Students at Hugh Baird College use technology to learn, sing and cook together

Students at a college in Liverpool are using Microsoft Teams to continue cookery lessons, rehearse their sign-language choir performances and otherwise stay connected through the Coronavirus pandemic.

Hugh Baird College, in Merseyside, offers a range of courses to 5,000 students, and tutors are using Teams call and collaboration tools to provide lessons to them.

Students with hearing impairments who communicate through British Sign Language (BSL) are continuing to receive learning thanks to BSL interpreters on Teams calls.

Video calls are also enabling tutors to communicate effectively with students in a way that other forms of correspondence, such as email or texting, may not allow.

A group of students at one of Hugh Baird College’s campuses, Thornton College, a specialist centre for young people with learning difficulties or physical disabilities, regularly perform in a Makaton choir. This sees students sing and sign songs using the more universal and visual sign-language. Alongside speech and language therapists, the choir has continued to regularly practice the sign-language performance over Teams and participants can share songs for their followers on social media.

Lessons are recorded allowing students to watch content back at a time that suits them. Tutors can then respond in their own time to any questions they receive via the chat function. This is particularly helpful to the large number of students at the college who are also key workers. Many of whom are working in hospitals and care homes alongside studying part-time.

Teams has been so popular that students are also using the hub to socialise with each other. They collaborate on music playlists and students working in the healthcare sector share pictures of themselves in scrubs and uniform.

Additionally, catering students at the College’s L20 Hotel School have been teaching each other about their culinary cultures while learning from home. They have been tasked with cooking for their families and sharing pictures of the different ingredients they have at home. Bulgarian, Romanian, and Italian cuisines have all been shared with students on the course.

Chris Rothwell, Director of Education at Microsoft UK, said: “Seeing Hugh Baird College continue to provide a community for its students through this difficult time is truly inspiring. Its story is a prime example of how technology can be used in education to help everyone access learning and support.”

Christine Snape, Hugh Baird College Director of Foundation Learning, said: “As an organisation, Hugh Baird College prides itself on the quality of support it offers to its students. When lockdown was announced, we recognised it was crucial that whilst the College’s campuses may be closed, our learners should feel comforted in the knowledge that their education and our support was still very much present and available to them.”

“Throughout the lockdown period, all our teaching delivery has been undertaken remotely using Microsoft Teams. Both students and staff have fully embraced the tools the application provides and have become more adventurous and innovative with its use, which is evident with our Makaton choir and BSL classes.”

John Billington, Hugh Baird College Director of Facilities and Technical Services, said: “The feedback we’ve received from learners and their parents/guardians/carers using Teams has been overwhelmingly positive and within the first seven days of lockdown, we registered over 1,700 1:1 video calls and 164,000 chat messages taking place. The platform has played an integral part in ensuring we continue to deliver outstanding education to our students.”