How Technology is Empowering Accessible Education

Three Business Blog Team
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On: 19 Jan 2017
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technology in education

Steve Jobs said that “technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people… If you give them the tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” That’s the thinking behind An Cosán community education organisation. Using technology to make their learning programmes accessible to more people is one of the roles Three is proud to play.

Education for all should not be an issue in 2017 in Ireland, but it is, and it is often the simplest thing like being able to show up to classes that can be a barrier to people getting the education they want and deserve. An Cosán – the largest community education organisation in Ireland – has been providing a pathway to learning, leadership and enterprise for thirty years. The organisation is still working to overcome the barriers which prevent people from “being empowered through education”. This has led to the establishment of the Virtual Community College (VCC): a nationwide network of community educational partners, using technology to make learning accessible to all. VCC uses blended learning, leveraging the latest technologies, combining a virtual classroom and online live lectures with independent activities, assignments and face-to-face sessions in technology-enhanced community hubs. These hubs give students access to the most up-to-date educational methods and enable them to learn effectively at a pace that suits them, no matter what part of the country they live in.

Facilitating virtual learning.

An Cosán worked with Three, as their charity partner, to bring the VCC to life. This involved implementing an Office 365, Moodle and Adobe Connect virtual educational solution, including a mobile platform for even greater accessibility.

Virtual learning allows students to access course work at a time that suits them, so it may fit around their schedules. They’re also actively encouraged to collaborate and network through student participation and engagement.

Now that the education platform is in place, the objective of the collaboration with Three is providing enhanced connectivity to An Cosán’s community partners. One example is the Access 2000 Community Development Centre in Wexford, which evolved to enable women from the town to develop the skills necessary for them to feel worthwhile in the workforce and their communities. To deliver the VCC model, Access 2000 needed enhanced internet connectivity. Three provided a mobile broadband solution, using a Huawei B513s modem to connect to Three’s high-speed 4G network in Wexford. Now the students can access the Adobe Connect live classroom, with all the voice, chat and video feed required.

The VCC understands that every student’s needs are unique and individual, and works with each student to put a “personalised scaffolding” in place. Students can also make use of support from Three employees, through a bespoke e-mentoring programme that links dedicated Three mentors to VCC students.

Mobile learning – or mLearning – plays an important part in breaking down barriers to education. To date, 156 learners have completed the programmes and the aim is to reach 1,000 learners per year within the next two years. Steve Jobs once said that “technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have a faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” VCC is working to empower people through education, and technology is playing a vital part, but it’s the people that come to VCC that are most important. An Cosán and Three look forward to seeing them do wonderful things.

With thanks to guest blogger: Liz Waters, Director, Virtual Community College.