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Weston College invests in virtual classroom to put pedagogy “front and center” for 30k learners
Posted on Thursday, January 14, 2021

Kortrijk, Belgium - 14 January 2021: Britain’s Weston College of further and higher education provides education and vocational training to nearly 30,000 learners across the country. As this includes school leavers, on-work apprentices, degree students, prisons and adult learners, they needed a remote learning solution that is flexible, engaging and focused on pedagogy. They recently implemented a 24-seat weConnect virtual classroom to meet these criteria.

Like most other institutions, Weston College found itself mobilising remote learning at the outbreak of Covid-19. The College rapidly recognised that they should ultimately seek out a longer-term solution that meets the requirements of a very broad audience. Dr Paul Phillips, CBE – Principal and Chief Executive was determined that the College advanced a solution.

Jonathan Hofgartner, the College’s Director for Technology, Learning Resources and Progression Skills, turned to Barco’s weConnect virtual classroom as a solution. He points to their desire to put the pedagogy "front and centre" in their remote learning solutions. "It's not about the technology," he says. "It's around your intentions and planning for that lesson. [The technology] makes it easier in terms of giving them an experience that is as comparable as we can to a face-to-face session." It was also important that the solution be engaging for all the different learners they cater for, many of whom are entirely remote.

Non-verbal cues during teaching

Weston identified the in-class experience as important for everyone concerned. More specifically, a solution where the teacher can move around, express themselves and bring things into that space for the remote learners to see and connect with. They also wanted to help teachers to pick up on some of the non-verbal cues as well.

Jon commented: "When the teachers are looking at the students in front of them, how can we make that really visual so that they can maybe see if a student is trying to think something through or maybe doesn't quite understand the description of something?".

"Meaningful two-way engagement is essential to education and is a key aspect of weConnect," says Jan van Houtte, General Manager Learning solutions at Barco. "Educational institutions worldwide are telling us that it provides a fundamental foundation for effective and distinguishing learning outcomes."

Applications in all areas of the curriculum

Weston is already preparing for future digital delivery models with its partners at the West of England Institute of Technology. The virtual classroom will allow partners to share teaching across the region, on specialist areas. The College is also involved in finding the best way to attract and cater for, notably, adults returning to education. In many cases, they might be trying to get the education and retraining while working around family time or part-time work. "The weConnect virtual classroom will be part of that," says Hofgartner. "There are applications in all areas of your curriculum where you could use this. Looking at it as a solution within further education, it also gives you that breadth to look at things like office space and employee engagement."

About Weston College

Weston College is an Ofsted outstanding college of further and higher education in Weston-super-Mare, UK that provides education and vocational training to around 30,000 learners across the country. It prides itself on being regarded as one of the top FE colleges in the UK and has won a Beacon Award from the Association of Colleges for an initiative to enhance mental health, wellbeing and welfare as well as being named "Employer of the year" at the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards. Furthermore, it teaches a range of higher education courses through University Centre Weston, 70 different apprenticeships from intermediate to degree-level and provide education in 19 prisons across the South West and South East.