An Cosán Virtual Community College (VCC), an innovative education initiative which aims to increase access to further and higher education nationwide, and address social inequality through online and mobile technology, recently honoured their latest graduates.
The presentation of Awards for the Class of 2016/17 took place at a special event in St Catherine’s Church Thomas Street last Saturday (25th).
VCC caters for adult learners who have not benefitted from mainstream education, and for those who wish to continue their education in an accessible and affordable way.
Its unique model of blended learning leverages the latest technologies, combining a virtual classroom, online live lectures with independent activities, assignments and face-to-face sessions in community partner settings.
These technology-enhanced community hubs – urban and rural – are spread across the country.
Thirty-four students attended the awards representing a total of 167 students from across Ireland who engaged in education last year.
These students represent VCC learning communities in Limerick, Longford, Wicklow, Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Laois, Derry, Donegal & Mayo.
The programmes awarded on the day include both introduction and higher education accredited (QQI level 6 & 7) programmes.
Topics covered included Introduction to Community Development, Introduction to Community Drugs Work, Learning to Learn at Third Level, Community Leadership, Transformative Community Education, Citizenship and Social Action, and Introduction to Social Enterprise Development.
In attendance on the day included Guest Speakers Professor Judith Harford, Director, Professional Master of Education, University College Dublin, Joe Collins, Head of Faculty, Lifelong Learning, Institute of Technology, Carlow.
Speaking at the Awards event, CEO of An Cosán VCC, Liz Waters said:
“I stand here in recognition of your achievements and steps back into further and higher education.
“This lights my life when I know we have students being supported right across the country.
“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.”
“This was the dream that has been cherished by the two women who co-founded this organisation.
“I want to acknowledge the work of our co-founders Dr Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan who sadly passed away earlier this year.
“Their dream and their vision that education is something that enables us to dream of what ought to be at a personal, at a political and at a spiritual level. This was their dream that they started out in West Tallaght and I think they would be so proud today so see that dream shared right across Ireland.”
Liz went on to recognise the organisations that have helped along the way and continue to provide wonderful support.
“The Family Resources Centres, the ETB’s and the Partnership Companies and other social enterprises that work in community partnership with us right across the country.
“This dream which has come to life for our organisation, could not happen without the support of our collaborative partnership with IT Carlow.
“They are creative, supportive and walk that extra mile because their commitment is aligned to ours to make higher education available right across Ireland to communities who do not have access.”
Speaking at the event, Joe Collins, Head of Faculty, Lifelong Learning Carlow IT said:
“We are very proud to validate the work of An Cosán because together we share a set of values that enables us to build a society which is at its core both ethical and inclusive.
”You have the knowledge and the capacity to make a difference in your workplace, your communities, your society and the broader world.
“Your education should foster a sense of courage and confidence so that you can speak out when you see something wrong or see a better way of doing things.
“Your education should help you to reach out to those who are disadvantaged enabling them to turn new corners, find better pathways and emerge from the shadows of exclusion into futures of new possibilities and fulfilled potential.
“To date, more than 700 students have engaged with VCC. For many student’s it was their first experience of both higher education and blended online learning.”
VCC offers a range of introductory, further and higher education courses, including Learning to Learn at Third Level, Community Leadership, Citizenship and Social Action & Transformative Community Education and since September are now enrolling students on a yearlong Certificate in Leadership and Community development and Certificate in Addiction Studies and Community Development which offer progression paths to a BA Degree Awards.
All of the higher education courses are accredited by IT Carlow, VCC’s third level collaborative partner.
VCC is supported by corporate partners: ESB shares VCC’s vision to improve access to education in communities across Ireland; Three Ireland offers its core business and employee skillset to help develop VCC’s mobile learning capability; Social Innovation Fund Ireland provide funding and supports through the Education Fund; City & Guilds Foundation will fund the roll-out of a Social Enterprise and Leadership programme aimed at women disadvantaged through unemployment and lack of access to further or higher education; Accenture and Versari provide support, advice and mentorship.
VCC are currently enrolling for programmes starting in January 2018. To Register or find out more information about any of the programmes email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01 5341847.
For more information, visit: www.ancosanvcc.com.