An Cosán Virtual Community College (VCC), an innovative education initiative aiming to increase access to further and higher education nationwide and address social inequality through online and mobile technology, has been launched.
VCC caters for adult learners who have not benefitted from mainstream education, and for those who wish to continue their education in an accessible and affordable way. Its unique model of blended learning leverages the latest technologies, combining a virtual classroom, online live lectures with independent activities, assignments and face-to-face sessions in community partner settings. These technology-enhanced community hubs – urban and rural – are spread across the country.
Director of VCC Liz Waters comments: “There are many barriers for people across Ireland in accessing further and higher education, ranging from rural isolation and lack of institutional access, to childcare considerations and financial issues. VCC has the power to break down these barriers and offers a unique opportunity for anyone wishing to develop their skills and achieve their full potential.”
She continues: “Being able to access education is essential for social progress. We talk about the ‘one generation solution’ whereby if you educate a woman who is a lone parent to degree level, she will earn 40% more than someone without a degree and she and her children will exit poverty forever. Our model of education is based on concepts of inclusion, participation, social action and capacity building – all aiming to transform lives and communities.”
To date, more than 150 students have engaged with VCC in its pilot phase. For most students it was their first experience of both higher education and blended online learning. Earlier this month, 74 students graduated from VCC after successfully completing higher education courses.
VCC offers a range of introductory, further and higher education courses, including Learning to Learn at Third Level, Community Leadership, Citizenship, and Social Action and Transformative Community Education. All of the higher education courses are accredited by IT Carlow, VCC’s third level collaborative partner.