17th April 2020

These are uncertain times that we are living in. Now with stricter measures in place to protect us, it means there is more that the education sector has had to do to continue teaching and learning. This radical change of circumstance has presented opportunities across the country for evolution and innovation; particularly in the education sector, which now has an opportunity to potentially change the future of mainstream education.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are devastating, and places like South Devon College are doing all they can to provide support to students and staff affected and are also doing all they can to support the wider community. But in the midst of these challenging times, they have needed to ensure that, despite the cancellation of exams, students can still continue to learn from the knowledge and experience of their tutors and be assessed as accurately as possible under the unique assessment methods put in place in response to the government’s restrictions.

Girl sat at desk on a computer working on photoshop and indesign.

The College have done this by making use of their existing suite of applications available to them via Microsoft’s Office 365 plan. Following the traditional nature of education predominantly being face-to-face, applications such as Microsoft Teams were never really utilised.

Microsoft Teams enables classes to take place with video conferencing, chat groups with the class, and screen-sharing which allows the students in the class to see the tutor’s screen clearly. All this being integrated into the Office 365, work produced in applications such as Word, Powerpoint, and Excel are all easily accessible through OneDrive and can be shared with tutors and students seamlessly.

Timetables for students had already been moved to be accessed on the College’s new student and staff app, SDConnect. The timetabled lessons are then replicated as meetings in Teams so that they will always be notified when the next lesson is coming up on the desktop of their computers. But students can also organise their own meetings with other students if they are working on group project work for example.

Student working on a design for the Torbay Airshow logo

For students on more creative and digital focused programmes, the Adobe Creative Cloud suite is also provided for all students. All they need to do is log in using their student email and password and they will be access the whole suite of software for free. The license also allows for up to two devices to be signed into the account so for those that want access to the mobile Adobe apps, you can sign in on your phone or tablet as well as your computer.

We’ve already seen great use out of all these things already and have had plenty of updates of how various staff and students have overcome the only option being to continue teaching and learning remotely. Community Learning tutors have delivered Pilates classes online, Make-Up students have been practising and developing their skills by becoming characters from their most watched isolation film, and health and social care students have even been bold enough to become key workers looking after the elderly in what are frightening times for many. That friendly face is just what they’ll need to get through this.

What this all means is that flexible learning is the reality right now and could potentially be the reality after things have returned to normal. Whilst there have been online courses available for a while from various providers, online teaching has never taken place at this scale across the country. Moving forward though, this proves to be a possibility for select areas of a wide range of courses where there are no practical elements or modules to study.

Regardless of how the education system evolves after the pandemic is over, one thing students should continue to focus on is what they do next. Use the time to think about your future and what courses will get you there. You can apply now to start studying at South Devon College in September 2020.

If you’re interested in any of the courses at South Devon College and want to know more, register for the upcoming Online Information Week at southdevon.ac.uk/events. If you have any questions, you can get in touch by emailing [email protected] or calling 08000 380 123.

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