The EPALE UK and Learning & Work Institute’s joint conference Upskilling pathways: Implications for the adult learning workforce, took place in London on 23 October 2019. The event considered ways to better support the adult learning workforce to ensure the needs of learners and workers are met, thus supporting employers and the economy at large. The day provided delegates with a selection of plenary, panel and workshop sessions. I was fortunate to attend Cerian Ayres’ (from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF)) workshop on knowledge hubs in vocational education and sustainable development.
Cerian Ayres is an excellent presenter who is able to engage everyone in the audience and make them feel as excited about the developments in adult education as she is! Cerian was joined by James Maltby later in the session – James works at Plumpton College, a college that engages with the Teach Too programme delivered by ETF – who provided insight into using Virtual Reality (VR) to support learners.
ETF is dedicated to delivering high-quality professional development and professional pathways for people wanting to work as teachers. They are an integral aspect to providing the education workforce with highly qualified and skilled individuals. Their three key principles are empowerment, engagement and ownership – ultimately supporting teaching staff to become the best professionals they can be and to take a very active role in the development of their careers.
Dual professionalism and its benefits
Cerian gave special focus to sustainable development within the education sector – developing sustainable technologies to be used in learning environments and developing sustainable curricula that offer a clear line of sight for all vocational programmes. ETF also enables teachers of ‘dual professionalism’ to combine their occupational and pedagogical expertise and become excellent teaching staff. Dual professionalism refers to people who have skills in teaching, as well as specific areas of expertise, for example engineering, journalism or software development. There is argument that recruiting teachers from other industries where they have developed a wealth of skills relevant to particular course provision will enable educational institutions to discover exceptional teaching staff and this could be of enormous benefit. For more information on dual professionalism, please see Colin Forrest’s blog post here.
Teach Too and Plumpton College
Cerian explored the many different initiatives developed by ETF, including Teach Too, now in its sixth year, and the Further Forces Programme, which aims to retain armed forces leavers as teachers and trainers. Teach Too addresses quality improvement in technical and vocational teaching and learning. James Maltby works for Plumpton College, an institution that is using Teach Too to improve the learning experience. He talked about sustainable technology, but also how it is important to focus on investing in people and skills more than technological advancements. At Plumpton College, teachers have been using VR with their learners to enhance the learning experience and to better support their own workloads. VR has been used to record 360 degree views of campuses and of specific aspects of courses; for example, those working on mechanical projects have recorded the workspace and materials they are working with. This allows learners who cannot physically be at open days, for example, to see what they would be doing on their course and to become familiar with campuses before they arrive for their study programmes, contributing to a strong sense of community. Students with learning difficulties and disabilities have benefited also – they are also able to enjoy increased accessibility.
Delegates were then able to participate in question time, with the majority of questions focused on sustainable development in technology and the use of VR. A changing technological and jobs landscape likely contributes to a focused interest on these – education staff are aware that developments such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and VR will continue to grow, and a positive attitude to using these to enhance teaching is preferable. James and Cerian were able to use the question time to offer more valuable information on the subject, including that Edinburgh College is currently developing VR to help with assessment – for example, students can complete a task similar to the mechanical one mentioned earlier and then submit it for a practical assessment. For those completing equine osteopathy training, VR held major benefits in recording a horse dissection – this allowed them to see the bodily structure of the horse in great detail and contributed to their understanding of its physiology.
Another interesting point that James made regarding VR is that when he has presented groups at educational events with the VR headsets, young people seemed very keen to take part and try them on, while adults seemed to be nervous about it – he predicted that around 10% of adults are actually willing to put it on. Therefore, he recommends that adult educators approach VR with caution, as they may find engagement to be limited. Plumpton College has been using VR passively – that is to say that it has been used to record rather than deliver interaction – and this can be attributed to the huge cost in using VR for highly interactive purposes. The camera and headset alone is in the hundreds of pounds, making gamification an expensive option that deserves careful consideration before a plan to use it is put into action.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Cerian and James for an excellent workshop! The discussion of dual professionalism, sustainable curricula and technology, and the use of specific technology such as VR is timely – all educators should be considering ways to explore their greater skills and assets in order to upskill and push their careers forward, as well as utilise new technology to best support their learners.
Can you think of any other ways to use VR in colleges to enhance the teaching experience? Have you got any suggestions for building a sustainable curriculum that incorporates the use of sustainable technology? Let us know in the comments box below and keep the discussion going!
This blog post was written by Emma Zielinski, the Content Manager for EPALE UK.
You might also be interested in:
- Friday the 13th (blog) – an excellent blog post written by Dafydd Rhys, offering insight into the adult education sector in Wales and calling for an adequately funded network of life-long learning opportunities
- Weighing it up – Evidencing the impact of Family Learning (blog) – EPALE UK Ambassador Cath Harcula offers her contribution to this series of blog posts focusing on upskilling and workforce development, with a focus on Family Learning
- EPALE Conference 2019 Warsaw – Round the Campfire (blog) – Cath Harcula discusses her experiences at the EPALE Conference, which brought together EPALE representatives from each participating EU country and considered the impact the platform has had on adult education
- Turning on the pause button and listening (blog) – Dragana Ramsden gives her views on upskilling and workforce development, exploring what adult educators need to learn to create new ways of working and achieving shared outcomes without fear of scrutiny