At a Glance
- Increased school enrollment
- Increased level of education in rural areas
- Improved satisfaction for teachers
- Reduction of carbon footprint
Denmark Adult Second Chance Education Program Offers Learning Opportunities to Many Through Video Communication
Adult education center in Denmark offers continuing education to students in cities and remote areas alike with expanded video communication program.
The General Adult Education Programme in Denmark forms part of the public education system and is designed to help young and mature students improve or supplement their knowledge and skills within general subjects. VUC Stormstrøm is one of 30 adult education centres in Denmark providing students with the opportunity to improve their educational skills and, ultimately, employment prospects. It is often referred to as the ‘second chance’ programme. VUC is situated in the region of Zealand and comprised of five campuses, 180 teachers and 5,000 students. Classes are held from 08:00 through to 22:00 to accommodate its students’ busy lives which often include jobs and families. The programme delivers courses in all general education subjects such as chemistry, foreign languages, mathematics, geography, social science and political science. Students have the freedom of registering for one or several courses, depending on their agendas and personal goals.
Innovating with the First Parallel and Virtual Classroom
The challenge VUC faced was to be able to extend their educational services and provide access to as many students as possible, giving students in rural areas equal opportunity to the programmes. It was also necessary to increase attendance in some classes where only a few students were registered, and the cost of running the class was difficult to justify. VUC sought to break down distances and barriers preventing students to get the education they wanted, and developed a programme called ‘Parallel Teaching’ in 2008. This programme allowed students to follow any course by going to the centre nearest to them. The challenge VUC faced was to be able to extend their educational services and provide access to as many students as possible, giving students in rural areas equal opportunity to the programmes. It was also necessary to increase attendance in some classes where only a few students were registered, and the cost of running the class was difficult to justify. VUC sought to break down distances and barriers preventing students to get the education they wanted, and developed a programme called ‘Parallel Teaching’ in 2008. This programme allowed students to follow any course by going to the centre nearest to them.
To accomplish its objectives, VUC needed a trusted expert and partner in distant learning. It found the support and the answers to its questions within the Polycom team. Together, Polycom and VUC planned, designed and deployed Polycom HDX video collaboration solutions. Initially, the network connected classrooms in Nakskov, Naestved, Fakse, Vordingborg, Maribo and Nykobin, and due to its great success has expanded to 13 classrooms delivering courses through video collaboration. In 2011 they were the first to expand the model to allow students to attend lessons virtually, using a home computer adding greater flexibility. VUC Storstrøm invited the local vocational college, CELF, to join the development concept called Global Classroom.
The Polycom RealPresence Platform
To bring the project to life, VUC decided on dual screen Polycom HDX room solutions. The multipoint connections are done using the Polycom RealPresence Collaboration Server (RMX). Students participating in the programme have the option to attend from home or go to the nearest centres. For the ones who choose to work from home, VUC provides them with Polycom CMA software to download on their home computer. This desktop video collaboration solution has an intuitive click-to- dial IM-Style interface. The students benefit from easy and high quality video interactions. Flemming Neilsen, Project Manager responsible for the Parallel teaching project explains, “With the Polycom RealPresence Platform, we are able to attract students who would otherwise be unable to attend; this is a true advantage for the second chance programme.”
The teacher conducts his course normally in a classroom not like other. Students can dial into the course from any location. This has opened the catalogue of classes to many new students as it is so flexible and easy. A great benefit is the classes which traditionally had low registration are now filling up to normal 20 student capacity.
A New Way of Teaching, a New Way of Learning
For the teachers, it takes a little training, and a little getting used to. They must ensure all participants have the proper books and materials to follow their course. Today, most class materials are available in electronic format, making this very simple. Teachers using the technology are trained on how to communicate with distant locations. It takes just one session for the teachers to see the benefits.
“As educators, we need to find new ways to optimise our teaching methods, and deliver our courses to more students. This technology allows us to reach students in distant locations, and have a full virtual classroom.” explains Jens Illum, an english teacher.
For students, having access to the classes from their home or a centre near them has numerous advantages. This opens up the doors of the school to many who would not be able to attend. Lark Menko, a student who attends school from her home explains, “I have to pick up my daughter from school at 16:00, if I had to attend class at the VUC, I would not have time to get from my school to hers. Being at home makes it possible.”
Kristian Madsen, Project Manager at VUC Storstrøm says, “Using the digital tools, we develop a new educational work experience. For example, the Internet enables us to use information, share knowledge, visualise and communicate material in ways we have not been able to until now. At the same time, parallel teaching forces the students to work in a much more structured manner which benefits everyone.”
For VUC, the Polycom RealPresence Platform is the key component which allowed them to reach their goal to innovate and create a revolution in the way education is pursued and delivered. The programme is in constant evolutions, as more teachers use the technology. Madsen is proud of their accomplishments and vindicates, “VUC applies modern technology and embraces the world students live in. These innovative tools are today an integral element of our teaching, and a natural part of the learning process.”
The Success Opens New Possibilities
VUC quickly noticed the strength and power of students completing their classes, raising the general level of education in the region. The scale of this successful concept is now shared with other VUCs, and thus generates further educational development for the expansion of the project. Current plans are for VUC to expand the programme and grow the ‘Global Classroom’ concept. The idea is to work with other schools who are also using the technology to exchange best practices, share knowledge, allowing each teacher to reach more students, and give the students the benefits of a greater education.