Students studying for the OCN Tour Guiding accredited qualification at Northern Regional College have been able to complete their studies and achieve a 100% success rate this week thanks to the power of technology.
Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the College put in place a series of measures to ensure that the 13 students at its Newtownabbey campus could complete their accreditation via online learning.
Travel and Tourism lecturer Karen McLeod explained: “Through practical and interactive sessions on Zoom, we have been able to ensure that all required learning outcomes are met – including understanding the role of a Tour Guide, the of planning routes, itineraries and evaluation, and the health and safety considerations of the role.”
Introduced in 2017, the OCN Tour Guiding qualification has been an important aspect of the Level 3 Extended Diploma Travel and Tourism (equivalent to three A-levels) curriculum at the College’s Newtownabbey and Ballymena campuses.
“We strive for vocational excellence in all of our courses at the College and, for our Level 3 Travel and Tourism students, achieving at Tour Guiding qualification is an important aspect of that, greatly enhancing their employability in the tourism industry,” Karen continued.
“This qualification will be especially relevant in the months ahead with people ‘staycationing’ and visiting local tourist attractions, perhaps even for the first time, rather than travelling abroad.”
The Tour Guiding course culminated in a final practical assessment, carried out this week using both Zoom and PowerPoints with voiceovers. Virtual tours delivered by the 13 students included the Giant’s Causeway, Carrickfergus Castle, Belfast City Hall, Mount Stewart, ‘Edinburgh by Night’ and the James Chaine Tour.
One of those students was Jakub Ziemiecki who presented a virtual tour of Belfast’s Linen Hall Library. “It was quite surreal, giving someone a tour via Zoom when neither of us was actually in the building,” he said, “but Karen had prepared us so well in advance, ensuring that we knew what to expect and how to do our best.”
Jakub, who is originally from Poland, said that his time at Northern Regional College studying for the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Travel and Tourism has had a “transformational impact” on his life.
“I arrived in Northern Ireland in 2013 not being able to speak a word of English and, seven years later, I am a distinction-level student,” he said. “So much of this is down to the incredible support and encouragement I have received during my time at Northern Regional College.
“My time at the College really has been amazing and it has changed me in so many positive ways. I used to be very shy, whereas now I am so much more confident – not only in terms of my English language skills, but also in my ability to interact with others and even to present in front of my class or an audience.
“The teachers in my school urged me to stay at school to study for AS and A-levels, saying that I wouldn’t receive the same level of support at a College, but nothing could be further from the truth. My tutors couldn’t have done more to help me.
“Going to College and pursuing the Level 3 Tourism and Travel qualification was absolutely the right choice for me. I’m moving on now to university having gained so much valuable knowledge and employability skills that I know will carry me well into my career into the future.”
Jakub hopes to become a travel writer and has accepted an offer to study International Tourism Management at Liverpool John Moore’s University, commencing this September. If international travel is permitted this summer, he hopes to travel home to Poland to gain further work experience as a tour guide at a salt mine in his local town, near Krakow city.