Maggie Galliers was awarded a CBE in 2009 for services to further education (FE). Her track record makes her a natural choice to head up the body that both represents colleges that aims to be a ‘go-to’ destination for advice and support.
With public investment in FE set to decline further in the coming years, Maggie says that technology is going to be the route by which colleges can develop innovative approaches to teaching, learning, leadership and management.
She said: “Much of my work will centre on four key themes: promoting FE colleges; acting as a spokesperson for them; influencing policy and debating the issues; and being a support for institutions.
“My role will be dictated by what colleges require from me. It is my personal ambition to help colleges navigate the huge changes that are upon them and then move forward, taking control of their own destinies. I want to help colleges articulate a clear vision for the next five years.”
Maggie is a firm believer that education is about bringing people ‘to the point of autonomy’. She said: “ICT plays a crucial role in equipping young people with the skills and knowledge they need to make good choices in life and work, and in helping them to be more in control.”
And, she says, this is one of the key areas in which technology can support colleges of the future to grow and become more cost-effective. Through technology, colleges can respond to student demands for blended learning and e-learning, including ensuring students can access learning when it suits them, and making learning in the classroom more inclusive, engaging and interesting.
Already, higher education colleges are making great strides in this area, both to help students learn more effectively, and to develop some of the broader skills they will need for life and work.
Leicester College, under Maggie’s leadership, has created an app for the student handbook. And, she says, “We have also prioritised having a very accessible website so students and prospective learners can quickly and easily find what they need to know.”
Beyond teaching and learning, Maggie believes that ICT will enable colleges to increase efficiency in administrative systems and processes, and to improve the collection and use of data – for example, by harnessing the knowledge held within the college community, such as policies and procedures, and making sure it is readily accessible to everyone who needs it.
She wants the tougher times to be a spur to get colleges to dig deep into talent reserves and make FE’s industry-standard resources and technology pay dividends:
“Through ICT we can take the heavy lifting out of our financial and data systems and offer online enrolment for part-time learners. The college sector is often excellent at data management – for example our integrated database helps us examine class sizes, success rates and resource utilisation, and to make sensible decisions. We have done a lot of systems analysis to make sure that different systems can talk to each other, and this has allowed us to streamline processes, and bring about cost efficiencies.
“There is definitely scope to join up thinking among the design specialists, such as engineers and fashion designers, within our colleges as part of a more effective e-strategy.”
And in this, Maggie believes JISC is a key strategic partner: “JISC provides the opportunity for college ICT staff to interact directly with well-informed specialists and get the advice they need to make appropriate choices about ICT.
“The sector needs a gateway for sharing good practice to help us all move forward and grow. Integrating systems and testing new technologies are key right now. For example, many colleges are asking the question: ‘Should we engage with cloud technology?’ It is important to know what innovations like this are, and to liaise with leaders at the cutting edge. JISC helps us to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a certain technology and show how it could impact on our particular institution.”
Maggie Galliers has been Principal of Leicester College since July 2002. Before that, she was Principal of Henley College, Coventry for five years, having previously held a wide variety of management positions in FE and taught in all sectors of education from primary onwards.
At nearby Loughborough College, lecturers on the BTEC National Diploma in Sport course have been using podcasts to enliven the sports psychology sessions that students were finding dull.
Programme lead Danny Lee says he turned to iTunes for examples of popular podcasts, and developed ones for the course that were made livelier through imaginative use of music, a daily joke* and other apparently random but entertaining additions.
So the podcasts quickly became a valued aid to learning and they proved a particular hit with students with prolonged absences, who could keep on track with their work via the podcasts.
*A typical joke:
“We call my Granddad ‘Spiderman’. It’s not that he can climb walls – he just can’t get out of the bath.”
Ashton Sixth Form College had a good standard of dance teaching which utilised CDs and DVDs to enhance instruction. The problem with these resources was that either they were just held in one place, or they had to be copied. Using iPods, flip cameras and learners’ own devices alongside the College’s VLE has enabled access to these resources on an anywhere, anytime basis. In doing so they have also improved the learners’ self evaluation skills and ability.
Read the Ashton Sixth Form College: How technology can enhance dance case study.