Blackburn Rovers Sports College: from presentation to education with the ActivPanel

Published: March 24th, 2023

Blackburn Rovers Sports College specialises in delivering business and sports courses for young people aged 16-24 who are not in employment, education, or training. The charity-run college provides a variety of further and higher education courses, including Levels 1, 2, and 3 Business and Technology Education Council courses and university-level education in partnership with the University of South Wales. The college is fully committed to providing the highest quality programme of grassroots football, education, inclusion initiatives, and awareness projects to encourage off-field participation and success.

To support their approach to learning, the college has been on a journey to enhance teaching with technology. As one of the early adopters of interactive whiteboards, the college had previously benefited from interactivity in lessons. However, when the time came for the boards to be replaced, the college decided to install large format TV screens. This decision was grounded in the belief that these screens would be sufficient to deliver lessons created in PowerPoint.

Once lecturers started using the TV screens, it quickly became apparent that the lack of interactivity was having a negative impact on students’ learning experiences. Reduced attention, low motivation, and poor engagement led the college to revisit its technology selection. Recognising that a return to interactivity was needed, the college upgraded to Promethean’s market-leading ActivPanel.

Much more than a display screen

“Presentation is not education,” explained Ockert Erasmus, head of higher and further education at Blackburn Rovers Sports College. “The TV screens facilitated nothing more than say and display. We thought using PowerPoint meant that we only needed a display screen, but we were wrong.”

Since bringing the ActivPanel into lessons, lecturers have found students are more motivated and far more engaged with curriculum content. “The ActivPanel has hugely boosted student involvement, which is especially important for sports education,” continued Erasmus. “Students learn best from a hands-on approach, and the ActivPanel enables us to better engage them by creating an active learning experience.”

After completing initial orientation sessions, lecturers were confident to explore using the ActivPanel in a range of teaching scenarios. “We got to grips with the basics in no time and were impressed by how easy the ActivPanel was to use,” Erasmus added. “It makes lesson delivery effortless.”

Putting a new perspective on PowerPoint

With a suite of in-built apps, the ActivPanel makes it easy to enhance existing PowerPoint resources. For example, lecturers can annotate over presentations and resources to emphasise and illustrate key points. “Using a football pitch diagram found online, I’ve drawn different methods of play directly onto the image and invited students up to the panel to share how they might have approached it instead,” explained Erasmus. “It’s great for getting the students involved, developing their understanding, and stimulating group discussion.”

This live interaction removes the need to use printouts, saves paper, reduces costs, and makes teaching more dynamic. Beyond that, the annotated content can be saved directly to the college’s Microsoft™ 365 network, enabling lecturers to easily access files in future lessons.

As the teaching team develops in confidence and skills, they’re excited to progress their use of more advanced functionality. Looking forward, Erasmus is planning to bring in the use of video. “We know it’s possible to play recordings of real games, take screenshots, drop these in the Whiteboard app, and then annotate the content,” said Erasmus. “This will enable us to deconstruct actual games as opposed to just using theoretical plays.”

With the lecturers growing in confidence and developing ActivPanel best practices, the wider potential to support remote and hybrid learning has become apparent. “We really wish we’d had this technology during COVID,” Erasmus added. “We would have been much better equipped to support remote learning.”

In a relatively short space of time, the college has succeeded in a return to truly collaborative learning, powered by the ActivPanel. As a lecturer who has been there for every stage of the college’s technology journey, Erasmus believes they now have a solid foundation from which to continually improve. “We have the right tools for modern teaching, which means lessons resonate with our digitally minded students,” he said. “We’re back to where we need to be. Education, not presentation.”