Member storyFumiko, Savi and their colleague celebrate their Beacon Award.

Activate Learning's mission to redefine remote learning

With their innovative learning philosophy flipping the traditional paradigm on its head, Activate Learning developed an award-winning online programme to empower adult learners.

Rather than focusing solely on the traditional methods of teaching, Activate Learning emphasises the crucial role of emotion and motivation in the online and remote learning process, as they recognise the need to change the nature of the teacher role in an online setting to one that is more coaching focused.

Led by faculty managers Fumiko Pescott and Savi Bains, their online programme scooped the Jisc-sponsored Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award for effective use of digital technology.

Miko explains:

“These people are busy adult learners. They've got professional commitments, family commitments, mental health issues, all sorts of life experiences happening. But with our unique three pillars learning philosophy; brain, emotions and motivation, the student is empowered to achieve their learning goals.”

Timely feedback and neuroscience-led approach

Activate Learning’s approach to online learning is focused on continuous feedback and motivation, helping students to develop their confidence and improve their self-esteem. An adult learner studying for their GCSEs might participate in consistent bite-sized learning over the duration of their course. This might look like daily five-minute activities, weekly live lessons, and regular weekly assessments, all designed for remote learning to accommodate students’ busy schedules and to keep incentives towards learning high.

The team carefully crafted the online courses with a strong focus on the human element, ensuring that tutors serve as facilitators, consistently assessing motivation levels, and monitoring incremental progress every step of the way.

“When it comes to designing our courses, we focus on embedding neuroscience at the heart. Activate Learning believes that the emotion and the motivation of the student should be in the right place otherwise the student's brain is not going to be ready to absorb information.”

Timely feedback is the lifeblood of remote learning. The institution is committed to responding to student queries online within 24 hours and providing detailed feedback within 48 hours. This emphasis on personalised guidance, coupled with standardised teaching resources, creates a sustainable model that supports both students and teaching staff.

Based around Activate Learning’s neuroscience-led approach to delivering effective learning, this approach to planning, delivering and assessing students is designed to find the “sweet spot” of learning. This is where students are motivated to achieve by the timely feedback on their progress and feel supported by their teacher and able to ask anything they need.

Savi shares what makes Activates’ feedback cycle so critical to its success:

“Feedback is given in a very timely manner. We give students feedback within 24 hours for any queries that they may have, which is an important aspect in keeping them motivated to continue with the assignment. It’s common for a student to get stuck but to not have an answer for a few days is what really demotivates a student from wanting to continue studying. With us, they receive a response quickly so that they can continue with the task at hand without delays.”

Bridging the gap

Activate Learnings’ journey isn’t without challenges. With students scattered across the UK with limited access to in person education, the team faced the daunting task of ensuring fair access to learning. Enter the digital technology initiative, led by Miko and Savi, which aimed to bridge the gap by offering online language courses to a range of learners’ needs. This innovative approach not only provides essential qualifications for learners aspiring to enter universities, but also addresses different learning needs.

“Approximately 30% of our adult learners are dyslexic and we accommodate this by integrating a text-to-speech function in their learning. Their weekly assessment utilises an immersive reader function, designed to support them.

"This fosters an environment where students feel comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities with us. We can promptly identify their needs and implement reasonable adjustments for both exams and learning processes to ensure they are set up for success.”

The outcomes speak volumes

With impressive pass rates often exceeding national averages, the college group’s online programme has seen improvements in GCSE pass rates and received positive feedback from learners who are benefitting from a more flexible way of working.

Jonathan Hofgartner, the lead assessor of Activate Learnings Beacon Awards win shares what makes the institution a strong candidate for the awards:

“Digital culture and leadership is a vital component we look for alongside the levels of innovation and technology employed by the institution (with use of the Jisc digital transformation framework).

"When we visit the finalist colleges, we speak to students, staff and occasionally employers. We often ask, how is the organisation capturing the student experience, benefit and outcomes.  The assessment team want to understand how this information and insight drives innovation to improve quality performance of their provision. And we saw very strong examples happening at Activate Learning.”

By putting people and purpose at the centre, Activate Learning sets a compelling example for other educational organisations seeking to embark on their digital transformation journey.

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