Barriers to learning, and how to overcome them

The importance of perpetual education is universally accepted. We live in a fast-paced world that requires unceasing efforts to learn about the systems, processes, methodologies, and legislation that evolve around us on a daily basis.

Despite the clear benefits of being on such a journey of continuous personal growth and development, many individuals face barriers to learning that prohibit them from embracing the abundance of available opportunities to acquire new skills, knowledge, and confidence in a particular field. These barriers are completely unrelated to the individual’s inherent cognitive abilities, and can often undermine one’s propensity for education despite a high level of competence and capability.

A common barrier, which is especially prevalent amongst adult learners, is the inability to be physically present in a classroom due to nonnegotiable commitments – such as looking after children or pets, financial strain from the cost of commuting, or health concerns amidst an ongoing pandemic, particularly for those whose health condition makes them more vulnerable. Additionally, individuals with physical or learning disabilities who require a support worker to accompany them, as well as young learners that are dependant on a parent or guardian for transport, may not be able to coordinate the attendance of all parties due to logistical or financial limitations.

Other factors that could make physical attendance impractical or impossible include long or unpredictable work hours, train delays, traffic jams, and various other time constraints. Lastly, some individuals may be unwilling to reorganise or reduce the leisure activities in their lives to accommodate the fixed schedule of a course or qualification, as they deem these important for their mental health and wellbeing.

Another barrier which affects countless individuals, is the lack of confidence. For those who have not partaken in classroom-based learning for many years, doubts about one’s ability to perform tasks under pressure and scrutiny may exist, along with fear of being judged when speaking publicly (e.g. when asking potentially embarrassing questions or seeking assistance with tasks that others have found easy). Even amongst younger learners, such feelings could arise due to a previous unpleasant experience.

Finally, extrinsic factors present in the traditional classroom setting could play a role, for instance, noise levels, room temperature and other social or environmental distractions.

So, what is the solution?

Here at Laser Learning, our team delivers both full qualifications as well as short courses in a multitude of subject areas, via our award-winning online learning platforms. These include professionally filmed video tutorials and interactive learning resources to support your qualification delivery. Our ePortfolio allows you to easily upload work and communicate with your assessor with confidence.

Most importantly, this can all be done from the comfort of your own home, on a desktop PC, laptop, mobile phone or tablet, at a time that suits you, when there are no distractions or conflicting tasks to be done.

Thames Valley Tech Awards Finalist

We’re delighted to have been selected as a finalist in the Thames Valley Tech Awards!

The Laser team has been recognised in the Sustainable Technology category (sponsored by Ernst & Young) for our work in the eLearning sector.

TV presenter Vernon Kay will host the virtual awards on September 24th.

Commenting on the quality of this year’s finalists, Peter Laurie, head of client relations for The Business Magazine, said:

“What came through most clearly to the judges from their meetings with the contenders is just how buoyant the Thames Valley tech sector is despite the uncertainty caused by Covid-19. The judges were impressed by all the entries.”

Apprenticeship Week 2020 (Interview)

As part of Apprenticeship Week 2020, we interviewed Shazia, an apprentice who has experienced Laser’s various products and services. Here is what she had to say:

What apprenticeship are you currently doing, and when are you due to complete this?

I am currently doing a Level 3 Business Administration apprenticeship and my estimated end date is 17th August 2020.

Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?

I wanted to gain a qualification and get work experience at the same time. So, doing an apprenticeship was the right choice for me.

How are you finding the Laser E-Portfolio system?

The E-Portfolio is easy to use and very user friendly. I am able to upload work with ease, check for feedback, sign off my assessment plans and contact my assessor, all on the same platform. 

You mentioned that it’s used friendly. Please elaborate.

All the sections in the E-Portfolio are clearly labeled which makes it easier to navigate. The user interface is also very simple which makes it clear and straightforward to use.       

What are the benefits of the Laser E-Portfolio to you as an Apprentice? 

Firstly, the e-portfolio is easily accessible. I am able to log in and access my portfolio on various devices. 

Secondly, when working on assignments, I am able go back and view the resources at any time.

And thirdly, I am able to log and keep an entry of all the off-the-job training that I’ve carried out, which can be seen by my employer and my training provider.

What benefits can you see the E-Portfolio having to your employer and training provider?

My training provider and my employer are able to track my progress, and see my work plans and progress reviews. 

How beneficial are the Laser Lessons to your Apprenticeship?

The Laser Lessons have played a big role in my apprenticeship as I have used them a lot for my assignments. The lessons include all the information that I need to pass my units. 

What do you like most about them?

I like how the lessons are separated into different sections, which allows me to go through each section at my own pace. I also don’t have to spend a lot of time researching for information, as good reading links have been provided in the “Reading” and “Extended Learning” section. Lastly, I like how the information in the presentation is easy to understand, informative and the way examples have been used to help us understand. 

Have you completed any short courses with us? If yes, please state the course titles. 

I have completed the following short courses:

  • Time management 
  • Conflict management skills
  • Communication skills
  • Equality and diversity
  • Health and safety
  • Handling problems and complaints
  • Customer service skills
  • Digital skills
  • Health and safety: ICT

Who identified the need for you to complete the short courses?

My employer. I did most of these short courses during my induction which helped me focus and put my mind back into learning mode.

How have they benefited you during your Apprenticeship?

I have been able to learn a lot from doing short courses. They have helped me develop in my role and the way I manage my tasks. 

Do you feel what you have learnt from the Laser Lessons and Short Courses, will benefit you outside of your Apprenticeship?

Yes, everything that I have learnt as a part of my qualification and whilst doing the short courses has played a big role in my understanding of working in a business environment. 

And lastly, what was your experience of using the full Laser range?

Overall, I have had a great experience with the Laser products. I didn’t have any difficulties or problems whatsoever during the time that I used them, and the customer support was also excellent. 

Thank you for your time Shazia, and best of luck with the remainder of your Apprenticeship!

To find out more about our E-Portfolio, Lessons, and CPD Short Courses please give us a call on +44 (0)1753 584 112 or email info@lasersys.co.uk

Laser Learning Blended Learning for Students

Consider the student: blended learning

From the keynote speech by Laser Systems Director, Vivette Eaton

Dubai, June 25th 2019

What do we mean by blended learning?

I see blended learning as a three-pronged approach.

  1. Face-to-face teaching
  2. Independent, online learning
  3. Workplace practice, shadowing, and experience

Even in 2019, we are still working with ‘traditional’ methods of teaching. In most countries, education is a set of mandatory requirements and sweeping expectations.

  • Core subjects to be taught are set by the Government
  • Hours students must be in an education establishment are set
  • The emphasis on subjects is set, for example, students will find maths prioritised over music even if this doesn’t make the most of their talents
  • How students can present evidence of learning, knowledge, skills, and achievement is set

These requirements are in place to give the impression of equality, ensuring all students are working to the same expectations.

While there may be a slight difference in teacher style, most young children are learning the same core subjects in a similar learning environment. More than anything, access to funding and resources are what will make the biggest difference to how students are taught, which can often leave some students at an advantage or disadvantage compared to those in other learning establishments.

Teaching students in the same way with the same emphasis on subjects doesn’t account for individual needs or individual taste. It’s important students are given equal access to education and can be taught the same subjects, but teaching in a classroom environment with written assignments for example, will always disadvantage those who don’t enjoy the classroom experience and struggle with written classwork.

It can also mean that students who show a passion and talent for certain aspects of learning or particular subject areas will not be given the opportunity to nurture this from a young age as the education structure favours the status quo.

How can on learning environment suit a group of 30 students?

We know it isn’t possible.

Students, particularly in schools, are grouped according to location and age over everything else. There is no consideration as to whether, as a group, the learning environment will meet their needs.

Even the school day is designed like a work day. This prepares students for a life of work but doesn’t consider how they might learn best. If a student struggles in the morning but learns better after lunch, is consideration given to how their learning is delivered to address this?

How can we ensure we give students the best possible learning experience, giving them the skills, knowledge, and confidence to excel in later life?

We need to meet their individual needs, but not simply the superficial needs. Every student should be given the same opportunities to reach their full potential.

For example, we know from research that teenagers need more sleep than any other age group. Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in December 2017, found that student absence due to illnesses dropped by over 50 percent with a 10am school start for children between the ages of 13 and 16. This is a significant change at 50 percent and a permanent change to school start times for teenagers could see a huge improvement in attendance as well as overall achievement.

As educators, we must facilitate our students to achieve their goals. This means:

  • Meeting someone where they are
  • Choosing methods of learning that suit their personality and needs
  • Being flexible and adaptable
  • Giving a range of varied resources to learn and practice
  • Valuing initial assessments while also understanding that needs change

We should priorities the things young people need:

  • Independence
  • Respect
  • Options
  • Confidence
  • Positive, trustworthy relationships
  • To look forward to their future

We can become facilitators of this by allowing students to take responsibility for themselves and their learning while giving them the support and guidance they need. Let them tell us what they need and how they learn best. We need to listen and adapt, but as educators we firstly need the funding, time, and resources to do this.

However, we don’t need resources to listen or to flip the classroom and use this format for sharing, understanding, and clarifying. We can encourage learning outside the classroom and gain experience from real life involvement.

Let the classroom be the place students ask questions because they have read things, been told things, discovered things, but haven’t yet seen these things in action.

Similarly, it is important that the time students do spend in face-to-face teaching is:

  • Informative
  • Collaborative
  • Organic
  • Engaging for all students by incorporating a range of teaching styles

In an article published in EduTopia in 2015, they stated:

“According to findings culled from five meta-analyses, blending technology with face-to-face teacher time generally produces better outcomes than face-to-face or online learning alone. An analysis of effective technology use for at-risk students found that simply replacing teachers with computer-based instruction typically yields no learning benefits. Rather, blending technology with teachers to support interactive learning, exploration, and creation leads to higher engagement and learning gains.”

Blended learning allows greater equality, diversity, and representation:

  • Consider the student who lives with a carer rather than a parent
  • Consider the student who is learning in a second language
  • Consider the student who is from a minority background
  • Consider the student who is from a disadvantaged background
  • Consider the student with a physical disability
  • Consider the student with a learning difficulty
  • Consider the student who is unwell

Whether it’s needing extra time, needing access to learning in a specific format, allowing for a wider variety of inclusive examples, or giving students the option to return to sections of learning at any time, blended learning including online learning makes all this possible.

The results reported in the 2018 Educational Technology Journal research article, ‘Blended learning: the new normal and emerging technologies’, found that blending maintains or increases access for most students and produces improved success rates for minority and non-minority students alike. In addition, students expressed they believed the most effective learning environment was a blended learning environment.

Giving students a truly flexible, blended learning approach to learning would include:

  • Face-to-face teaching
  • Peer group collaboration
  • Online learning resources accessed in and out of the classroom
  • Flexible approaches to teaching – not expecting a one-size fits all attitude to give the best possible experience to al learners
  • Regular feedback from students about their own experience and adapting learning where possible
  • Workplace experience or hands-on experience to put learning into context and further develop life skills

The 2018 ‘Teaching with Technology Survey’ which questioned 161 faculty members in the US about their experiences using technology in the classroom found 73% said technology made their job easier or much easier, and 87% said technology has positively affected their ability to teach.

Online learning was initially widely frowned upon, despite offering important opportunities and support to students who were previously struggling to learn. It’s vital we continue to be open to what might be possible tomorrow and not just what we can accept today.

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Laser Learning Learners are at the Heart of what we do

Putting Learners at the Heart of what we do

It was a pleasure to be guests at the e-Assessment Awards dinner on Wednesday in London. We were delighted to find out Laser Learning had been selected as a finalist in the Export to Excellence category last month and now had the chance to celebrate the best of innovation in the sector with other e-assessment champions.

Laser Learning e-Assessment Awards 2019 Finalists

Chairman, Matt Wingfield commented that this year had seen a much stronger focus on the needs of the learner alongside using e-assessment to improve outcomes for learners. This has been at the heart of what we do since the very beginning, and it was an honour to be one of the businesses included in this statement.

In 2019 we have further developments to share, all of which we have created to fully support learners and staff using the Laser, but also to ensure the best possible learning journey for each individual learner.

If you would like to know more about our Laser e-portfolio and virtual learning environment, as well as our range of digital learning resources please don’t hesitate to get in touch.