The Isle of Wight College Childhood Studies department’s new Learning Zone was officially opened by Debbie Lavin (Principal) at The Isle of Wight College.

The Learning Zone has been designed for the Childhood Studies area, to embrace the blended learning they have adopted. Blended learning does not replace traditional classroom learning but complements it.

There will still be the usual set classes to attend to meet the curriculum of the course. For assignments and any free time learners can choose to work in the way that suits them best, whether that be sitting on a sofa, bean bag, laying on the floor, in a quiet booth or using a desk – the choice is theirs. Teachers will be on duty in the Learning Zone at all times to support learners. The Learning Zone has three sections; the Hub area with the sofas, the Buzz Zone for discussion and group work and the Quiet Zone for individual and research work.

Regarding blended learning, the Childhood Studies department has been trialling LMS365 for Microsoft and has proved to be hugely successful. LMS365 is the Microsoft Office 365 learning management system developed by Microsoft Partner ELEARNINGFORCE.

The deployment of LMS365 together with a well-developed and increasingly successful bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy is beginning to transform teaching and learning at the College. Learners are becoming more independent, and lecturers are able to support them, individually and as groups, rather than simply deliver content. At the same time, the College is making considerable progress in meeting the 2014 ‘FELTAG’ (Further Education Learning Technology Action Group) requirement for greater understanding and use of digital technology in support of learning across the further education and skills sector.

Using LMS365 to the full would support the current move to introduce different styles of teaching and learning. It was decided that the best way to test the concept was to focus on one department, in this case Child Care. It was a big pilot, with one hundred and twenty students because we needed it to be realistic.

Jo Lutas, Head of Department

The aims were to research e-learning, up-skill teaching staff in new delivery methods, and change the culture of working with fixed IT installations into something more mobile and flexible based around ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD). Teaching staff would use flipped and blended learning methods, working alongside and moving among students, tablets in hand, linking to a screen at the front of the classroom, providing support rather than delivering lecture content.

In order to do this, Microsoft Office 365 was established as the working environment, desktop computers were removed and replaced by Surface Pro 3s for all staff.
Large (60inch) screens were installed in five teaching rooms, connected to the Surface devices via Microsoft Display Adaptors. Student desktop computers were replaced by a laptop library, and a BYOD policy was encouraged amongst the learners. Students working on Level 2 courses and above are expected to bring their own devices.

Jo Lutas said “Producing materials was easy – we used the MS Office suite with Mix, embedded video and the LMS365 Quiz builder. These were then packaged and loaded onto our Office 365 site with the ELEARNINGFORCE course builder.”

The reported benefits of the e-learning pilot include increased differentiation, because students can work at their own pace, better tracking of student progress, use of familiar software which also gives experience in transferable skills for later in life.
All of this brings valuable savings of teaching and admin time and resources, with much less paperwork.

Learning Zone - Childcare Students
Students have been enthusiastic about the new Learning Zone.

Student feedback has been enthusiastic:

This is so much better than doing everything in a classroom. I like to work alone so this will definitely suit me

Kirsten Clarke (Level 2 Childhood Studies)

I love this room, it’s bright and inspiring. I will spend a lot of time in here

Clarissa Mulholland  (Level 3 Childhood Studies)

Pete Gallop , Head of Technical Services said, “The take-up for learning with IT has significantly  increased since the arrival of ELEARNINGFORCE and LMS365. Sign-ons to the system have almost doubled in a year (125000 to 226000). Simplicity was the key – If you can use Microsoft Word you can use this – you do not even need to have a copy of Word as it comes free with Office 365. You can just open LMS365 in your browser. LMS365 also enables us to use SCORM materials supplied by external providers – such those from the Heart of Worcestershire College Blended Learning Consortium, and we can also produce SCORM packages from providers such as the City and Guilds, who have a large amount of material which can be adapted for online use.”

While the FELTAG agenda is a catalyst for technology across the further education and skills sector, the real bonus is that if the right technology is carefully chosen and properly used by teachers and learners who understand the potential for different kinds of learning – the learners benefit and so does the efficiency of the college.

Visit the Microsoft MSDN Blog for further information on LMS365.


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