Transforming support for d/Deaf students

Innovations in technology and the vital role of skilled professionals

In May 2014, BRITE and Nated Scotland curated an international conference hosted at Edinburgh University, where 100 delegates came together to evaluate a range of cutting edge strategies to support d/Deaf students at college and university. Two key themes of the day were the potential of mobile and web-based technology to revolutionise the provision of communication services, and the vital importance of skilled professionals to manage and deliver support for students.

iPad photo_Edit The image shows a sign language interpreter at the University of Cincinnati communicate with a student. The student accesses live video of the interpreter on his iPad. He could be based elsewhere on campus, or even off-campus e.g. having an informal study session at a classmate’s home. This system provides students with a new level of flexibility in how they access communication services. Research into the implications of this mode of service delivery was the subject of our keynote presentation.

A summary of the presentations and key topics follows. To request a copy of the conference brochure, transcripts of the presentations, or copies of slides, please contact Kellie Mote at

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Developing a learning culture through reflective practice

Sandra StrathieWhich methods do you use to reflect on your professional practice? How do you know what’s working (and what could be improved) in your interactions with colleagues, students, or service users? Many workplaces, most recently Glasgow Psychological Services, have explored the VERP (Video Enhanced Reflective Practice) model. VERP facilitates reflective practice enhanced by the use of video clips of real life situations, focusing on interaction. These interactions might be in the context of assessments, or building relationships with service users. In this article, guest contributor Sandra Strathie introduces the VERP method. To learn more and pose questions about how this technique may be applied to your work, join us for a free dedicated webinar on Wed 26th February 2014.

What is Video Enhanced Reflective Practice (VERP)?

Simply put, it is reflective practice that is enhanced by the use of video clips of real life practice situations. For example a manager films part of a meeting, a teacher films her interactions with pupils, an early years worker films a group activity. The focus is on the interaction in whatever context the person is in.

In some VERP courses such as ‘A Nurturing Approach to Developmental Assessment’ it supports the development of worker’s assessment skills. Courses can be tailored to the requirements of the organisation, for example, ‘The Art of Effective Communication’ was developed for residential workers working with young people, building on relationship-based practice.

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A BRITE approach to eLearning

All BRITE courses – including SQA-accredited Professional Development Awards in Inclusiveness, Dyslexia and Learning Support – are available to study entirely online.

eLearning has obvious benefits in removing geographical barriers, minimising time away from other commitments and reducing environmental impact. BRITE also sees eLearning as an opportunity to employ a diverse mix of learning tools and to create real communities of practitioners.

“I really enjoyed the online learning experience. I had taken part in online learning more than ten years ago and did not like the solitude of the experience. However, obviously as technology has progressed so has the online learning environment.  I loved the idea that my peers were literally spread across the length and breadth of Britain. This meant we had a widespread view of learning and support.” Participant, vPDA Dyslexia

The live, virtual classroom experience sits at the core of each of our courses. Using the industry-leading video conferencing platform, Adobe Connect, our virtual classrooms involve presentations, group tasks and opportunities for questions and discussions. All live sessions are recorded and made available to the class to revisit. Early in the development of our eLearning, our use of virtual classrooms won recognition from Adobe when we were featured as an Adobe Success Story.

“I was cautious when first approaching online learning as this was a very new experience for me! I found the experience a positive one overall, and found that the group gelled well after a few sessions. This was helped by the fact that group tasks are integrated into every session and allow group members to get to know one another virtually by sharing ideas and examples of good practice.” Participant, vPDA Dyslexia

In addition to the live virtual classroom experience, course participants benefit from on-going tasks, building an ePortfolio and contributing to discussions via a customised Moodle forum and email alerts.

Comprehensive background reading and engaging videos are also provided, to be accessed when convenient. Tasks typically involve participants reflecting on their own practice and learning from the experiences of others on the course.

“I have just completed a very interesting and worthwhile course with BRITE and on reflection I think that it is one of the best CPD courses I have ever been involved in. Everyone at BRITE should be delighted with their new course, I hope that many more people in support roles will avail themselves of it.” Participant, vMCB (Managing Challenging Behaviour, a component of PDA Learning Support)

Interested in developing your own web-based course and looking for some help? Contact us on or on +44 (0)1383 749605 to ask about consultancy, training and hosting.

Professional Development News: Learner Support

 “One of the best CPD courses I have ever been involved in.” Participant Evaluator, vMCB Pilot, June 2013.

vmcb logo for blogManaging Challenging Behaviour (vMCB) is a new course delivered entirely online using a combination of live, interactive classroom sessions and on-going coursework.

If you’ve ever wondered how psychological theory informs the practical, day-to-day strategies used to manage behaviour – this is the course for you!

Aimed at learning facilitators from a range of support settings, (e.g. learning assistants, mentors, teaching staff, employability coaches) the course costs £270 and is delivered over 9 sessions for a period of 3 months.

The next scheduled vMCB course starts in January 2014, but may be available sooner if you have a group of employees or colleagues ready to start.

vESW_logoIf you can’t wait till January to begin eLearning with BRITE, how about starting with our course Educational Support Workers: Professionalism in Practice (vESW) which runs Sept-Dec 2013?

vESW is a practical course, suitable for professionals who are involved in facilitating learning for individuals with additional support needs. The first vESW session is on 17th September 2013, so if you intend to apply for this course, act now!

By completing both these courses, you achieve a Professional Development Award in Learner Support, accredited by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. Apply now at

DART2 Workshop 1: Assessment for Assistive Technology

Thanks to Margaret McKay, Inclusion Advisor at Jisc RSC Scotland, for this report on what happened at the first DART2 workshop in Scotland on February 7th 2013 at the College Development Network, which looked at assessment for assistive technology.


Selection of hardware at the Dart2 workshopThe first sessions were presented by Rohan Slaughter (Head of Technology at Beaumont College) and Mike Thrussell (Assistive Technology Coordinator at Henshaws College).

They spoke about the importance of assessment, highlighting the skills and knowledge required by assessors and the importance of working in partnership with other stakeholders (the learner, family, carers, health professionals and relevant others).

Margaret McKay of Jisc RSC Scotland highlighted theoretical perspectives that underpin the assessment process, and the importance of placing the student at the centre of the process in order to find the best fit between the learner and their environment.

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Guest Blog: Disseminating Assistive Roles and Technology

Margaret McKay, Inclusion Advisor at Jisc RSC Scotland, provides some background to the DART2 Project. Check back soon for Margaret’s overview of what happened at the first DART2 training event to take place in Scotland.

JISC Advance and Dart logosThe Disseminating Assistive Roles and Technology (DART2) Project is one of 33 initiatives funded by Jisc Advance FE and Skills Project.

Launched in response to the Government’s pledge to improve learning across the UK, DART2 provides free training for those involved in providing assistive technology support for disabled learners, and aims to create a culture of collaboration across post-16 learning providers in FE colleges in the UK.

This initiative, coordinated by a consortium of Independent Specialist Colleges is led by Beaumont College, National Star College and Henshaws College. It is also supported by NATSPEC (The Association of National Specialist Colleges), the College Development Network, and by the Jisc Regional Support Centres and Jisc Techdis.

The project aims to provide a partnership and collaborative approach to:

  • Improving Assistive Technology (AT) practice in the sector;
  • Enable the replication of the innovative Assistive Technologist role;
  • Produce Assistive Technology case studies for the sector.

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DART 2: free assistive technology training events

DART 2 (Disseminating Assistive Roles and Technology 2) is a JISC Advance funded project which aims to:

  • improve assistive technology practice in the further education sector
  • enable the replication of the innovative assistive technologist role
  • produce assistive technology case studies for the sector

In addition to an initiative providing ‘deep support’ to help specific colleges develop a high quality assistive technology service, DART 2 is working with partners to provide free training events across the UK, including three events hosted by the College Development Network in Stirling, Scotland:

Assessment for Assistive Technology: 7th February 2013 

Developing an Assistive Technology Role: 30th April 2013 

Learning more about specific Assistive Technology: 12th June 2013 

One of BRITE’s assistive technologists, and a regular contributer to the BRITE blog, Fil McIntyre, will be at the first event. While these events are free, booking is essential as places are limited (note that DART 2 events elsewhere in the UK have quickly become fully booked).

Managing challenging behaviour in a support setting

studentsLater this year, we’ll be launching a new course which has been developed with input from educational psychologists. The unit is designed to enable learning facilitators/assistants to better manage the behaviour of learners within a support setting, through the understanding of types of behaviour and influences within the learning environment.

This accredited course may be studied either as a standalone unit, or as part of a professional development award in Learner Support. Register your interest now at to receive notifications of start dates and fees, as they’re announced.

Have your say by letting us know your key concerns regarding behavior, either in confidence by email to the lead course developer, or more generally, in the comments section here (removing identifying information as appropriate).

Training opportunities for Communication Support Workers and Educational Interpreters

nated logoPersonal Development session for Classroom Assistants/Communication Support Workers using British Sign Language to support D/deaf students

Saturday 2nd February 2013 9.30am – 4.30pm at The Hub, Deaf Links in Dundee city centre £35 for Non Members (£25 for Nated Members)

Nated Scotland has designed this 1 day workshop specifically for people who work as CSWs and Educational Interpreters within further and higher education settings.

Participants will have the opportunity to evaluate what they do day-to-day in a non-judgmental, supportive environment. By discussing dilemmas, coping strategies and complexities of the job, your knowledge and awareness of the job will increase and you will leave the session with tools you can use in your own workplace.

To book your place, email or any of the other NATED Scotland Committee members. Contact details for the committee and more information about the content of the workshop can be found at

“It gives much-deserved recognition to a very challenging role”

Our SQA-accredited course Educational Support Worker: Professionalism in Practice begins in October.

Due to a high uptake of our offer to deliver the course in-house to specific institutions, there are no places available on the face-to-face version of the course.

However, individuals are welcome to apply for the remaining places on the virtual version of the course: vESW. Choose this option, and along with the convenience and flexibility of studying online, you’ll achieve exactly the same qualification as those attending in person.

Still not sure if vESW for you? Here’s what a previous participant had to say…

My experience in participating on the vESW course was positive. I really enjoyed the activities and discussions without it eating too much into my working day.

All of the online sessions were very well organised and informative. The main highlight for me was the self reflection. Very rarely to do you get the chance to actually reflect on your role and what works well or could be even better.

Also, the course created a platform that allowed you to exchange experiences with others. I have made changes to the way I work with students and what I would advise others. I found the note taking and proofreading of particular benefit.

The course improved my confidence and most definitely added value to my role. Thank you BRITE for creating the opportunity to gain a qualification that is specific to this role that encourages, outlines and promotes good practice and high standards. It gives much-deserved recognition to a very challenging role.

Find out more about the course and apply online on our website.

Thanks to Julie McHoul for giving us permission to share her feedback. Julie participated in vESW during the 2011/2012 session. She works at Ayr College where she is an Education Support Advisor.