Bridgwater & Taunton College are Finalists at AoC Beacon Awards 2020 - Bridgwater & Taunton College

Bridgwater & Taunton College will find out tomorrow if they have won the Jisc Award for effective use of Digital Technology in Further Education, at the Association of Colleges (AOC) Beacon Awards 2020.

The prestigious AoC Beacon awards, now in their 25th year, will be held virtually for the very first time, on Thursday 4 June. The national awards celebrate and recognise the best and most innovative practice amongst UK further education (FE) colleges.

The Jisc Award for effective use of Digital Technology in FE recognises an outstanding example of the ‘Use of Technology’ carefully designed to improve the student experience – in a digital age. The College has been shortlisted due to our innovative and effective use of scaled industrial models and Virtual Reality (VR) simulation to replicate the nuclear workplace, facilitating immersive learning via discovery, experimentation – and even failure – in a risk-free, experiential ‘nuclear’ environment.

Principal of Bridgwater & Taunton College, Andy Berry, said,

It is especially rewarding to be recognised for our innovative approach to education. Our focus is always to ensure that every student achieves to their potential, and that the education they receive at the College has a clear line of sight to work. We worked in partnership with employers to find a solution to develop specific skills development needs within a safe, technical environment with clear progression routes into employment. The resulting solution using digital technology is a real step change in education and programme delivery.

The College’s National College for Nuclear (Southern Hub) uses physical and virtual reality to replicate a licensed workplace environment is a teaching and learning methodology previously limited to existing nuclear installations. It has enabled the College to engage with individuals of all ages – school leavers, new entrants, apprentices and career changers – who can now see, as if at first hand, what the inside of a nuclear power station looks like. This helps them to assess career suitability, gain access to specialist skills and understand the rigorous protocols and behavioural expectations of a licensed site.

An MoD apprentice, who is one of many to have benefitted from the world-class facilities on campus, commented,

The teaching has been consistently excellent and this has been reflected in my achieved marks which have consistently been at distinction level. My experience at College has provided a great foundation to apply my acquired skills in the workplace and to further develop through additional education.

By being named a finalist, the College has been recognised as an exemplary example of effective digital use in Further Education. The judging process was rigorous, including written submissions, as well as a visit from judges who attended the National College for Nuclear (Southern Hub) at the Cannington Campus to observe the world-class Flo Rig and Virtual Reality facilities.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges comments,

Colleges excelling digitally is hugely important. With the fast-paced changes that are happening out in the world of work, colleges will need to use technology to contribute to the development of the curriculum – including equipping their students with digital skills. These colleges are not only using them for their own systems, but the learning experience as well.

Following on from the success of the project, the College has already identified other applications for digital and VR technologies, such as the new Centre of Excellence for Welding, where traditional welding booths will be complemented by ‘Virtuweld’ technology, enabling specialist welding techniques to be taught to high volumes of learners with minimal materials costs.

The College is also partnering with universities, other FE colleges and key regional employers that include the Met Office, Oxygen House and Babcock to establish the South West Institute of Technology, which will create a new cohort of highly-skilled, qualified and ambitious technical staff to drive productivity-led growth in the digital, engineering and manufacturing sectors across Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.

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