Education That Gets You Ready for the Real World

Helen Richardson, Learning Innovation Manager at Gateshead College. Photo: AFP Scott Heppell.

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Quick Take: Few universities teach their students basic abilities for their future career, such as how to find a job before graduating. Thus, these abilities become purely empirical knowledge.

This post originally appeared on the Blackboardblogon Dec 19, 2018. To learn more about Blackboard products and services mentioned below, visit

Gateshead, England

The working environment is very different from the academic environment, and when students graduate college, they may not understand what it means to be in an office or how to carry out their profession. They are not taught work ethic and they may not know what to put in a CV or resume to stand out from the crowd. Most colleges don’t teach these skills, and students are left to figure it out on their own.

Gateshead College has made sure this does not happen to their students and have taken the necessary methods to ensure their students are prepared for the workforce. Helen Richardson, Learning Innovation Manager, and Stuart Horn, E-learning Technologist, have come up with a variety of methods to help students in each field reach their maximum potential and get ready for what they will face when they leave college.

Gateshead College has five campuses and over 5,000 students. They deliver higher education (degree courses), post-graduate education, part-time programmes and apprenticeships.

Gateshead England, Campus. Photo: AFP Scott Heppell.
Gateshead England, Campus. Photo: AFP Scott Heppell.

They have implemented three main initiatives to help students prepare to leave college:

The Careers Team

A dedicated team within the college that works alongside the teaching staff to support students to acquire the skills they need to get their dream job. They do different things to get that job done such as:

1. The careers team has partnered with entrepreneurs in the area, one for each faculty (catering, business administration, etc.), and those entrepreneurs will visit the college once a month to talk to the students. This allows the students to ask them questions about the field they are interested in joining, and the entrepreneurs can give them feedback on the things that are important to learn, master, and expand on.

This motivates the students, because, as Helen says, work is very different from college, and if a student is studying to become a chef, the end goal is becoming a chef and not being a student. Seeing individuals that represent their future goals in front of them motivates them to become better students and professionals. The careers team makes sure that all students take part in practical work experience before they graduate.

2. The careers team has an LMS designed just for this area, which is called “On-Track.” This allows the staff on the careers team to look at the progress of the different students. They have access to the CVs of the students, and can professionally assess if each student is capable of entering the workforce, as well as what subjects, extracurricular activities, or additional skills they might need to acquire. This helps prepare the students by the time they graduate.

3. Helen, along with Jisc (a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom which promotes the use of and investment in technology in education), has come up with several projects that use technology to enhance the students’ learning, as well as their employability. They first came up with the cARv Project. Helen Richardson was aware of the fact, that sometimes a paper CV is not sufficiently accurate in letting the employer know what skills the person who is applying has – especially a person who just graduated and probably has little to no experience in the workforce.

She came up with an idea to put augmented reality (a live or indirect view of a physical and real-world environment that is transmitted via a computer generated input, such as audio or video) inside the CV. With the help and funding of Jisc, she filmed a short recording of the students performing a certain skill, for example, chopping while the student talks to the camera and introduces him or herself.

Then they generate a QR code for the video and include it in the CV with an opening letter giving the employer instructions on how to access the video. The employer can then scan the QR code with their phone and the video immediately pops up on their screen. This way, not only does the student stand out, but the employer has an idea of who the student is and what their skills are, and can make a more informed decision.

They use software to make the creation of E-Learning courses easier

1. Stuart Horn says that Articulate, a software tool that allows you to build interactive E-Learning courses, has been a great addition to their Open LMS. The E-Learning team realized that the teachers have had a difficult time embracing technology. However, they also realized that when they effectively present the technology to each teacher and thoroughly explain how it works for their specific courses, they understand it better and are more open to embracing it. For this reason, Stuart and the e-Learning team have begun to make E-Learning packages using Articulate. The process is so easy that they are able to personalize each course with the specific tools and content that the teacher needs for that course, to carry it out as well as they can.

2. Stuart has also been able to identify certain problems that specific faculties have, and try to fix them using technology. For example, the Travel and Tourism students hadn’t quite gotten the hang of using technology for their studies, and most of them do not have the money to be able to travel the world. Stuart created an interactive map of the world in Articulate and applied gamification into the pedagogical approach to get these students to be able to “travel” the world through technology. A specific example is the learning of world capitals. By using the Articulate map with Google Expeditions, and an interactive white board, the students can connect the dots of the capitals with each country. When they get the correct answer, a picture of that city pops up so they know what it looks like and what the main interest points are. This is a fun and effective way of learning.

Implementation of the very best technology available

Helen explains that she is all for technology in education, but that it can inhibit education if it is used without purpose and without considering the advantages and uses that the technology will have in a specific classroom.

1. The students who are in catering school have to be able to demonstrate their knowledge and skills to paying customers. With that in mind, Gateshead College opened its very own restaurant, Enfields Kitchen, and they invite the local community to go and eat there. When the students present their exams, the restaurant opens and the students go into the kitchen and have a camera on them the whole time. The students are viewed live in the dining room by the paying customers. This makes students more mindful about how they handle the food and encourages them to conduct themselves professionally at all times. This also allows the students to look at the footage after the exam so they can conduct a critical peer and personal review of their work, in order to assess what they need to improve and what mistakes they made. This, Helen explains, is an effective way to use technology to enhance learning.

2. They also use technology to teach staff about technology. Since the E-Learning team inside the college is very small and there are lots of faculty members and departments, it would be too time-consuming to teach each one of the teachers how to use the technology. Helen, along with Jisc, invented what they call the Innovation Chain. This means that Stuart meets with his team and ten faculty members, for example. Stuart teaches them the tools, the software, and what they can do with it. The faculty members are then asked to teach what they learned to three other faculty members. The faculty members are asked to teach while using a Wiki, and record how they teach others. Then, the Wiki can be uploaded to the LMS so that other faculty members can log in and view it. This way, they could share the vital information with minimum effort.

3. Stuart explains that he is constantly talking to students to see what they are using in terms of technology. He said it would be wrong to apply a bunch of technology to students that they do not use. In contrast, the college has to find out what is new and look at how they can implement that tool to existing technologies in an effective and realistic manner.

5 tips to achieve work success while studying?

ICON: Use technology to self assess your skills.

1. Use technology to self-assess your skills. You can record, photograph, and/or document your progress so you know what to work on, what you are doing well at, and how much you have progressed.  

ICON: Standout to potential employers

2. Use technology to stand out to potential employers. All CV’s look the same. With design, creativity, and some technology, you can make a CV that stands out from the rest. Make a video resume that shows your skills and energy to make an impression on the employer.

ICON: Resourceful with technology

3. Be resourceful with technology to help you in what you need to work on. There is so much information online; you can learn practically anything. Take full advantage of those resources and reach out to experts for them to give you guidance so you can grow. Experts on different subject matters might be able to help guide you on what is important for you to know and how to make yourself stand out.

ICON: Manage your time

4. Learn to manage your time. With the possibility of taking E-Learning courses at any time, you can build your skills at your own pace.

ICON:Start scouting for jobs

5. Start scouting for jobs before you graduate. This way, you will know what job opportunities are out there, how the industry is evolving, and what it is asking for. It is always good to know how to do an interview, even if you do not get the job. Ask for part-time jobs that can help you get a foot in the door of your industry and gain contacts and inside knowledge.

ICON: Bonus

Bonus: Tomorrow, when you are a professional, you will thank those who take the time to reach out, stand out, work harder, and get ahead.

• • •

Helen says that she will keep on working to keep Gateshead College at the forefront when it comes to integrating technology in education. She says that the college is full of forward thinkers and that they are continually trying to develop and implement the best technology possible. They believe in the power of gamification and the amount of learning a person does when they are having fun.

For this reason, they asked a games teacher to work with the E-Learning department to come up with fun and engaging ways to enhance learning. But always, and most importantly, Gateshead College ensures their students are prepared for the real world and can leave college with a good job of their choice, and that their work satisfies their employer. At the end of the day, that is the purpose of a college education. 

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