Friday, 18 January 2013

VU uses VC to Aim Higher

Virtually University (VU) is a video conferencing outreach initiative set up by Bedford School with the University of Sheffield and the Sutton Trust. Virtually University coordinates interactive video conferencing between schools and universities around the country. With some exceptions, the content is targeted at Year 12 and 13. Some sessions relate directly to the A level syllabus whilst others are intended to show the diversity of study available at university. All are designed to inspire and allow students to make informed choices. Additionally some sessions will discuss practical aspects of applying for university and of student life. All are free to schools.

The national Aim Higher programme was jointly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). It allocated £239.5 million from 2008-2011, which enabled Universities to provide master classes, lectures and partnerships with schools and colleges in order to improve social mobility and widen participation. This funding has now ceased, leaving the HE sector with fewer funds but still with an expectation to provide the same outreach programmes.

The table below shows the ten VU video conferences that Shrewsbury Sixth form College in Shropshire took part in from June 2011 - March 2012, and the distance the lecturer would have had to travel if the session was face to face.

Return Distance to Shropshire
Lecture Title
240 miles
Filming the earth from near
space on a low budget
240 miles
Political Philosophy
The Value of Democracy
126 miles
8 out of 10 Cats Prefer it!
240 miles
Research Methods
240 miles
Goodbye Lenin
214 miles
Particle Physics
Hunting the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider
332 miles
St George's (London)
Healthcare Careers and Gaining Work Experience
332 miles
Biomedical Science
How Your Brain is Wired
240 miles
Modern Foreign Languages
Studying Modern Languages at University
106 miles
Sports Science/Psychology
Performance Pressure
For a university lecturer to travel to Shropshire and then deliver the lecture face to face it would have cost the universities twice as much money due to time wasted in travel and expenses occurred. To deliver a one hour session it would take a whole day with time wasted due to travel and many visits probably made impossible due to the long distance. Through connecting via VU, each lecture is broadcast as a live multipoint conference with up to 5 schools or colleges across the UK participating at the same time. University lecturers are able to meet 5 times the number of students per session via video conference, than by face to face meetings at no extra cost, and save public sector funding through using technology.
Benefits of VU to schools/colleges:

· A direct opportunity for students to experience university lectures.
· One school can link up to different universities.
· Schools can form long term partnerships with universities and industry partners
· It is a secure and interoperable live video connection via Janet
· It is free.
Benefits of VU to Universities:

· University Environmental policies are met through using video conferencing.
· Widening participation and supporting outreach programmes.
· Improving social mobility.
· Saves time and money through travel expenses and extra lecturer fees.

VU is an example of a Next Generation Content Provider because VU establishes partnerships through live, secure and interoperable VC connections. VU links to industry and HE and offers students opportunities they would not normally have had.

Here is what Shrewsbury Sixth Form College think of VU:
Virtually University have provided an invaluable enrichment program to our current AS&A2 students. VU provides a termly list of possible video conferences with top universities for students.VC Lectures can be delivered by University lecturers, or undergraduates who are experiencing the courses. It has given our students an invaluable insight into courses and the style of University teaching before they even set foot in one. Rob Cullis who co ordinates the vcs is very experienced and easy to work with and reassuring. He is always looking to expand the VU program and has helped us to share university lectures with other colleges that we have organised for our students. Sian Squire,Video Conference Project Co ordinator.

Below are some quotes from students at SSFC:
“We did a video conference with a University and when I went to my admissions interview, I was able to talk about things easily, because I was pre prepared by what I had learned during the VC"

“Great use of technology. Great to be able to see a University lecture before I’m at University”

“It was great to see the range of MFL offered by the University and to talk to students that had attended the courses before I applied to that University. Really hope I get in now!”
“Interesting to see people working in a real laboratory and to see how things are analysed”

Virtually University is a Janet content provider. Click here to find out more about VU.

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