources in order to get the work completed,” he said.
Jack has the ambition of working in the media industry in the future designing media graphics, producing flyers and posters and creating large presentations.
He wished the tutors well and he hopes to see them in September.
Head of Area Simon Irving said: “I kept seeing lots of praise comments from my team about Jack. He has done fantastically well during lockdown in terms of engaging remotely and the excellent work he has produced despite facing challenges. He has worked so hard and shown massive commitment to his studies in lockdown.”