New An Cosán programme wants to end unequal access to higher education

11 Oct 201666 Shares

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The community education centre An Cosán has launched a new initiative that wants to use mobile and internet technology to bridge existing social inequalities to otherwise out-of-reach higher education.

An Cosán celebrated its 30th birthday in September, with a number of successful programmes to look back on. One example is their Young Women in Technology initiative that helped 70 women set up their own businesses.

Now, with help from Ireland’s Digital Champion David Puttnam, the college has launched a new initiative that wants to remove any barriers or social inequalities in society for adults that would otherwise not get access to higher education.

Called the An Cosán Virtual Community College (VCC), the initiative uses online and mobile technology that can be offered to help participants study for a potential new career.

The VCC programme combines a virtual classroom and online live lectures with independent activities, assignments and face-to-face sessions in community partner settings.

To date, more than 150 students have engaged with An Cosán in its pilot phase and 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.

The programme 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.

Enormous potential of virtual teaching

All of the higher education courses are accredited by IT Carlow, VCC’s third-level collaborative partner.

Speaking at today’s launch at the National Concert Hall in Dublin, Puttnam said: “From tackling social isolation to improving skills and employability through offering innovative models of education – these technologies have the power to positively transform society.

“VCC is a fantastic initiative which has recognised the enormous potential of virtual teaching and learning methods for communities around Ireland, and which will offer life-changing education courses to adult learners for many years to come.”

VCC director Liz Waters added: “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.”

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Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com