Blended learning embraced at NESCol

October 15, 2020

More than 13,000 hours of online classes were delivered in the opening five weeks of the new session at North East Scotland College.

NESCol is following Scottish Government guidance by adopting a blended approach for full-time courses in 2020/21 and students have been praised for their attitude to digital learning.

Courses are being delivered using a mix of practical on-site classes and live online sessions as well as structured learning activities which give students flexibility in their schedule.

Access to the City, Altens and Fraserburgh campuses is being carefully managed to limit the numbers attending – part of wide ranging measures to ensure the College community is protected from the spread of Coronavirus.

A number of online tools are being used to ensure an engaging and rewarding experience for students, with the College’s well-established Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Blackboard Learn and the virtual classroom Blackboard Collaborate Ultra at the heart of course delivery.

The Blackboard Collaborate Ultra system allows lecturers to deliver live sessions as well as providing a platform for storing recordings, sharing resources and hosting class discussions.

The first full-time courses started on 7 September and by the start of the holiday period on 12 October a total of 13,525 hours of online classes had been hosted on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra alone – equating to up to 693 hours per college day. On the busiest single day there were 4,473 unique users engaged with NESCol’s Collaborate Ultra live sessions.

The additional use of Microsoft Teams and other resources has increased online participation further.

NESCol Principal Neil Cowie said: “Blended learning is an essential part of our plans for the 2020/21 College year. By making the most of the technology at our disposal we are able to ensure it will be an incredibly productive session even though capacities on our campuses are significantly reduced because of the extensive measures we have to keep students, staff and visitors safe.

“The figures for the opening weeks of the term demonstrate the levels of engagement across the College. Timetables have had to be carefully managed to ensure specific course requirements are met and the individual needs of students are taken into account.

“Like every aspect of life in the unique circumstances we face, it is a different College experience this year – but the positive attitude of students and staff is already shining through. My thanks go to all who have contributed to the successful start to the College year. We’re looking forward to everyone returning from the October break refreshed and ready for another productive period of blended learning.”

The College has a number of initiatives in place to ensure equal access to online learning, including an investment of more than £130,000 to provide loan devices to students and free 4G internet access for those without a Wifi connection.

Applications for the current full-time courses are now closed but are being accepted for a range of January starts. Part-time and distance learning opportunities are also available.