Colleges Week 2020 – Activate Learning at the centre of the COVID-19 response

As part of College Week 2020, Activate Learning are celebrating a different theme each day. Today, we look at how all of our colleges have been at the centre of the COVID-19 response.

We’re so proud of all our staff and students and their hard work to ensure that learning continued throughout this period and that local communities were supported.

Banbury and Bicester College tutor creates reusable headbands

Banbury and Bicester College teacher, Cat Daw, put her skills to good use throughout lockdown to create reusable headbands at home to help frontline NHS workers nationwide stay comfortable in the fight against COVID-19.


Supporting student and staff wellbeing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, staff have come together across Activate Learning to produce wellbeing videos, additional teaching and even hair tutorials!

Bracknell and Wokingham College students launch environmental and mental health social media campaign to support others throughout lockdown

IT and computing students from Activate Learning’s Bracknell and Wokingham College launched their own social media campaign to encourage people to look after the environment and themselves throughout the national lockdown.

Reading College donated PPE equipment to a local NHS trust in Berkshire

Activate Learning reached out to local NHS trusts to donate much needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to help combat the COVID-19 crisis.

Reading College sourced more than 3,600 items of PPE equipment from its Care Skills Suite and will be donating them to Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Activate Learning recognised there was essential equipment onsite at Reading College that could be put to good use by NHS staff.


Guildford College tutor creates care packages, masks and headbands for the Frimley Park Hospital Critical Care team

Our Creative Industries Progress Coach and Learning for Leisure tutor Sophie felt strongly that she wanted to become involved in helping the NHS and the shortage of PPE. She knew someone who works in the critical care unit at Frimley Park hospital, being at the frontline of dealing with patients seriously ill with COVID.

Contacting them directly, Sophie asked what they needed in terms of a care package, they were getting sores on their ears and face from PPE and dry hands from the constant hand washing and use of disposable gloves. She sent a parcel directly to the critical care unit with hand creams, baby cream, Vaseline and treats for the staff which were individually wrapped.

But she wanted to do more and asked if they needed anything else, they requested headbands with buttons on the side where they can attach the sides of their masks and protects their ears from sores. Sophie researched how to make them and made 50 headbands sending these to the critical care unit.

Sophie also wanted to do more for the wider community and became involved with a local school in Farnborough who were making scrubs, scrub bags and headbands for local hospitals. Sophie made scrub bags for dirty scrubs and headbands and masks for the vulnerable in the local community from donated fabric.

City of Oxford College food and drink donation to The Oxford Food Bank

Sandie Culshaw, Café Manager at City of Oxford College, noticed that we had surplus snacks and drink within the onsite canteen and café during lockdown.

On June 3, she collected around 200 drinks and snacks and delivered them to The Oxford Food Bank to support vulnerable people in Oxford during the pandemic.

This ensured nothing went to waste on campus and Sandie did her bit for the local community!


Reading College tutor used 3D printers to produce PPE visors for the NHS

Reading College tutor, Biddy Palmer, brought 3D printers from Reading College home to produce PPE equipment for NHS workers.

Biddy did this after responding to a call out from 3D Print World in Aylesbury.


Activate Learning support Oxford unemployed back into work during Covid-19

Activate Learning’s Project Teams are working innovatively and creatively to continue to support the unemployed throughout Oxfordshire, despite the coronavirus crisis.

Activate Learning support those looking for work across various government, Lottery and European Social Fund funded projects to ensure people in the local community can find new jobs.


Activate Learning adapts to online learning quickly and ensures students’ education does not suffer throughout lockdown

Three weeks before schools and colleges were closed by the government in March, Activate Learning prepared by: –

  • Activate Learning’s Digital Education team shifted ‘heaven and earth’ to get a conferencing plug-in added to ALO (Canvas) and Moodle and created training material and video tutorials for the uninitiated.

  • The Digital Education team also created an Office 365 SharePoint repository for learning materials that could be shared directly with students through the Canvas site, avoiding any messy file structures and editing problems.

  • Digital Education commandeered the Wednesday afternoon CPD session in mid-March across all of our colleges and ran sessions on using ALO and the conferencing plug-in called Big Blue Button.

  • Digital Education then spent two solid days testing, testing and testing again with learners whilst they were still on our college sites to make sure that they understood the platforms and what would be expected of them.

All this meant that on the day schools and colleges were told to “close their doors” to traditional teaching, we were ready to move to the online teaching and learning environment and our remote learning model went live.

IT support desk for learners

Activate Learning launched a student IT helpline to assist students studying remotely.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of teaching at Activate Learning colleges moved online on 20 March.

The helpline, which began operating on Monday 27 April, supports all college sites, including colleges in Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey.

Students can call the Student IT support line and speak to an IT technician via a dedicated phone number during college hours.

Activate Learning provides laptops for learners

As part of our guarantee to enable new students to work efficiently, whether on campus or remotely, we have set up a buy your own device scheme to enable all students to buy a laptop or tablet. We want everyone to have access to the right equipment even if they aren’t physically at college. So, we’ve teamed up with two companies, Academia and Dell, who can support you with buying a new device.

Activate Learning adapts to virtual Creative Industries Festivals

Activate Learning Creative Industries students showcased their amazing talents in their first virtual creative festival! During the summer, visitors were able to view students work within a dedicated online gallery on the Activate Learning website.

The festival celebrated the achievements of students studying creative media production, fashion, furniture, games design, music, performing and production arts, photography and visual arts and design while embracing a specialist and interdisciplinary approach to creativity.

Bracknell and Wokingham College is keyworker hero

A student from Activate Learning’s Bracknell and Wokingham College did his bit for the community by working at a local supermarket and shopping for a vulnerable person who is self-isolating during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Otavio Paim, 19, who is originally from Brazil, studied the Level 1 Upper Intermediate English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) programme at our Church Road campus.

Otavio works at Tesco in Wokingham and has taken on additional shifts to support the increased demand. He is also shopping for a vulnerable person who is self-isolating.


Surrey students step up to the front-line during lockdown

We heard some truly inspiring stories about how our students (from Guildford and Merrist Wood Colleges) carried out vital work to support their communities during the lockdown earlier in the year.

Katy Ruddy, 19 and Lauren Straffon, 18, are both in their final years at Guildford College studying Level 3 Health and Social Care and are working in local care homes.

Katy, who is going on to university to train to be a Midwife, says: “Unlike many people my age, I’m working through this awful time, I’m working hard to ensure that we fight through this pandemic. I’m nineteen years old and I love my job, I love what I do every day, I enjoy making a difference to individuals lives. I also love my team and colleagues from work, how close we are and how we have changed to be able to attack this virus.

GCSE students retaking exams to benefit from additional online tutoring

Activate Learning are working in partnership with peer tutoring organisation Yipiyap to match students with a tutor of their choice to provide online support and encouragement.

The scheme is for GCSE students retaking exams this November. Up to 600 students across our seven colleges could benefit from the trial, involving 20 tutors across the UK.


Bracknell media student creates a NHS tribute music video

A Bracknell media student created a NHS tribute music video to thank all NHS staff working hard to save lives during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Jasmine Britten Pigram, aged 16-years-old, from Bracknell, is studying a Creative Media Production and Technology Level 3 Extended Diploma at Activate Learning’s Bracknell and Wokingham College.

Jasmine was asked by her mum’s partner, Darren Hodge, if she could create a video for him to accompany the tribute song that he had written. Mr Hodge rewrote the lyrics to Run by Snow Patrol to reflect the amazing work that the NHS are providing during the pandemic. He then sang and recorded it on his mobile phone.

Jasmine then sourced images of the NHS and care workers from news reports and spliced them with the footage that Mr Hodge had recorded, creating a heartfelt video which she uploaded to YouTube on 10 May.