training opportunities

Using Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Virtual Reality or VR as it’s known is taking the world by storm. Along with augmented reality it can make the classroom a much more interesting place. With the Escola project in mind we were keen to find out how this would help engineering students.

Dr Jacqueline Thomas, a humanitarian engineering lecturer at University of Sydney, said Virtual Reality is especially useful for disciplines where, due to safety concerns or practicality reasons, it’s hard to give students hands-on experience.

“Construction engineers are using VR to do site inspections. Chemical engineers can use it to conduct experiments and observe chemical reactions at a much closer range than they would normally be able to.”

We looked at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota to find out more about their use of virtual reality. The university embraced technology and feel that this helps faculty and students stay ahead of the curve.

STELAR: the St. Thomas eLearning and Research Center, is digitally connected, and technically-outfitted with interactive touch screens, video conferencing, etc. The center supports the movement toward online and blended degrees, while aiding faculty in their research. In STELAR’s Emerging Technology Showcase, faculty can start envisioning – and using – the classrooms of the future.

Students at the university use Virtual Reality by capturing 360⁰ images on site, and of their projects, that can be stitched together into a VR experience. 

STELAR’s Active Learning Classroom includes monitors and whiteboards on every wall, group seating rather than rows of desks. This makes learning much more interactive and encourages a collaborative way of education.

To find out more about the Escola Project and to take the free online course please visit the website.

5 Interesting Apps and Tools for Engineering Students

With the Escola Project in mind we’ve been researching apps and websites designed for engineering students. Instead of having to carry bulky books, engineering students can now take advantage of the multiple apps and tools available. 

We’ve taken a look at some of the apps and tools that might be of interest :

Engineering Unit Converter
This is a comprehensive engineering unit converter with an intuitive spinning wheel interface. There is no ad, no hidden code, no need for a network connection, and the total size is about half a megabyte. 

Not an app but a really cool website. Instructables is a community for people who like to make things. You can explore, share, and make your next project with them. You will be inspired by this one.

Wolfram Alpha
A very user friendly app, this one has been compared to Wikipedia for engineering students. Students input questions relevant to their field of study and the Alpha gives you the answer.

This app is designed specifically for use by Electrical engineering and electronics student. The app serves as a database for electronic tools and references which can be used by students looking to learn or practicing engineers searching for immediate information when solving problems.

RealCalc Plus
RealCalc Plus is designed to look and operate exactly like a real hand-held calculator. It has all the standard scientific functions plus fractions, degrees/minutes/seconds, history, memories, unit conversions and constants. You can choose from a number of display styles and formats. It also supports binary, octal and hexadecimal calculations and has an optional RPN mode. 

If you have any suggestions for great apps or tools for engineers just let us know.

To find out more about the Escola Project and take the free, online course please visit the website.

The New Data Set VET Guide to Data Skills Development


In today’s digital, connected world, the savviness with which entrepreneurs employ information and communication technologies is essential to competitiveness. However, while digital communication skills have improved across the population generally, the ability to leverage information, especially data, is still underdeveloped. This is a lost opportunity: the volume of data that business owners have access to has grown exponentially and if “big” data is turned into actionable “smart” data, it can drive productivity, innovation and growth.

The EU states that “data-driven business models are the engine of Europe’s growth, industrial transformation and job creation”, which is part of its commitment to the digitalization of the economy.

One of the benefits is that businesses responding to smart data can improve products and services, which would, in turn, generate economic growth while contributing to social progress. However, micro-enterprises and SMEs, which make up 99% of businesses, still lag in digital technologies. Micro-enterprises and SMEs must develop data skills or risk being uncompetitive if the European economy is to flourish.

Nevertheless, there is an obstacle: today’s entrepreneurship teachers and trainers also face a data skills deficit. The majority entered the workforce before big data existed and there is currently no reliable source of training to help them boost their own skills. Prior to the start of the Data set project, East Belfast Enterprise conducted a small survey across 28 Local Enterprise Agencies in the Enterprise NI Network which found that “52% of business advisors said they were completely unaware of the range of data that is available and 70% rated their own knowledge of data skills as poor.”

About the VET Guide

The objective of the Guide is to raise awareness regarding the value of data skills for current and future entrepreneurs and increase knowledge of what contemporary data skills are and how they can be taught.

The Guide presents a comprehensive introduction to the role of data skills in VET and includes the results of a data skills survey, outlining the current skills and skills deficits of business trainers and advisors in participating countries, a review of the policy environment regarding data skills for entrepreneurs and data skills education, at both EU and national and regional level and an introduction to strategies for teaching data skills to entrepreneurs, including best practice examples and testimonies.

Needs Analysis Assessment

The basis of the VET Guide is a needs assessment, which is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or “gaps” between current conditions and desired conditions or “wants” of a specific group. The chosen method for conducting the Data Skills Needs of Business Trainers and Advisors in Ireland, Northern Ireland/UK, Spain, Netherlands and Denmark was an Internet survey. This method was selected because it allows for a more diverse survey sample as survey link was widely shared online, it is a low-cost, fast and efficient method and the extensive networks of the partners allowed for a ready-made pool of participants.

The survey was made up of 12 short questions, it had a 100% completion rate and it was completed by 33 Business Advisors from 5 countries (Ireland, Northern Ireland/UK, Spain, Netherlands and Denmark).

Needs Analysis Survey Results

Data Skills proficiency is quite low among business advisors, with only 21% of those surveyed feeling their skills are proficient.

The acquisition of Data Skills is of great importance to business advisors. 81% of those surveyed indicated that they would be interested in receiving/accessing free training and/or practical resources that they could use to teach entrepreneurs and SME owners about applicable data skills to their businesses.

Business Advisors today favour a Hands-On approach to providing business support, therefore, our data set materials should be very practical in nature and be solution-oriented.

Five key areas were identified where business advisors need upskilling with regard to digital skills and also 5 key areas which are particularly relevant for SME’s  – these are ranked in order of importance in the table below:

Data Skills for Business Advisors Data Skills for SME’s and Business Owners
Data/Information Analysis Application of Data to solve problems/inform business ideas
Reporting Skills Communication Skills
Application of Data to solve problems/inform business ideas Data/Information Analysis
Data Collection Creative Thinking  
Technical/Digital Skills Technical/Digital Skills

The VET Guide also includes a section that goes in-depth with regard to the Policy Environment regarding Data Skills for Entrepreneurs and Data Skills Education in the UK, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, as well as a section dedicated to Strategies for Teaching Data Skills to Entrepreneurs.

The main goals of the VET Guide to Data Skills Development are to raise awareness of the value of data skills for business advisors and entrepreneurs and approaches for the delivery of data skills training and to lay the foundation for the data set Open Education Resources, which will consist of a curriculum, trainers’ guide and suite of interactive online learning materials which will enable teachers and trainers to enhance entrepreneurs’ data skills in classroom and small group training as well as for the data set Online Course, which will consist of a multilingual, interactive learning course in which entrepreneurs at all stages of entrepreneurial activity can learn more and put data skills into practice.

More detailed information regarding the findings of the online survey is available in the VET Guide, which can be accessed in its entirety on the project website.

Hosting our first KA1 Study Visit

It was our great pleasure to host of very first Erasmus KA1 study visit recently. We welcomed Yalcin, Akif, Metin, Murat and Alp, 5 teachers/trainers from Tuzla in Turkey for a weeks training. The course was entitled ICT Professional Development Programme for Teachers, a topic which I absolutely love!

During the course of the week, we had a lot of practical workshops where the guys tried and tested some of my favourite digital teaching tools including: Nearpod, Kahoot, TedEd , Popplet, Camtasia, Webinarninja and many more.

Being secondary school teachers, it became clear that the topic of online citizenship, safety and security were very topical to them so I took the opportunity to get the guys to test our Empower course curriculum on Nearpod. Their feedback was very valuable and interesting to hear.

We also looked at some innovative teaching pedagogies that work will digital teaching and learning such as learner centred approached, gamification, flipped classroom, collaborative and peer learning, teachback and micro-learning.

As well as all this work, we found a few brief opportunities to show our visitors around lovely Leitrim – they feel absolutely in love with the place and by the end of the week they found themselves becoming #Leitrimambassadors.



Join us for the launch of our International Student Entrepreneurship Programme

I-STEP is short for International Student Entrepreneurship Programme. The project aims to enhance international entrepreneurial skills and attitude of teachers and students in VET by creating an international dimension to entrepreneurship programmes and strengthening the local and European (business) network.


A truly international curriculum benefits all students because it calls on everyone to apply a wider perspective, combining the local with the global. It is widely accepted that students need to develop the skills and attributes that will enable them to operate effectively in a global market, therefore those in the VET community need to equip them with the ability to work across borders, both physical and virtual.


12.30 – 1pm Registration • Registration with light lunch
1.30 pm What the i-Step Erasmus + project has achieved?
2 pm Interactive demonstration of the I-Step community platform
3pm Guest speakers
4-5pm Contributions from attendees • Discussion groups x 3 Round table discussions • Open forum of Q&A
5pm Refreshments, Networking and Photocall
Reserve your place at this event – email Orla