THE College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) delivers an extensive range of education programmes to 1,700 full and part-time students across its discipline areas of agriculture, equine, food and horticulture.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic required CAFRE to rapidly implement new, innovative online learning methods to ensure that its education programmes could continue remotely.
James O’Boyle, Head of Education Service, explained that the college had adapted swiftly and effectively from a position of face-to-face teaching on campus to one of remote delivery of its courses directly into students’ homes. “CAFRE students were already familiar with CAFRE Online, our Virtual Learning Environment, before Covid restrictions were put in place; however, it has rapidly become the principal technology enhanced learning vehicle that we are using to ensure the ongoing delivery of our programmes,” he said.
Commenting on the recent review by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) of CAFRE’s online provision, James continued: “We are pleased that the expertise of our staff, the agility of our transition to remote teaching and the high levels of engagement by our students in their online classes has been recognised by the Education and Training Inspectorate. The January 2021 report is a reflection of the high quality of CAFRE’s teaching across all its subject areas.”
Despite not being able to deliver on-campus classes and practicals, CAFRE was commended on the professionalism of its staff, the engaging content of its programmes and the approach taken by the college in the care and welfare of its students during this challenging period.
Shane McKinney, Head of Food Education at Loughry Campus, welcomed the review and the opportunities it has presented to further develop CAFRE’s approach to blended learning: “ETI’s review of our digital and online learning has helped us to identify and enhance particular elements of remote teaching that we can incorporate into our plans for the delivery of courses when we return to our campuses at Greenmount, Enniskillen and Loughry.
“As we move towards a position of being able to welcome students back for essential practical classes, we will make best use of face-to-face and remote teaching to ensure that our students continue to develop the knowledge and skills that make CAFRE graduates so sought after by employers.”
CAFRE has not only applied its digital skills to deliver teaching – the college has also run a series of subject and campus-focused virtual open events to allow potential applicants discover more about CAFRE courses, facilities and industry links.
Deirdre Cooper, Head of Student Recruitment, explained that the next series of virtual open events will start on Monday, March 22, and run for a full week covering all aspects of further and higher education courses: “Using the digital skills we have developed over the last year, our virtual open events will be streamed as DiscoverCAFRE on Facebook Live.”
Each event will be a mix of discussions with staff, videos and the opportunity to ask questions live on air. Further information about the virtual events is available on website www.cafre.ac.uk.
If you are interested in a career in agri-food and the land-based sector, be sure to join the virtual open events.
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