Education is based on a traditional linear model of one-way movement by design. Despite so much overlap and repetition in the digital curriculum from one school/college/university to the other, many (but not all) institutions often work in siloes. They can be forgiven though as teaching, learning, and assessment (TLA) is in essence their product; it is where they create their competitive advantage and ultimately what informs their unique selling point when recruiting student-customers. The result? A whole host of education practitioners in and around the world that are developing the same resource materials, on the same subjects and topics. The process is painstaking too. It takes countless hours to curate, collate, and develop resources to ensure learning takes place.
It is not all doom and gloom though I promise. There is a shift happening. More institutions are collaborating, building partnerships, and realise that to be sustainable they must work together as allies in the supply chain and not only as competitors. They are coming to realise that if they are doing it twice, creating waste, they are doing it wrong! The concept of using, sharing, building on a common set of resources is how the Microsoft Learn Educator-Institutional Programme has benefited so many education providers, especially South Central IoT during its start-up phase.
We took our first steps, read on for more, this year to integrateMS Fundamentals into TLA of our digital curriculum with the aim to capture more value from shared materials and resources, build our brand and reputation, and enhance student experiences aligned with industry sector expectations.
This all started in preparing our coaches for delivery by attending one of Microsoft’s Virtual Training Days. This helped them understand the fundamentals content, how Microsoft trainers delivered this, and inspire them to do their own professional development to take the exam themselves. With the addition of access to the download centre, a one-stop-shop of support* we were able to align to modules in our existing Higher National Digital Technologies qualification. It was then for our coaches to use this and add their own value. With the help of MS Teams, we were able to house everything for students in one virtual space and even created our own TV-channel by embedding Stream (for AZ-900 we fondly named this Cloud TV!)
* including PowerPoints, lab instructions, course data sheet, assessment guide, and (my personal favourite) the trainer handbook
When it comes to online learning, Microsoft Learn is the place to be. Broken up into bitesize sessions this proved invaluable to our blended delivery style that combined face-to-face sessions with online learning. You can even now set-up organisational reporting to show how individual students are progressing in units, modules and achievements making it easier to track and monitor than ever before. Our weekly structure layout enabled us to organise topics and themes to scaffold learning and, by design, had the added benefit of differentiating to suit learner’s own pace.
I’m often asked, how have you done this? And my response feels like I am cheating a little. It is/was really simple. The key to most assessment design and creation are excellent vocational scenarios, where learners can demonstrate the benefits of applying theory into practice. The Microsoft Fundamentals curriculum have plenty of them in their materials. Put simply, it already exists! For example AZ-900 its Tailwind Traders. We therefore used the same vocational scenario for our own student’s assessment and a series of tasks/activities were built to ensure they met learning outcomes and assessment criteria for the module. In doing so we are checking for learning, applying knowledge to develop skills, and (because we like to have our cake and eat it) preparing students for their AZ-900 exam that they complete at the end. Students take the exam but do not necessarily have to pass to complete the module. Initially we piloted this with a small group of 12 students/staff this year as an optional module.
Going forward this will be a core module moving forward with 50+ in Year 1. South Central IoT is a start-up and we are projected over 1500+ learners by Year 5. Our specialist pathway programmes will extend to cover cloud-networking, cyber security, data analytics, AI solutions and applications, that will each incorporate relevant Microsoft Fundamentals certifications.
My best advice to anyone looking to do this too, is to quickly realise that this is not about reinventing the wheel but reutilising shared resources to meet a new purpose that brings traditional qualifications and industry certifications together. These are the next steps to a truly circular economy in education that can leverage a Microsoft industry experience, reserved to those often only in the private sector, for students who choose to study full-time or part-time instead. Whilst for many this might first look to be a value-add, we are increasingly moving towards complete integration and one we are happy to share with our community of education practitioners as we continue to do this with all Microsoft certifications.