Member story
Learner at Lakes College using a VR headset
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Learner at Lakes College using a VR headset
©Lakes College
All rights reserved

Welcome to campus, virtually

How virtual reality has enabled Lakes College to showcase their campus and facilities when physical attendance hasn’t been possible.

VR developer Rachel Bass shares how a virtual discovery week and digital surgeries have helped staff and students feel connected during lockdown.

Moving to the virtual

With 5,500 full and part-time students – and a mixture of further and higher education courses - Lakes College needed a different way to introduce students to the campus when lockdown prevented in-person tours. It had always been part of the digital vision for the college to create a virtual tour of the campus, but it took lockdown to kick start it all, explains Rachel:

“We’ve always wanted a virtual tour of the college, but time was always an issue and we were keen to choose the right programme and format”.

When campuses were closed to students she went in and recorded a short tour, which was made easier by the fact there was no one there, and developed it into a virtual walkthrough.

The team ran tailored sessions for additional learning support (ALS) students and their parents, many of whom were nervous about what college would be like. Some ALS students can become nervous by the unknown, so it was important that they were able to familiarise themselves with classrooms and where they’d be based. The students were really excited by the tour, with lots messaging asking when they could start, leading to Rachel booking in follow up sessions. The students are also able to look around the virtual tour in their own time.

Online feedback has been positive, with many students saying how impressed they were with the campus.

“Just simple things, like recognising the route from their classroom to the canteen can be incredibly reassuring”

explains Rachel,

“starting college can be overwhelming and small things like that can be hugely comforting when getting used to new surroundings”.

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Screenshot of the Lakes College virtual tour
©Lakes College
All rights reserved

Virtual discovery week

When the June open day was cancelled due to COVID-19, staff arranged a virtual discovery week for prospective students which included live Q&As and the virtual tour of the college campus.

The five-day event was arranged to showcase what the institution has to offer, with 23 staff members pre-recording videos summarising their subjects followed by a live Q&A on Facebook. The Facebook chat proved a real success, seeing 1,600 new visitors to the page and good engagement with questions and comments.

Digital surgery

Lockdown prompted the need for staff to adapt the curriculum, to move online and to increase accessibility. To ensure staff felt supported and equipped when faced suddenly with working and teaching from home the team scheduled in digital surgeries as weekly sessions. These proved incredibly popular, growing from an initial twenty attendees to over fifty, and including wider support staff.

Led by the digital hub and the canvas support team, the surgeries were kept intentionally broad, meaning that staff from all disciplines would find them accessible. Topics covered included how to upload to Canvas, various AR applications, how to scan in documents, closed captions and interactive quizzes. The theory was to show staff a little something different that might improve their teaching and help them feel more confident with the platforms.

Staff digital capabilities

Based on last year’s staff digital insights survey, 69% of staff said they felt confident when trying new technology, and 76% created online teaching materials weekly or more.

“It will be so interesting to see this year’s results”

says Rachel,

“I’d hope that it will now be much higher. The findings from last year’s survey showed staff wanted to be able to create online content, but it was an issue of confidence”.

The future

“There has been a real positive uptake in digital services since lockdown, and it's been wonderful to see staff grow in confidence with using online platforms and tools”,

says Rachel,

“upskilling staff with the digital skills to equip their students is more important now than ever before. People aren’t scared to use digital services anymore. It feels like there has been more positives than negatives”.

Learn more about developing the digital skills of staff.

As a benefit of your membership: join our webinar supporting staff to teach effectively online exploring our new discovery tool question set on 24 September 2020.