Accessibility and Flexibility for the Non-traditional Student
One of the most valuable benefits of learning from a distance is the flexibility it provides students. Whether staying home with young children, traveling extensively, or living far away, there are many reasons for being unable to attend on campus. Let’s look at one international award-winning Danish institution that created a video conferencing program that meets all of these needs.
VUC Storstrøm is a semi-private educational institution with approximately 6000 students and 220 teachers. Located in the southern part of Denmark, VUC has campuses in Copenhagen and dispersed across islands. The uniqueness of VUC is that they serve students from secondary to post graduate level. Why the wide range? They meet students where they are. For example, a “second chance” is needed for those who dropped out of school and never finished their secondary education. For these students, many of whom had to dropout to work or raise children, participating in a normal school day is not possible. They need a different way to learn; one with flexible hours and to be able to learn without being on campus.
VUC also found with the disbursement of students across the surrounding islands, classes were too small and for them to come to the mainland was difficult. Economically, they couldn’t justify the expense of a teacher on each campus. They needed a way to combine various campuses and remote students into one classroom.
In 2008, VUC developed a program using video conferencing. This technology would allow them to connect multiple campuses into one classroom AND offer flexibility to those who could not be on campus. By 2012, they found that instructors were not really adapting their pedagogical or didactic approach to really engage remote students.
VUC Storstrom enlisted the support of their PhD students to develop training focused on pedagogical best practices for video conferencing. The training dramatically improved their program and other institutions began to take notice. The Global Classroom Project was born. VUC Storstrom has brought the “Global Classroom” training to administrators and teachers across Europe, Asia Pacific and America, lending their expertise to institutions, organizations, and ministries of education.
More exciting has been a development back at home in Denmark. The government asked VUC to develop the “Global Futbol Classroom” to help Denmark’s professional futbol players continue their education online.
While the Danish Futbol Association hosts these young men hone their skills, the Players Union has made it mandatory to complete their secondary education. Without online learning, players found it difficult. Rasmus Haagensen, Director at 4player, the second career program at the Danish players union, is thrilled that VUC Storstrøm provides the best flexible conditions for them to finish school while still having their sport as first priority.
There is no limit to the number or type of students VUC Storstrom can serve using video conferencing. The Global Classroom Project stands out as a testament to the power of technology for teaching and learning.
VUC Storstrøm is a semi-private educational institution with over 6,000 students and 220 teachers situated on the southern coast of Denmark. With their service area geographical disbursed across the country and covering islands off the coast, they had an issue of too many small classes and a lack of local accessibility for many students. They determined the best solution was to use video conferencing technology to solve the issue and eliminate economic risks.
By virtually connecting several campuses, it was possible to increase class numbers and provide access for all. In 2008, VUC began serving students through this method. However, over several years it became apparent that their instructors did little to adapt their pedagogy and didactic approach to make the remote students feel engaged.
Proper training in instructional design and delivery methodologies for the online video conferencing classroom was needed. Instructors, most of whom where subject matter experts, had not received professional development in pedagogical approach. With that in mind, this institution determined the best way to address their situation.
Pedagogical Best Practices in Video Conferencing
By enlisting the support of their PhD students in 2012, VUC developed training focused “pedagogical best practices” for video conferencing in education. The Global Classroom Project was born.
With a focus on engaging the online learner, instructors were trained in how to integrate multiple technologies into their courses. Though their focus is live synchronous online delivery, digital tools can be incorporated during class time and with asynchronous pre or post activities. Using tools like Kahoot for instant polling and discussion groups or interactive whiteboards for real-time collaboration
Since then, VUC Storstrøm has been invited to train teachers across the world. They have worked across Europe, Asia Pacific and America lending their expertise to institutions and organizations such as the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and universities across Canada.
Virtual Classroom Serves Professional Sports Team
The Danish Futbol Association hosts these young men and their families to train and develop skills however, some even need to finish their high school diploma. The Players Union made completion mandatory and supervises the process. Students found it difficult and challenging without online learning.
Thanks to the Global Classroom Project, talented 18-year old or older futbol (soccer) players who are selected to train and represent Denmark professionally are able to continue their education. The “Global Futbol Classroom” brings players together in a virtual classroom with classes scheduled at hours when the players are not on the field, and can join by video. Classes are also recorded for those who miss.
“VUC Storstrøm provides the best flexible conditions for them to finish high school while still having their sport as first priority, says Rasmus Haagensen, Director at 4player (the second career program at the Danish players union). He continues, “Besides getting a flexible online setup, they’ll also be in a class of equals, with the same ambitions and interests, so that they’ll experience a greater attachment and not feeling as the “odd one out”. They’re in this together.”