The John Wheatley Learning Network
has existed, expanded and developed since its original foundation in 2002 as the Greater Easterhouse Learning Network, now extending beyond north east Glasgow, with a new learning centre opened recently in Linkes, Knightswood.
The Network supports approximately 7,000 people each year in free Internet access and the use of College standard PCs, software, security and account services, providing portability of accounts, email and files from main campus to local neighbourhood centres.
The Network comprises 30 community learning centres and three main campus progression hubs, providing a variety of access points supporting the needs of diverse communities.
Learning centre hosts include community centres, youth services, services for people experiencing homelessness, services for people recovering from problem drug use and services for familes.
The Network supports, through its host partners, a variety of digital inclusion services depending on partner services including:
- staff or volunteer support for drop-in access to the Internet and Office software;
- employability and work club services;
- access to the College's Wider Access tutor-supported flexible learning programme;
- access to the College's Youth Access evening and weekend youth service for young people aged 12-17; and
- use by host partners for their own community support purposes.
The Network uses a combination of wireless and BT Infinity connections to include learning centres in the College's network, sharing the College's firewall, URL filtering, Moodle, email, storage and software services.
Learning Centre hosts are able to enrol local residents and create College user accounts for them, enabling users to gain the same experience and access to email and files wherever they log in in community learning centres or in any facility in the main College campuses, including the three main campus progression flexible learning hubs.
who is it aimed at?
Local residents and service users
how is it funded?
Capital costs for establishing new or refurbishing existing centres have for the last two years mostly been contributed by the Wheatley Group (160 Club, Ashgill Recreational Centre, BCLC, Carmyle Community Centre, Enterprise Centre (with Glasgow Community Safety Services), Linkes, Lodging House Mission, Maryhill Hub, Ruchazie Parish Church (with SCVO support), Townhead Village Hall). In addition, within the last couple of years, Fuse Youth Café obtained funds to re-equip its centre; Wallacewell Community Fellowship obtained the funds required to support the Oasis at Wallacewell centre and Shettleston Housing Association supported the Shettleston Men's Shed to gain funding to create its centre.
Revenue costs are provided by Glasgow Kelvin College and Glasgow City Council Community Planning Partnership, with additional support from GHA in the north east of Glasgow (the learning network underpins the North East Learning Programme) with additional support for the College to cover a wider area from GHA. GHA's original support was for the Youth Access programme which supports young people's digital inclusion, but recently this has become general support for the Learning Network.
Learning Centre hosts pay for electricity and paper for printing.
housing organisation resources provided
Some housing organisations provide support to learning centre host services.
As noted above, the Wheatley Group has invested substantially in the learning network over the last couple of years.
what partners are involved?
in addition to the strategic partners Glasgow Kelvin College, Glasgow City Council and the Wheatley Group, the community learning centre partners are:
- 160 Club
- Ashgill Recreation Centre - Glasgow Community Safety Services
- Bridge Flexible Learning Centre - Glasgow Kelvin College
- Bridgeton Community learning Campus - Bridgeton Community Learning Campus
- Calvay Centre - Calvay Housing Association
- Carmyle Community Centre - Carmyle Community Centre Association
- Castlemilk Library - Glasgow Life
- Connie - Connect Community Trust
- Cranhill Community Centre - Glasgow Life
- Cranhill Community Project - Cranhill Development Trust
- East End Campus Flexible Learning - Glasgow Kelvin College
- F.A.R.E. - F.A.R.E.
- FUSE Youth Café - Fuse Youth Café
- G31 Learning Centre - West of Scotland Housing Association
- Garthamlock Community Shop - Garthamlock Community Shop
- Glenburn Centre - Easthall Park Housing Cooperative
- Helenvale Tenants Hall - Helenvale Tenants Association
- the Hub Learning Centre - Connect Community Trust
- Innerzone - Connect Community Trust
- Linkes - Linkes
- Lodging House Mission - Lodging House Mission
- Martin King Learning Centre - New Horizon (Social Work)
- Maryhill Hub - Glasgow Community Safety Services
- Oasis at Wallacewell - Oasis Fellowship
- Pavillion Learning Centre - Pavillion
- Quarriers Family Resource Centre - Quarriers
- Ruchazie Community Centre - Glasgow Life
- Ruchazie Parish Church - Ruchazie Parish Church and Cranhill Development Trust
- Sandyhills Tenants Hall - GHA
- Shettleston Men's Shed - Shettleston Men's Shed and Shettleston Housing Association
- Springburn Campus Flexible Learning Centre - Glasgow Kelvin CollegeTollcross Advice and Learning Centre - Tollcross Housing Association
- Townhead Village Hall Learning Centre - Townhead Village Hall
Connectivity: The network arose to combat digital exclusion in Easterhouse, which was both an issue in terms of affordability and in terms of the availability of broadband to the area. 14 years later, some areas are still only just now getting broadband services. Some learning centres are connected, to overcome this problem, by wireless connections which tend to get only about 7mbs. As broadband is rolled out, it's now possible to connect learning centres through BT Infinity, which costs a little more than the maintenance on the wireless equipment, but which delivers better service and greater bandwidth.
Capital costs: the costs of establishing a learning centre are significant, including furnishing, structured cabling, PCs and connectivity, and normally require support from more than one party. Further, funding to replace older PCs has not been readily available in recent years.
Staffing: the learning network's learning centres are not College satellite centres - the learning centres belong to the host organisations and the majority of digital inclusion services are provided by host staff and volunteers, which limits regular opening times and make the service subject to staff and volunteer availability.
Sustainability: many of the learning centre hosts are vulnerable to the impact of 'austerity' policies and digital inclusion services can decline if the host organisation experiences overall funding cuts.
Partnerships: partnerships are essential to supporting digital inclusion and are not difficult to develop because digital inclusion supports all other inclusion. As with any other partnership, a key to successfully developing is to recognise common interests and complementary strengths but the most important perquisite for digital inclusion and any other partnership is confirmation of common values. There are no formal partnership agreements between the College and the host organisations, but annually, progress towards targets is reviewed in partnership and new ones agreed.
Flexibility: if space permits it, maximum flexibility is gained by a fixed PC installation ready for people to use as needed without setup, although more flexible access to the digital world can be achieved with mobile devices including laptops. In addition, large screen fixed installations with full sized keyboards are better for people with visual impairments.
Online safety: users are reassured if software such as DeepFreeze is deployed to wipe temporary files and it's explained that all their documents saved to the PC are similarly wiped to protect personal data (this requires explanation that files should be saved to cloud or USB storage).
Sarah Barnes, Learning Network Partnership Officer, Glasgow Kelvin College firstname.lastname@example.org
Craig Green, Head of Community and Information Services, Glasgow Kelvin College email@example.com