Case study: South Eastern Regional College – “Get the Edge”

Dr Michael Malone (Director of Curriculum and Information Services) and Paula Philpott (Head of Learning Academy) at the South Eastern Regional College have written a short case study entitled “Get the Edge – enterprise week”:

Summary

Giving our students the edge is a key priority as we seek to provide students with a range of opportunities to gain better skills and real life experiences. At South Eastern Regional College (SERC) we are committed to providing every student with the opportunity to improve their employability skills. In a challenging job market this has never been more important. Employers want students to have more than simply a qualification. In response SERC has launched the ‘Get the Edge’ Initiative. The core activities include work placements, industry projects, volunteering and SERC Student Companies.

As part of Get the Edge – enterprise week, during the first week in September, over 4000 full time students competed in a challenge to identify an innovative solution to a specific problem, tailored to each vocational area. It marked a significant departure from the traditional induction activities. Students came from all disciplines and across five levels. As part of the project based learning activities, students formed groups and began the process of designing a solution. In some areas the groups spanned more than one programme of study and level, for example level 2 and 3 working with HND students. Throughout the week, as they addressed the various challenges inherent in their design process, they used technology to keep a weblog, highlighting the many iterations of their solution. These video logs enabled the students to demonstrate their progress.  Technology was used in many of their design solutions and was contextualised to their vocational problem. During enterprise week, the challenge allowed students to re-examine their skills and experience, with the support and guidance of staff.

Students in all curriculum areas take part. 75% are new students with 40% having applied to study in SERC only a few weeks earlier. Employers are on the judging panel and they provide important feedback to the students when they present their innovative solutions using a range of technologies.

Outcomes

Research has shown that 97% of our students are moving on to employment, self-employment and education or training on completion of their course. The Get the Edge initiative at SERC has increased students’ enterprise skills, employability and entrepreneurial flair through project based learning. It has enhanced their communication, leadership, teamwork and problem solving skills as well as enhancing their business knowledge. Their efforts are accredited through a qualification which is embedded in their main programme of study. There is over 90% achievement in these accredited units and they provide an additional qualification as evidence to employers.

One student commented: “I’d definitely recommend Get the Edge to other students and freshers. I wanted to build up my confidence and the SERC Get the Edge Challenge helped me do exactly that. Then as an added bonus I won an iPad. The most useful thing I learnt through doing the challenge was the importance of communication, managing my time efficiently and meeting new friends.”

Independent research by Fingerprint Learning, a learning research organisation, has indicated this top down and consistent college wide approach is the best way of engaging students and staff to address a range of learning styles.

The Get the Edge – enterprise week enabled the organic growth of more entrepreneurs and a range of student companies were formed. It encouraged students to embrace use of learning technologies. Staff have gone on to use similar approaches throughout the year because they observed how it engaged their students, harnessing their latent innovation and creativity.

Context and challenge

Challenges included the skilling of staff and students to enable them to use a range of technologies during the Get the Edge – Enterprise week, as well as the staffing and timetabling of these non-traditional sessions.

Lessons learnt, next steps and sustainability

To continue the process throughout the year (not just in the first week), Project Based Learning mentors are piloting medium and large scale projects, across vocational areas, bridging traditional silos, by getting teams to work collaboratively. For example, art and design students working with computing or catering and engineering students working collaboratively, to conceive, design, implement and operate (CDIO- an international initiative aimed at developing a more practical approach to teaching practical subjects http://www.cdio.org/ ) innovative solutions to challenge based activities.

Contact and links

Dr Michael Malone Director of Curriculum and Information Services mmalone@serc.ac.uk

Paula Philpott Head of Learning Academy  pphilpott@serc.ac.uk

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