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Beacon Award Commended College Synopses 2022/23 - The JISC Award for Effective Use of Digital Technology in FE


Heart of Worcestershire College

As technology continues to advance across the industries we serve and sectors introduce automation, a decision was taken to develop a new blended learning programme that is current and reflective of what our learners require to excel in the new, technologically advanced workplace. Elements provides learners with the opportunity to hone important skills such as problem solving, communication and collaboration on a weekly basis through timetabled online learning time. At the core of the programme are six-week projects focusing on real-world challenges with some projects being co-created with employers. Digital tasks are set that align and sequence with main vocational and technical curriculum delivery whilst encouraging the development of digital literacy as learners are required to complete everything online. Digital badges are awarded on completion of specific tasks that are aligned to specific ‘catalyst skills’. Accumulation of the individual badges contribute to the main Elements badges. All of which are held in a Digital Backpack for the learners to take with them as they transition out into industry. The programme is named Elements as it is designed to develop the learner ‘as a whole person’ rather than purely focusing on vocational/technical aspects of their skill development ensuring they are more agile and responsive with transferrable skills. Earth = grounding/critical skills, Air = communication, Water = collaboration and Fire = creativity.

USP College

To address teacher shortages, student numbers and additional challenges the college created immersive teaching spaces enabling cross campus, blended and hybrid teaching. To support staff with the required digital skills an internal CPD package was developed called i-transform. The college has recently created a digital campus, Xtend, specializing in AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), and XR (extended reality) providing the opportunity to create a forward thinking immersive educational experience for our students. The Xtend center has been created as a state of the art digital center where students work with industry experts in the design and creation of commercial VR and AR resources providing them with the skills and industry insight to progress in the future.

Activate Learning

We believe anyone can change their life through learning and the only barriers standing in someone’s way, is a lack of self-belief and motivation to learn. However, as the pace of life changes and people have more commitments, accessing education becomes more challenging. People have to prioritise their work, families and other personal commitments, making traditional routes into education feel impossible. While other providers have sought to offer an online alternative, the lack of support around the learner has historically led to high levels of attrition and low achievement rates. Our approach places the learner and their needs at the centre of everything we do. Using our award-winning Learning Philosophy, we’ve developed an online programme that supports a growth mindset approach, with continual feedback to help people develop and improve. We recognise the impact emotions play on people’s ability to engage with learning, so our teachers emphasise building strong relationships with our learners from the start, to help keep them motivated and focused on their journey resulting in sector-leading results. Linking our strategic drivers of technology and neuroscience, we’ve developed an online provision that is truly changing lives and delivering outcomes far beyond that of anyone else in the sector.

Education Partnership North East (EPNE)

Education Partnership North East’s innovative 360-degree Immersive Space provides a state-of-the-art teaching and learning environment for its staff and students. The fully integrated seven-metre cylinder with full wraparound wall and floor projection creates shared immersive VR environments for students studying a range of T Level and vocational subjects including health and social care, construction, engineering and digital production, while also supporting the delivery of digitally informed therapies for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The Immersive Space also offers a space for better work experience placements to better prepare students for their future careers by transporting them to real-world settings such as construction sites, factories, hospitals, sports stadiums and offshore wind farms, and strengthens local employer partnerships. John Acland-Hood, Head of T Level Provider Readiness at the Department for Education, said: “T Levels are a key part of the Government education agenda, and our investment has been key to ensuring successful high-quality provision. It’s fantastic to see Education Partnership North East being recognised for the work it is doing with T Level students and the way it has utilised the T Level Capital Fund.”

Barnsley College

With Discover Digital, every space becomes a digital environment, with teaching and learning transformed for everyone. This innovative and inspirational initiative positively impacts the whole College, the community and, as interest grows and its exemplary practice and is increasingly shared more widely, the education sector. Rating the College Outstanding in 2022, Ofsted praised how students benefit from the use of technology in ‘effective and engaging teaching and training’ and the development of ‘teachers’ digital pedagogical skills’. Teachers’ digital CPD together with substantial dedicated specialist support drives the initiative and ensures the Discover Digital immersive learning technology packs available to all departments are accessible to every student, maximising the opportunities to enrich the learning experience. The College has invested heavily in its digital resources and spaces, including the SciTech Digital Innovation Hub, officially opened in 2021 by then Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, and the Discover Digital space. Through Discover Digital technology, students are able to take control of their learning and educators are supported in taking controlled risks in their teaching. This has had a significant impact on students’ enjoyment of learning and their achievement and has enhanced teachers’ engagement.