For weeks now, our learners and tutors have been settling into the uncharted routine of distance learning. This change required everyone to work together and is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the history of education.

NA College started the year on a high. After being graded ‘Good’ with ‘Outstanding’ features by Ofsted and training more apprentices than ever before in our state of the art campus, it seemed there was nothing to stand in our way during 2020.

But a little over 2 months ago, an unforeseen challenge came about: the coronavirus.

This worldwide pandemic has led to unprecedented circumstances for the education sector. In just a matter of weeks, we planned efficiently and effectively to overhaul of the way in which training was delivered across our curriculum.

The Senior Team reacted quickly and decisively, working with our new Digital Team to move all operations online. This has given learners and apprentices continued access to new lessons through a number of platforms and services; Microsoft 365, itsLearning and Stream On Demand.

Our approach was that we didn’t want technology to replace tutors, but instead give them that vital support when they can’t physically see their learners or apprentices. Whether through privacy and security controls, protecting identity and data, and ensuring we meet compliance guidelines, our first and foremost priority is helping our educators maintain a safe and inclusive classroom. Because in the end, technology is all about supporting people.

In terms of learners and apprentices, their attitude towards this change has been nothing short of exceptional. Students from right across the College have proven that when there is no other option, digital really can be your best friend. The current circumstances have simply afforded them the opportunity to showcase their resilience in an entirely new way.

Over the past 6 weeks of online delivery, our staff have also demonstrated their remarkable flexibility. There’s been a willingness to utilise different tools and embrace new systems and methodology away from traditional face-to-face delivery. This has led to students having continued access to content that is both engaging and exciting.

It’s very much a case of business as usual at NA College.

Our tutor Michelle is delivering her Business Skills lesson exactly as planned, except she is having no face-to-face interaction with her apprentices.

NA College’s Senior Team are still working closely with employer partners at Nissan, and with wider advanced manufacturing networks such as the North East Automotive Alliance to create diverse training opportunities post COVID-19, so that our learners and the wider community is ready for the new normal.

Our Digital Team continue to play an integral part to the effective delivery of education. They are now working with curriculum managers and subject specialists to design and implement new learning material that supports our tutors’ current delivery. Since the end of March, the department have already re-vamped existing resources to give them a more professional edge and ensure our learners continue to be engaged in their course.

We’re also starting to see that we don’t just have one campus, but two – our bricks and mortar Spire Campus and our new virtual Cloud Campus. The term ‘business as usual’ is sadly not true at the moment for a lot of businesses, however at NA College, the transition to online learning has only strengthened our ambitions after we leave the current lockdown period.

Peter, one of NA College’s Engineering Teachers, is delivering a lesson to his learner’s on Microsoft Teams.

As with everyone on the planet, we’re not alone in our approach. According to Microsoft; countries, school districts and universities have rapidly moved into remote learning environments – Microsoft Teams alone is being used in 175 countries by 186,000 institutions.

The Senior Team and our curriculum specialists are committed to ensuring that regardless of how long we’re away from our Spire Campus, our staff can get on with teaching and our students can get on with learning so that they are ready for the next phase of their lives after they leave us.

We, as a college and as individuals, understand that this is a stressful time for everyone and their families. It’s not always easy to look beyond the here and now, but those who have demonstrated flexibility and an open mind to a digital approach to learning have every reason to anticipate that a bright future lies ahead.