Weston College launches UK’s first virtual classroom as part of WEIoT

Weston College has partnered with Jisc and Barco to build trailblazing ‘virtual classroom’ to support West of England Institute of Technology.

Weston College, the lead organisation for the West of England Institute of Technology (IoT), has launched a virtual classroom in a first for further education (FE) in the UK.

The project, developed with support from Jisc and technology supplier Barco, includes innovations such as mobile extending cameras, and provides the opportunity for enhanced remote-access education.

Jon Hofgartner, director of education technology at Weston College, says: “Using digital technology to amplify ‘the human factor’ in teaching might seem counter-intuitive, but using tech in the right way can break down barriers and help educators facilitate learning.

“It’s all in the design and implementation. We’ve tried to make our virtual classroom as straightforward as possible, so nobody needs a technical degree to work it.”

The classroom includes a bank of six 55-inch screens with cameras and Barco virtual classroom software, to allow an integrated experience for both teacher and students. It utilises the superfast and secure Janet Network connection from Jisc to support the infrastructure.

Simon Farr, director of innovation at Jisc, says: “Over the last six months, video technology has evolved and become much more the norm for delivery of teaching and learning.

“The virtual classroom at Weston College allows students and staff to fully engage with one another in real time, while in different locations with an almost in-classroom experience.”

Apprenticeships minister Gillian Keegan officially opened the West of England IoT on October 8th in a virtual ceremony. Ahead of her visit, she said: “IoTs will be the pinnacle of technical training, offering higher technical STEM education and training in key sectors”.

“[Digital education] will be even more important as we build back better from the pandemic.

“By collaborating with businesses, IoTs can deliver the technical knowledge and practical workplace skills employers are demanding – like nowhere else.”