Adult students across North Yorkshire are embracing technology to keep learning while in lockdown.
Tutors for the county council’s adult learning and skills service have switched to creative online options, changing perceptions about learning online.
Maths and English courses, among others, continue online and the feedback is that learners appreciate the bespoke delivery and are keen to continue their studies.
Photography tutor Rebecca Rowan is continuing two photography courses started before the lockdown.
She said: “We meet at the same time, but online, and I’m able to put work into Google Classroom. The main thing is that from a wellbeing point of view it helps people to feel connected.
“People are growing confident in doing the tasks and sharing and celebrating their work online. The feedback has been that they really appreciate the ability to adapt and get the courses back out there.”
One of Rebecca’s students is Mike Moore, who took up photography in retirement and found the course gave the support he was looking for.
“Working together as a group, using different techniques and taking photos based around the subject of the River Leven, allowed me to put things into practice with the luxury of having Rebecca on hand to give immediate feedback,” he said.
“Going online obviously changed that, but through a given set of tasks to do offline, sharing results ahead of the meetings via Google Classroom and then receiving feedback in the online session, we all continued to make progress.
“I take my camera on my exercise walks and take lots of photos. When I get home I have fun downloading to my iPad and cropping and enhancing the photos in the editing software. I plan to make a short album of the lockdown period.”
Another of Rebecca’s students is Susan Watson, who admits: “I found adapting to the online method of teaching initially very challenging, maybe because technology and I don't always get along! On the positive side, by using Google Classroom I have learnt how to use my Google email, which I'd ignored since it was set up on my mobile. I am adapting slowly to the new teaching method and am treating it as a work in progress. I gained a lot from the course and I have signed up to the next one.”
Caroline Parker teaches accountancy qualifications and has managed to move her courses online through a computerised accounting package called Sage, provided at a greatly reduced cost to the county council and free to learners.
“Learners get 180 days’ access at home, including Sage Software, a workbook, online tutorials, mock exams and lots of other resources to teach a range of accounting skills,” said Caroline. “It simulates the types of task people would be asked to do in the workplace.
“I was already teaching most of the learners and they wanted to finish the course. In this way, we can keep them engaged and keep them learning. It means they can keep going and keep involved.
“Because we are limited in where we can teach this course in a classroom, because you need access to Sage Software and not everyone can attend classes at a set place and time, we are hoping that if this online approach is successful it is something we can carry on with afterwards.”
Tutor Christine Hayes has switched to online video for all her functional English skills classes.
“Many learners feel that the class is a central part of their week and helps them stay focused and grounded,” she said. “We have been working on a journal and sharing ideas face-to-face on Zoom, and then writing about how our lives are changing and evolving as a result of the pandemic. Their thoughts are genuine and heartfelt.”
One learner has secured a post at a school, for which she acknowledged the support of the group. She hopes to take up the post in the near future.
“Each learner has shared a positive feeling about their online learning and an eagerness to keep coming to our new virtual reality,” said Christine. “They genuinely enjoy the company and feedback that they receive from their peers.
“I feel proud and privileged to be teaching at such an unprecedented and unforgettable time. I also greatly value the support I have received from my colleagues and line managers and the generosity of the many teachers who continue to share their ideas, resources and inspiration.”
Among Christine’s students is Julie Bettison. Julie has struggled with personal challenges and made a life-changing decision that she wanted to achieve her best.
“I knew that if I was going to progress in life I was going to have to get some qualifications behind me.” she said.
That led her to Christine’s English class.
“I knew immediately through Christine’s welcoming passion and enthusiasm that I had made a good choice. Writing, within a short time, came to be a release for me. I feel I belong.”
She has embraced the move online, including learning how to write in Microsoft Word on her phone. She believes her life experience gives her an insight that might help others at this time.
Julie says: “Because of my life, I feel I have a message to try to get across to as many people as possible that there is life after something that has not been too good, and for them to know that just because we are in lockdown, life doesn’t stop. If you want something enough, it is still there for you to grab with both hands.”