Learning technologies and area review: a post-merger outlook
On Wednesday 1st February 2017, Dearne Valley College joined forces with the recently established RNN Group of Colleges, which itself was formed through the merger of Rotherham College and North Nottinghamshire College 12 months prior. The near £50m triumvirate aims to service the locality with the best possible academic offer and gives the opportunity to share resources and skills, and to allow curriculum, business and support teams to collaborate across the 4 main sites to provide a high quality service to learners.
Technology is, as ever providing numerous opportunities to contribute to this enhanced service and one of the first priorities for the merge was to connect the college networks together to allow staff to operate across any site. This has allowed colleagues with unique specialisms to deliver new units across the group; an immediate gain.
At the point of the initial merge, 2 different VLE’s were in use at Rotherham College and North Notts. A decision was taken to delay the unification of these platforms to allow for delivery and support staff to become accustomed to the many system changes already planned, which included new electronic registers and timetables, e-ILP, trip and event management systems, and staff portals. It would have been a detriment to the effectiveness of the VLE’s had these been included at this point and as such for 2016/17 2 systems remained in place.
Having secured the delay in implementing a unified VLE across the group, plans are now well afoot to bring the systems together whilst re-emphasising the opportunities that the VLE and associated technologies can present”. This brings a clear challenge to staff development which, when based over 4 sites, requires new and innovative practices to support staff, and so online methods are being put to the test, through the use of MOOC’s, self-help/paced facilities and online internal webinars and live chat.
Learners will reap the rewards of the efficiencies gained through the merge, with the new group’s ability to replenish ICT equipment sooner than before and with higher calibre equipment. Age-old interactive whiteboards are being replaced with high quality interactive televisions, with capabilities for learners to connect own devices to showcase work and contribute to in class activities. Laptops, PC’s and tablets are of a higher spec and the learner wi-fi network has been enhanced. In fact the learning environment is being reshaped through the advances in these technologies and we are delighted to see the traditional IT classroom being rethought and turned into a modern learning space encouraging group collaboration, whilst an investment in the library and similar learning spaces are supporting the drive to develop independent learning through the use of collaboratively created online learning resources.
So much has changed in such a short period of time but the future is exciting and learning technology is at the core of developments. Next stop is to increase the ability and standards of online and remote delivery, video conferencing facilities to allow staff – especially management, to reduce time on the road but increase collaboration, communication and support, whilst the advocates amongst us are excited about the developments in Virtual and Augmented Reality to enhance the learning experience and accessibility for learners across all sites.
Adam Elce, Quality & Digital Learning Lead at North Nottinghamshire College, part of RNN Group. @Adam_at_BETT
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