Students use eLearning platform

The Pembrokeshire College, Gower College Swansea, Wales and Waterford Institute of Technology’s (WIT) Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) have launched an initiative to get students using their mobile phones and computer tablets in order to complete their assignments. The TSSG has developed a unique app which allows students signed up to the mCommunity project, the ability to access learning resources and support.

mCommunity, is a three year Ireland Wales Territorial Co-operation Programme project that has identified a new way to engage with the unemployed.

The mCommunity project has developed an innovative elearning platform aimed at adults not currently in employment, education or training. Learners are provided with a smartphone from which they can access over 15 virtual course modules with topics ranging from confidence-building to interview techniques. The courses aim to improve employment potential and opportunities through education.

Sean Lyons, Project Manager, TSSG said, “When we were approached to collaborate with Pembrokeshire College, we realised that the technical requirements for the project would be challenging. The platform had to be very user friendly, allowing users to choose preferred communication channels, whether it’s Instant Messaging, SMS or Social Networking sites. It also had to integrate with moodle, the colleges’ virtual learning application,” he said.

mCommunity was developed using Zimbie, an instant messaging and social networking service developed by TSSG. These were used to create a flexible multi-faceted communication and virtual learning platform. By combining these elements of technology with further education, mCommunity hopes to tackle the problems of social disengagement.

For example, a job interview video module provides a variety of video clips showing interview techniques, hints and tips. Learners can access these and interact with tutors for feedback using instant messaging. Learners progress week by week until they have completed each section of their agreed individual learning plan.

Course Tutors are a combination of both social worker and educator. Tutors meet learners at social centres, where they engage with candidates before providing them with a Smartphone. Through the mCommunity portal, tutors can specifically craft a module to suit the needs of an individual learner. They have full control over the type of education modules each learner receives on their phone. mCommunity provides a social network for learners, allowing candidates to communicate freely with tutors and support for one another.

According to Alannah Simmons, Project Manager , Pembrokeshire College. “This innovative educational programme hopes to provide users with the knowledge they need to re-engage with society and rejoin the workforce using technology that is accessible, personal, and most importantly mobile,” she said,

A critical component was the installation of a “presence” function in its instant messaging structure. This enables tutors to see when learners are on-line and monitor how they are using and engaging with the platform.

“Tutors become the gatekeeper for mCommunity – they ensure that the platform is used correctly and to its full potential,” she said.

The technology is also being used to supply accredited courses to SME’s and their staff. Rob Murphy, SME Tutor at Gower College Swansea plans to deliver ‘Action learning,’ which is a programme that requires participants to study their own actions and experience in order to improve performance.

“The programmes are structured to allow learners to continue working in full-time employment whilst continuing to study part-time via a mobile device. This provides greater flexibility over how, where, and when learners achieve their qualification,” he said.

“This project is a great example of TSSG’s global links worldwide. Research is all about collaboration with partners both nationally and internationally. We are very proud of the significant contribution that we are making to the project , the feedback has been excellent and we are confident of seeing very positive results going forward”, Lyons added.

The first alpha release of mCommunity has been launched on December 3rd and is currently being trialled with learners and SME’s at both Pembrokeshire College and Gower College Swansea Wales with Gower College Swansea, read announcement http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/Students-tap-app/story-14100927-detail/story.html

For more information:
Contact: Sean Lyons, email: slyons@tssg.org

Visit:
The mCommunity Project: visit http://www.mcommunity.org.uk/
Pembrokeshire College: http://www.pembrokeshire.ac.uk/
Ireland Wales Territorial Co-operation Programme: http://www.irelandwales.ie/