Seafarers taking courses at South Shields Marine School have been buoyed by the introduction of new technology to help them beat the coronavirus pandemic.
Those from as far afield as the Middle East and India are now able to access high-quality lessons online – ensuring lecturers can continue to deliver key learning all year round.
While many have returned to the classroom, lessons are being filmed and posted online to a global audience, via the Microsoft Teams platform.
It means those currently unable to travel to the UK and to the marine school – the world’s oldest purpose-built maritime training centre - can still take part in lectures.
The blend of onsite and remote learning is working so well that some home nations students are also accessing sessions from the comfort of their own home.
The move online has also opened up a world of opportunity for more experienced hands who are seeking to update their skills and qualifications.
Jon Milner, Head of School – Deck Officer Certification at South Shields Marine School, said those learners were also among those switching to learning via Teams.
He said: “When lockdown began, we had to look to the horizon of opportunity to create a new template of instruction.
“At first, we were unsure exactly how we would be affected, but we knew there would remain a demand for our teaching.
“The maritime sector is resilient and innovative, and global trade relies on the uptake of high-level skills that new recruits and experienced seafarers gain at this college and others like it.
“It is to the great credit of everyone involved in the teaching and technical side of our work that we have adapted so well to the challenges of implementing distance learning.
“Some students are onsite at the marine school and taking part in lessons as normal, but others currently prefer to take part in learning from a distance.”
Jon added: “There are limitations to what we can achieve online and some training has been rescheduled for a time when all our students can be onsite with us.
“But we have adapted very well - we may find we maintain and improve remote learning even when the pandemic subsides.
“I’m delighted that this great maritime training centre has been able to adapt so well and is still training mariners from all corners of the world.
“We’re doing great, but like many people, I’m looking for forward to the day our classrooms and simulators are operating at pre-lockdown levels.”
Workshop and classroom teaching is carefully planned so that each session is filmed and made available online, creating a responsive ‘virtual’ learning environment.
Cadets unable to make it in to the marine school can participate ‘live’, adding their input as the lesson progresses, or can catch up later via the internet.
This method of new learning has also overcome any time lapse problems for those from other shores who may be running on a different body clock.
One recognised downside is that trainees not physically at the marine school cannot access learning on its state-of-the-art bridge and engine room simulators which recreate life at sea.
Instead, course calendars have been adapted so that learning takes place later in their course.
The marine school, in Grosvenor Road, is recruiting and information is available on our website here or by calling 0191 427 3517.