Jisc pledges support to UK education sector through a range of free resources

As the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the education sector, edtech non-profit Jisc is supporting its transition to online platforms by providing a range of learning materials completely free of charge

Staff, students and researchers will be given access to a range of e-books, historical texts and a Microsoft Teams community page, on top of a wealth of guidance and support provided by edtech non-profit Jisc. The company hopes the free resources will help to ease the disruption felt throughout the sector during this complex time.

The UK government has ordered schools, colleges and early years settings to close from Friday afternoon. The closure will be enforced until further notice, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children as part of the country’s ongoing response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus,” education secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.

“Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with education, health and care plans – a legal document that describes a child’s special educational needs and the support they require.

“Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care.”

Charities such as SWGfL, Edtech UK and ISC had already issued advice ahead of potential school closures.

Now, Jisc member institutions can request to join the planning for coronavirus community on Microsoft Teams – a community space for those responsible for ensuring strategic and operational continuity during the growing pandemic. The community offers four themed channels: business operations; remote working; student experience and wellbeing; and teaching and learning.

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Another Jisc guide gives practical tips on maintaining teaching, learning and business operations throughout the period where staff and students are unable to physically attend campus.

The organisation has also made free resources available for vocational learners – members can visit the vocational learning support page, where there are educational resources for construction, hairdressing, education and childcare, as well as digital and IT.

Free e-books are also being provided for staff and students in FE, who will gain access to a digital catalogue of relevant, curriculum-mapped taught course e-books covering BTEC, A-Level, NVQ/SVQ and Cache courses, on top of GCSE WJEC and higher English and maths.

Jisc is also giving access to its historical texts and journal archives platforms for FE and HE members who don’t already subscribe to the service. The historical text database comprises over 460,000 late 15th to 19th century texts, while the archives currently house over 1,000 journals.

“This is unchartered time for the education sector,” said Steve Bailey, head of consultancy at Jisc.

“We hope that our resources and communities will support members to feel confident using digital alternatives to face-to-face teaching and learning, whilst maintaining continuity for students. We’re encouraging members to look at the technology they already have at their disposal, such as VLE platforms, lecture capture, Microsoft Teams and Office 365, and using them as effectively as possible. This approach will hopefully lessen loneliness for students and staff, as well as providing continuity.”

Bailey continues: “The human side of online learning is fundamental in supporting mental health when it comes to isolation, and our guides offer advice on maintaining social interaction digitally, too. By embracing digital practices, we hope that students, as well as colleges and universities, will be able to adapt to the ‘new normal’ for as long as they need to.”

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