We’re 18 months into the Advantaged Thinking Learning Community programme. Where are we up to and what are our hopes for the future? Read on to find out more and how you could get involved! 

What is the Advantaged Thinking Learning Community? 

The project aims to create a dynamic learning environment shaped by the Advantaged Thinking Foyer community and available to all young people entering Foyers across the UK. The online platform will provide an environment for young people to thrive, with space for collaboration, learning and personal development in a supportive community they can help to build. 

We hope young people will not only complete learning on the platform, but feel empowered to create content too, taking ownership of their own progress and becoming active participants in the community. The long-term aim of the project is to build a national network of chapters, similar to a student union, where young people can come together, share experiences, and support each other in their personal, educational and career journeys.

There will also be space for staff learning too, with courses specifically designed for this audience. 

Examples of the types of courses under development:

  • Practical support guides, e.g. how to use washing machines on site
  • Foyer welcome booklets and virtual tours
  • Mental health and wellbeing courses
  • Advantaged Thinking learning modules

What has been the project's progress so far? 

The programme began with consulting young people and Foyers across our network to understand what they wanted from a learning platform, and how they would like to be involved in shaping the process. This consultation directly created the aims and ambitions above. We’ve been cheered by the level of enthusiasm and engagement from young people, including from a group of single mothers who came to the meeting with their babies and toddlers. The consultations led to forming a Leadership Team of engaged Foyers who meet monthly as a steering group. This allows accountability and feedback on progress, as well as giving Foyers overall decision making power over the content that’s right for them.

One of the most important things to consider was which learning platform would work best for the community. After an extensive shortlisting and demonstration phase, the Leadership Team chose Totara, which allows a flexible interactive platform, accessible on mobile, tablet or laptop, with space for collaboration as well as learning. From there we’ve set up the platform and have been adding the first courses, starting with eight Advantaged Thinking Units aimed at staff. 

Have there been any challenges so far? 

Yes, for sure. The manager of the programme, Ashraf, has moved on from The Foyer Federation to pastures new. However the handover of the project to Ella as the new programme lead has been an opportunity to take stock and look at the learning community with a fresh pair of eyes. 

On occasion we encountered barriers to using new technology and we’ve tried to overcome these by offering laptops to engaged Foyers, as well as supporting upskilling young people and staff to use Totara. Additionally, finding a balance between efficiency and community engagement is a challenge, as it can be tempting to prioritise content creation without involving young people in decision-making processes because it’s quicker. However, although it takes longer to create, we’ve learned that involving young people and staff in the creation process provides richer, more relevant content.

So what’s next? 

We’ll continue to support the Leadership Team with their skills in using the platform, through online tutorials, courses and in person meetings. We hope this will result in the first young people and Foyer authored courses being added in the coming months. The Foyer Federation will also work with young consultants directly to create and add their own learning materials, as well as exploring how the impact of the programme can be measured through the platform itself. Most importantly, we want more of our network Foyers to start using The Advantaged Thinking Learning Community and will start to explore a plan for wider engagement beyond the Leadership Team. 

How can you get involved? 

All staff and young people in the Foyer Federation network are welcome to join the ATLC Leadership Team and help shape the future of the platform. If you’re interested in joining our Leadership Team and understanding how to add your own courses to the platform, please contact [email protected]

The Foyer Federation is registered in England and Wales under company number 2699839 at Work.Life, Core Building, 30 Brown Street, Manchester, M2 1DH. The charity is registered under charity number 1040482.
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