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Implementing an immersive learning approach to to offset the disruption created by Covid-19

Dan Pearson, Principal and CEO, USP College
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Like many other FE institutions, we have faced testing times over the last few years with reduced funding, lower numbers of students in some subjects and challenges to recruit high quality staff.

We needed to address this situation and I saw the opportunity to improve our teaching delivery method – focusing on and developing a far more immersive learning approach.

The solution was to create some immersive spaces, which enable peer and collaborative learning as well has having the all-important wow factor.

Design of the room was key to ensure a social space was created, rather than replicating the traditional model of online learning.

We also connected our geographically dispersed campuses to support collaborative teaching remotely across multiple ‘immersive’ classrooms.

USP launches its new Digital Career College 

As a natural part of this progression to a new way of teaching and learning, the College has become a Digital Career College – part of a UK-wide network which focuses on preparing students for fulfilling careers by immersing them in the world of work and equipping them with the right skills.

Our Career College launches this week, with 60 learners engaged on digital courses. We are now part of a national network of digital Career Colleges including Barking & Dagenham College, BMet, Coleg Gwent and Westminster Kingsway College. This collaboration is beneficial for both our students and staff, enriching their experience and expanding networks and contacts.

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Students have benefited from our immersive room facilities already, improving their employability and communication skills via activities such as virtual presentations. This is improving learning outcomes and is without doubt increasing student motivation as a result of being able to share specialist expertise across our campuses and removing geographical barriers.

This immersive facility lends itself perfectly to our new digital Career College platform in a number of ways. The Career College’s teaching and learning network enables staff to extend their specialist knowledge and expertise, with the ability to capture sessions digitally and add them to an expanding suite of resources.

Supporting employer engagement – Globally 

In addition, the technology also offers a platform to support crucial employer engagement – with no geographical boundaries. Employers from anywhere in the world can deliver a project or brief to students at one or all of the Digital Career Colleges at any one time. We are also now in a position to host real-time employer-led CPD industry skills both locally and beyond.

A fantastic example of an international employer link is a new project being led by STC College, a logistics specialist based in Rotterdam. Alongside several other Career Colleges, we are working with STC on transformational digital learning, which will enhance learning across our whole college for all students.

We are also in the latter stages of developing our Centre of Excellence for Digital Technology and Immersive Learning, which will further improve our ability to connect nationally and internationally. The Centre will have further immersive learning spaces, state of the art virtual reality suites, studio space and facilities for VR content development. Collectively this will aid employer relationship growth and scope of project-based learning for both our own College and our partners – including the network of Digital Career Colleges.  

Myself and my team are hugely excited about the collaborative opportunities that our new Digital Career College will offer our whole community. Students will undoubtedly receive a greatly enhanced learning experience – which we very much hope will help to offset the disruption that this year’s Covid-19 pandemic has created. We are focused on moving USP College successfully forward, ensuring we are being part of a truly international network.

Dan Pearson, Principal and CEO, USP College

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