Guest Blog: Blowing the Dust Off - Returning to VR post-Pandemic 


The Introduction of ClassVR

2018 & 2019: In 2018, Nottingham College was ready for VR to take off and welcome the next stage of Further Education (FE); a brave new (virtual) world bringing the really big, the really small, the really far away and the really dangerous into the classroom for our students to explore. 

What we had: 

  • Headsets
  • Staff training
  • Enthusiasm and excitement

The Science team were beginning to do wonderful things; boldly going out into the solar system or navigating through the arteries of the heart without ever leaving the classrooms of their rather non-descript campus in Nottingham city centre. Our Special Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (SLDD) team, who work with students with additional needs, were having success with groups swimming with sharks or flying out with the Red Arrows to help bring their learning to life while offering experiences some of the learners would never have imagined being able to do. 

We were ready...  

…then we weren’t.  

School Closures, Virtual Reality Must Wait... 

2020 & 2021: Lockdown was quick and uncompromising. We packed away our resources, we turned off the lights, we shut (in that way that schools & colleges never really shut). This wasn’t the brave new (virtual) world we had planned for, but there we were. Our VR kit gathered dust, locked away. Waiting.

Not enough credit has been given to the way in which the education sector pivoted, what seemed like overnight, to the way teaching, learning and assessment (TLA) had to be done. It was tough, it was frustrating, and it certainly wasn’t what we were used to, but it got done, because that’s what educators do.  

Dusting Off ClassVR - The Focus on Digital Innovation

2022: When we “re-opened", turned the lights back on and unpacked our resources, the ideas, techniques, and digital skills which had been generated during lockdown all came back into the buildings, along with the people. Adaptability is key to TLA in FE; people working in FE are some of the most versatile and creative thinkers in education. They need to be.

To capitalise on the digital experience teaching and support staff had developed, we held a whole-college CPD day on April 1st 2021 (no joke) with the focus of digital innovation. A few weeks prior to planning this event, I stumbled across our VR kits. Lightbulb moment! A few emails and phone calls later, Avantis were going to run ClassVR workshops for our Construction, Science, SLDD, Foundation Learning and Learning Support teams. 

Blowing the dust off the kit to get it ready for the sessions was not just symbolic, it was a statement of intent; we were serious about ensuring we embrace digital learning in FE and take the positives from lockdown and capitalise on them. 

Nottingham College Guest Blog

The day itself could not have gone better. The teams fully embraced the ClassVR sessions (Ian and Catherine, Educational Specialists at Avantis, were wonderfully engaging session leads) and were brimming with ideas on how VR can be used in their vocations. So much so, that we are now working in partnership with Avantis to create construction-related content based on the ideas of our talented and forward-thinking construction lecturers. The idea we had back in 2018 about bringing small, large, distant, or dangerous things to the learners is ready to take shape again.  

We’re creating interactive content for the theory of brick work which incorporates interactive video; videos for working at heights using different equipment (ladders, scaffolding, cherry pickers, etc) and have gained access to a building site in the centre of Nottingham to shoot 360° footage which will offer construction students first-hand views of some of the most modern construction techniques and materials currently used.

Once the resources are complete, our learners will have access to a library of content which will not only help them develop their skills and knowledge but also put those skills into context, so when they set foot on a construction site in the future, they are better prepared and ready to work.  

We’ve blown the dust off, it’s now time to get to work.  

About the Author:

Richard Buckley has been teaching in FE for 16 years. Working in a range of settings: from porta cabins at the side of football pitches; through late-night learning sessions in factories to one of the largest colleges in the country, he has a wealth of experience in engaging and motivating learners.  

Over the past 7 years, he has been exploring the use technology to enhance teaching, learning & assessment. His work helped Nottingham College to win the Blended Learning Consortium Impact Award in 2017. As Blended Learning Manager for Nottingham College, Richard is responsible for ensuring digital TLA offers a positive impact for everyone at the college. 

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