From education to employment

Extending the VLE beyond the classroom: non-traditional pursuits of alternative careers

Daniel Hill

While the learning journey begins in the classroom, the lifelong learning journey can continue down many paths: Formal education, certificate programmes, military service, etc.

For instance, personal lifelong learning is learning that we pursue outside educational institutions or the office. For some, this could represent just a hobby. For others, this could be an opportunity for a significant life change. 

During the pandemic we were all confined to our homes with no other option than to communicate, learn, or entertain ourselves online. Endless opportunities for all kinds of courses and learning options arose, with more people than ever exploring new hobbies or embarking on new career paths.

At the same time, learners were yearning for experiences that were more meaningful, secure, and sustainable. It quickly became evident that engaging learning experiences demand more than internet connectivity and access to a video camera.

While some traditional educational institutions have been rapidly evolving and adopting cloud-based virtual learning environments to support all modes of learning (in-person, online, and hybrid), some further education institutions are still depending on free VLEs or basic video conferencing and collaboration tools that limit their ability to grow and reach more students.

The Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) offers a comprehensive suite of globally recognised qualifications covering wines, spirits, and sake. As users of Canvas, they have demonstrated that people can become experts in wine, spirits or sake online, either in pursuit of a career in the drinks industry or just as a hobby. WSET has also shown that adopting the right VLE can increase opportunities for growth and internationalisation for institutions offering non-traditional learning experiences.

After using a self-hosted VLE for a while, WSET determined that they needed their VLE to scale up, especially on the administrative side of the business, to support staff and deliver content to a global audience. 

With this in mind, in 2019, they migrated to cloud-native Canvas, the flagship VLE of the Instructure Learning Platform. This enabled WSET to increase the remit of digital education and support the development and iterative improvement of WSET’s portfolio of courses. The new platform also helped the WSET team to create much needed administrative efficiencies. 

Today, WSET qualifications are available in over 70 countries in 15 languages through a network of 800+ course providers. Last academic year, 140,000 plus students globally took a WSET qualification either in person or online. WSET course providers can offer online courses or digital education elements via Canvas, offering an online drinks education platform that mirrors the experience of an in-person classroom setting. 

Harmonising online education with a hands-on approach

Many WSET students expressed their desire to connect, share insights, and collaborate with each other worldwide. As a result, WSET has integrated multimedia content, designed interactive wine-tasting modules, and ensured seamless communication between instructors and students. 

By digitalising its courses while maintaining the in-person experience, WSET was able to significantly increase student engagement. In particular, the WSET team made heavy use of the platform’s functionalities around quizzes, discussions, and peer-to-peer interactions. WSET is also in the process of integrating the Canvas Impact add-on, to further student engagement and analyse usage across courses. WSET’s team found the Canvas platform incredibly intuitive, enabling them to focus on teaching, resulting in increased course completion rates and positive student feedback.

According to Amy Button, Head of Digital Education at WSET, the varying submission formats available for students was one of the huge advantages of Canvas, allowing them to transfer the fun and sociable side of tasting from the classroom courses to the Online Classroom. “Canvas allows us to change, adapt, and deliver our courses quickly, as well as continue supporting and growing our courses globally. Delivering courses to a network of students all over the world enables them to learn from each other’s unique experiences, promoting diversity of thought, opinion, and experience, hopefully enriching their studies.”

By adopting a fully featured VLE in the cloud, WSET has been able to reach new heights on a global scale, all while providing personalised education to students around the world, fostering international collaboration, and setting wine, spirits, and sake professionals and enthusiasts up for success.

By Daniel Hill, Vice President of Instructure in EMEA

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