Further education (FE) and skills in the UK has come up against a lot of challenges in the last few years. Does FELTAG still have a place in this landscape? Absolutely! In fact, I’d argue more so now than ever.
Whether it be wanting to leverage new apprenticeship opportunities, improve their maths and English provision, offer more flexible courses or do more with less resources, FE and skills providers can unlock huge benefits through effective use of technology.
FELTAG is a driver for providers to re-energise their visions for how technology can enhance their core business: improving the educational experience for all learners. Developing a digital strategy that can harness the potential benefits of technology to offer enhancements and efficiencies around the delivery of teaching, learning and assessment will ensure learners develop the digital skills they need in their future employment.
Making it happen
You’ll have read before about the group of government, professional and sector bodies that have come together to deliver the FELTAG recommendations, first as the FELTAG coalition, and later as the FE and skills coalition (to incorporate Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).
Our latest meeting saw 40 representatives attend to update on progress and make sure that what we’re working on meets the strategic priorities for the digital agenda. It was generally felt that we’re making good strides against the recommendations.
I’d like to share these with you, as well as the activities that we’re putting into place to support each challenge area.
Senior leaders and governors need to understand the role of technology in supporting their college’s core business, embed digital in their strategies and model behaviours they wish staff to adopt. Jisc is currently developing a digital leadership programme to support leaders in developing strategy and planning skills for a digital organisation, while the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) funds a mastering governance of technology for learning online training course for governors.
The ETF also offers an Excellence in Leadership, Management and Governance (ELMAG) portal, which brings together a range of courses, resources, toolkits and networking opportunities for FE and skills leaders, managers and governance officers.
Staff digital capabilities
To deliver online and digital learning all staff within an organisation need to have the relevant skills to carry out their work. For many, this will mean having to acquire a new skillset. One of the most popular resources for doing so is the free online blended learning essentials course - devised by UFI and a consortium of partners - that promotes effective digital practice and pedagogy for vocational education and training.
On plugging the skills gap, Jisc has a digital capabilities framework that describes the skills needed in a wide range of academic, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment. It will soon include a suite of discovery, diagnostic and reflective tools, that will help individuals and managers identify and reflect on current digital capability, and plan for how these can be improved.
We are also currently piloting an FE and skills continuous professional development (CPD) service (informed by the coalition) that will build on this service and support CPD opportunities. This will form three sections: online CPD resources; open and reusable best practice resources; and communities of practice.
There’s an outdated myth that awarding bodies don't recognise the use of technology to support formative and summative assessment. This simply isn’t true, and thankfully we’re now starting to see more providers integrate e-assessment in their practices. The recent e-assessment survey for the e-assessment advisory group (EAAG) has some important recommendations for colleges and providers on how to take a more innovative approach. We'll be publishing next steps soon.
New models for blended delivery
This isn’t about technology replacing what is already taking place in the classroom but using it with learners to work collaboratively, extend the classroom and encourage their creativity. Staff working in partnership with learners not only encourages more active engagement in their learning but also enables both to develop their digital skills.
There is much guidance to support this, such as the ETF’s Learning Futures programme about integrating technology into the curriculum, and our own enhancing the student digital experience guide, with case studies and practical resources.
Sharing best practice
If we’re able to support the sharing of practice, both within an organisation, and also externally, it will encourage collaboration and stop people trying to re-invent the wheel. The Association for Learning Technology (ALT) is supporting this through its active community of practice, the FELTAG-SIG. It has also recommended that collaboration be encouraged at a senior leadership level to support cohesive digital visions, which ETF is supporting.
On the final point about sharing best practice, it’s really important that we take time to celebrate and communicate successes.
Ahead of the coalition meeting, a number of partners came together to collect some of the best examples of technology-enabled learning in the UK and publish them in a handy report. This is done across six key areas: Delivering a relevant digital curriculum; engaging learners in the development of the digital environment; using technology to develop learners’ employability; supporting students and staff to work successfully with digital technologies; delivering a robust, flexible digital environment; and a strategic approach to developing the student digital experience.
On using technology to support learners’ employability for example, you can see how students at City of Glasgow College are making use of e-portfolios, or Loughborough College is using technology to connect employers and learners, plus the resources that can help you to improve your own practice.
The report is a useful start in gathering the effective practice that exists in the sector. I say start, as there’s much more to be done. Jisc, on behalf of the FE and skills coalition, is currently calling for providers to come forward to tell us how they’ve embraced technology and to what effect. This will form an updated guide, which we see as becoming a handbook for peer organisations to refer to and learn from.
Submissions are welcome until 18 April – enter your details now. Join the conversation at anytime on Twitter using #FELTAG.