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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

#LevelUp FE - Remote learning offers an opportunity for rural FE colleges | Education - Rural Services Network

Recently we’ve been examining the challenges that rural pupils face in accessing further education and training, says Graham Biggs, Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network and Nik Harwood, Chief Executive of Young Somerset. 

Photo: FE News
Since then, the country has faced unprecedented disruption from the coronavirus outbreak. Frontline workers are rightly focusing on saving lives and stemming the spread of the virus. But the crisis has also thrown into the spotlight an issue which we have been campaigning on for years: rural connectivity.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that schools and FE colleges are to close, teachers have been creating homework packs and setting up ways of working online. Lecturers are also able to support students using blended learning technology, which enable students to access their peers and staff, as well as workshops via video conferencing, group phone discussions and email.

For many, online connectivity is a basic utility - we click, swipe and shop daily without thinking. But rural pupils are going to find it much harder, if not impossible, to log on to lessons. In fact, lack of access to home-based learning is a problem rural students know all too well. Rural England’s 2018 State of Rural Services report found that a 4G connection could not be accessed in more than half of rural homes, compared with just a sixth of those in cities[1]. Digital learning has potential to unlock accessibility issues for some students even in normal times, but poor internet speeds can present insurmountable difficulties for those learning from remote areas...

An unexpected side effect of this outbreak has been to emphasise once again the necessity of reliable connectivity for all – be it to study or remain up to date with the latest health and safety information. During these testing times, we must support all our schools and FE colleges by giving them the very latest, cutting-edge technologies. With the very nature of education changing significantly at least for the time being, why not harness the opportunities for advanced technologies in order to mitigate educational disruption for all pupils - town or country. Long, expensive school-runs could be a thing of the past in the future if we make the most of remote learning software now. However, none of this will be possible if rural students still can’t connect to broadband to make it happen.

Source: Rural Services Network