From education to employment

Hull College Wins National Association of Colleges Beacon Award

Hull College has won The Jisc Award for Effective Use of Digital Technology in Further Education at this year’s Association of College’s Beacon Awards.

Attracting hundreds of applications from all over the country each year, the Beacon Awards are the most prestigious awards in Further Education and have been running for 29 years. The awards celebrate the best and most innovative practice in further education colleges and demonstrate the far-reaching impact of colleges on their students and the communities they serve.

The Jisc Award for Effective Use of Digital Technology in Further Education award celebrates an outstanding example of how the use of digital technology has improved the experience of learners. The award is in recognition of Hull College’s ground-breaking work in addressing economic disadvantage and language barriers for more than 1,000 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students. Working in partnership with UFI VocTech, the college has transformed the educational landscape for its ESOL students, fostering integration, improving communication, and nurturing an environment where every student can thrive.

Teachers utilised Microsoft Translate technology in lessons and assessments to swiftly identify learning difficulties that had previously gone unseen when students struggled to communicate in English. The real-time translation feature enabled personalised support, accelerated English language learning, and fostered inclusion and achievement among students facing trauma and displacement.

Beyond the classroom, the college provided training to staff, including administrators, receptionists, and learning centre personnel, on using the Translate app on phones when interacting with non-English speaking students. This supported students’ access to key services and integration into college life, enhancing their sense of belonging. Implementing this widely available, simple and free technology proved transformative in dismantling language barriers and facilitating vulnerable students’ engagement and progression despite adversity.

The innovative use of technology has ushered in a new era of excellence in teaching, learning, and assessment at the college, with the outcomes speaking volumes. ESOL attendance has surged from 65% to an impressive 91.5%, while achievement rates have soared from 77% to 90%. In addition, 80% of ESOL students in work said their experience at the college has helped them perform their current job better.

Further key outputs from the initiative include remarkable improvements in employment rates, with 55% of eligible students able to move into paid work, and learner satisfaction, with 92% of students reporting their course helped them socialise, work, and communicate with others.

Deb Millar, Executive Director of Digital Transformation at Hull College, said:

“We are absolutely thrilled to have won such a prestigious award. In education, winning a Beacon Award is the equivalent of winning an Oscar, so to be recognised on such a national stage is a tremendous accolade for the college and fully deserved for all staff involved in the project, whose expertise, hard work, and dedication has been vital to its success. I would also like to recognise our amazing students, who have responded so fantastically well to our innovative approach.

“Every category in the Association of Colleges Beacon Awards is hotly contested each year and to be recognised as the top college in the country for our endeavours in the use of digital technology is so rewarding. This recognition showcases the incredible potential of EdTech to break down barriers and, at Hull College, we are committed to using technology to create a more inclusive learning environment. Although embracing Microsoft tools such as MS Translate, PowerPoint Live and Immersive Reader in the realm of education may not be a particularly ground-breaking concept, the innovative manner in which we’ve harnessed its potential and the results we have seen as a result have been truly remarkable.

“We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and that our approach can now be shared across the Further Education sector to help support the development of ESOL students up and down the country, and show how technology can transform teaching, learning and assessments for both students and staff.”

Mark White, Chair of AoC’s Charitable Trust said:

“The AoC Beacon Awards showcase exactly why colleges are so important to every community and why people value them. This award recognises examples of excellent practical teaching and learning. The work of the winning college shows how important colleges are in providing students with the necessary skills for the real world.”

Hull College’s achievement demonstrates the institution’s commitment to using technology ethically to create a more inclusive and accessible educational environment for all and is a testament to its dedication to fostering innovation, integration, and success in education.

The winners of this year’s Beacon Awards were announced during Colleges Week, an annual celebration of the amazing work colleges are doing across the country. This year’s theme was ‘influencing, engaging and celebrating’, with a look ahead to the upcoming mayoral and general elections.

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