The future of online education? Meet the Yorkshire College thriving during lockdown
The top choice for budding singers, dancers, actors and creatives in the North of England, CAPA College is home to over 250 of the country’s most promising young stars. As Wakefield’s first DfE-funded Free School, CAPA College provides specialist education and training in various aspects of media and the theatrical arts for students aged 16-19 with alumni going on to star on the West End stage, appear in Hollywood movies and become the next generation of directors, designers and technicians. But while the studios of the College’s multi-site campus are usually alive with a sea of leotards and ballet shoes, recently it has been a different story.
Like schools, colleges and universities up and down the country, CAPA College closed its doors on Friday 20th March. In the uncertainty of coronavirus students not only faced a summer term with no exams, they were also denied the opportunity to showcase their recent artistic creations, develop their all-important portfolios and broaden their training in this highly competitive industry. But when one door closes, another one opens. While other educators scrambled to find online resources and create remote learning packs, CAPA College was already ready to power up its online campus.
Since opening its doors in 2018 CAPA College has invested heavily in technology and its digital infrastructure. The College is proudly paper free and operates a ‘Bring Your Own’ device policy for lessons, while making a range of technical equipment from laptops to cameras, microphones and drones freely available. With the structure of systems like Office 365, RingCentral and Dropbox, students enrolled across the four pathways (Dance, Drama, Musical Theatre and Production Arts & Media) are used to creating digital notebooks, submitting their work and receiving feedback online and accessing the latest e-learning resources.
Eddie Copp, Artistic Director of CAPA College, says ‘The use of technology in education is extremely important. We strive to ensure our students have access to the latest equipment and are kept up to date with advancements in the industry. Whether they are learning to tech a show with lighting, sound and costume or simply market themselves online, these digital tools are vital to kickstart a professional career.’
With an award-winning team of teachers, directors, choreographers and dramaturgs at the helm, lockdown proved to be a mere stumbling block for this innovative College. With laptops issued on long-term loans, in a matter of days students were taking part in lessons from the new virtual campus. CAPA College now offers a full remote learning timetable with live streamed classes, active participation dance, drama and singing workshops, collaborative digital projects and face to face tutorials for ongoing pastoral support. Covering everything from ensemble singing and devising to ballet, Fosse and jazz, these interactive lessons ensure students can continue with their artistic studies in these uncertain times.
The response to CAPA College’s virtual learning has been phenomenal with an average 96% daily attendance and many students logging on to take advantage of the College’s extra Easter timetable which was offered to provide some stability during lockdown. Parents have been quick to express their support for the College:
‘I am in awe at what your staff have managed to achieve in such a short timeframe. The level of professionalism and enthusiasm is inspiring, and if the impact you have made on my daughter is replicated across your student base, you are not only taking care of their educational needs, you are providing them with a motivational lifeline to carry them through these troubled times.’
Teaching and learning continues to develop at CAPA College in spite of the pandemic. This week the College invested in two additional cloud-based applications, Soundtrap and WeVideo, to allow students to record, upload and share their own media online. And of course, the show must go on. This term students will create and perform their own original choreography, theatre and digital media from their own homes. It is not necessary to tread the boards to create new and inspiring works and CAPA College has fully embraced the fact that lockdown provides a unique opportunity for its students to think creatively about their Art.
CAPA College has also kickstarted an exciting new programme of masterclasses with guest workshops being delivered remotely by acclaimed national and international artists. Starting with National Theatre and New Vic Theatre Director Joe Hancock and West End performer Lisa Mathieson, award-winning creatives from Mississippi, Holland, Belgium and beyond will be delivering exclusive content in the upcoming weeks. Students have taken to social media to share their enthusiasm for the new virtual CAPA College:
‘Wow @CAPACOLLEGE you amaze me! Not only providing theory lessons but also practical. Thank you for pushing us as much as you normally do’
‘Loving virtual @CAPACOLLEGE. We may not be in those studios, but I am forever grateful we are still getting the same opportunities from home!’
With their refreshing approach to online learning CAPA College are not only ensuring that their students are not disadvantaged by the current pandemic, they are equipping them with the skills to flourish in the new digital world. Armed with an impressive portfolio, a can-do attitude and an understanding of the very latest trends and developments in the field, it is not surprising that many second year students have already received offers from the best Arts universities and conservatoires in the UK.