Weston College has launched a virtual classroom in what is claimed to be a first for further education in the UK.
It has developed the project with education and technology not-for-profit Jisc and tech supplier Barco, at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has sharply increased the demand for remote learning.
The initiative involves the use of mobile extending cameras, a bank of six 55-inch screens in the classroom and Barco virtual classroom software. It utilises the Janet Network, run by Jisc, as the support infrastructure.
Jon Hofgartner, director of education technology at Weston College, says: “Using digital technology to amplify ‘the human factor’ in teaching might seem counter-intuitive, but using tech in the right way can break down barriers and help educators facilitate learning.
“It’s all in the design and implementation. We’ve tried to make our virtual classroom as straightforward as possible, so nobody needs a technical degree to work it.”
Video tech trend
Simon Farr, director of innovation at Jisc, says: “Over the last six months, video technology has evolved and become much more the norm for delivery of teaching and learning.
“The virtual classroom at Weston College allows students and staff to fully engage with one another in real time, while in different locations with an almost in-classroom experience.”
Weston College is located in Weston-super-Mare and is the lead organisation for the West of England Institute of Technology.