It’s been a busy last few months and we have seen big changes in the way we are working to support online courses.

The North of Tyne team have had a variety of online courses running they have included:

  • Holiday Spanish
  • Art Appreciation
  • Managing Stress & Anxiety
  • Indian Cookery
  • Yoga
  • Literature 

Our Literature course has 10 students from the Newcastle area on the course and 2 students from outside of the area: the group are older students two of whom had not used Zoom before and were being supported by family members to log on.  After the first session one of the new students commented that when they realised that most of the group knew one another they were a little worried that she may feel a little outnumbered but said how included she felt within the group, and was made to feel really comfortable to add to the class discussions. She even made comment about how friendly the group were and that if that’s how everyone is in the North East then she’d move up here!

In March when we had to stop teaching in the classroom we were part way through 4 of our accredited courses, these were:

  • Teaching Assistant 
  • Supporting Children and Young People, this course will enable the students to work in a nursery setting or become a child minder
  • Health & Social Care Course
  • Community Interpreting

The four courses have continued throughout lockdown most of the students have completed their portfolios and the Community Interpreting course is completing its last few Canvas/Zoom sessions. The dedication of our tutors for these course and the students has been amazing!

This may seem strange to say but after being part of the many Zooms that have taken place our tutors still seem to make a special connection with the students that is unique to the WEA. The warmth, friendliness knowledge and passion shines through even in a Zoom class. 

I was lucky to be on the Zoom when our Health & Social Care students came together after weeks of being in lockdown, I can’t describe how important it was for the ladies to see and hear each other,  and to see their teacher, they were asking how each was feeling and complimenting each other on how well they looked. A student has been working hard to complete this qualification and then wants to enrol onto a nursing course.

Our Community Interpreting students have been pretty inspiring too one of the students works in a care home and has been so busy during the pandemic  she’s joined the zoom after completing a night shift so that she continue her learning, we’ve managed to complete role plays using the Zoom break out rooms. 

It’s been a learning curve for all of us and I’m sure that the experience of using canvas and zoom to complete their courses will be and added benefit to the students in the months and years ahead. As an organisation we are really lucky to work with professionals who are prepared to change and adapt to suit the needs of the students and the organisation.

Case study: Community Interpreting Course

Our Community Interpreting course started in January 2020 at Riverside Community Health Project, one of our partners’ organisations.  Students came from a variety of backgrounds and spoke many different languages including Russian, Serbian, Persian, Mandarin, Urdu and Arabic, they all wanted to support people in their local community who may speak or understand very little English.  The areas of support would be in settings such as schools meetings, doctors’ appointments and hospital visits.

Students met each Thursday at their class, they were building a portfolio of evidence to finally become Community Interpreters.  We were half way through the course when Covid 19 forced the venue to close.  Students were naturally disappointed but motivated to continue their learning online.  Most students engaged with our online platforms of Zoom and Canvas and have continued to attend each week. Through the virtual classroom students have worked in small groups, they have been submitting homework, which can be marked and assessed giving constructive feedback.  

Students have found that the focus of learning with their peers and a goal of achieving their qualification has supported them through the difficulties of isolation.  Students have also demonstrated their commitment as some have continued to work in the health and social care sector, supporting their families and looking after their children as they haven’t been able to attend school.  

Most students are now well on their way to achieving their qualification.