Skype Seniors

Elderly couple using computer

Can video technology such as Skype enable older people to pass on their knowledge to students in an engaging way?

In April 2013, Newcastle University’s Centre for Learning and Teaching recruited volunteers to share their life experience and expertise with school pupils via Skype. The project set out to understand whether this method of communicating knowledge would improve student engagement, and also to learn what motivates volunteers to pass on their knowledge.

The class discussions included a debate about ethics with a former soldier, and a session on language learning involving a German-speaking volunteer. The project used eight volunteers from SiDE’s Newcastle-based user group VOICENorth. Many of them used Skype several times a week to pass on their knowledge.

A crucial element of the project was the development of secure digital platform in which school teachers could create events and enable volunteers to sign up to meet a certain demand. The platform was designed to encourage this practice to develop further, and to give volunteers an outlet to share their experiences of being involved.

Phase two of the project began late in 2013, adding another three schools to the pilot group.

Contact Us

Ulrike Thomas (