Responding to the Education Committee's inquiry into adult skills and lifelong learning, in this blog, I outline Jisc’s vision for an agile, joined-up, data-driven approach.
Change is happening – and fast. The fourth industrial revolution is disrupting old business models before our eyes, bringing new challenges and new ways of working. Shifting labour market requirements and rapid developments in technology require agility.
It’s a far cry from thinking of employability as a fixed set of qualifications delivered through vocational courses; adult skills and lifelong learning (ASALL) are key to the future success of individuals and the economy.
A joined-up approach
Industry 4.0 requires an education system to match. Jisc’s vision for Education 4.0 explores the effect of emerging technology on teaching and learning now and into the future and calls for a joined-up approach to ASALL and flexible opportunities to learn through a variety of routes.
As part of this work, Jisc is supporting the Independent Commission on the College of the Future and is working with members to meet the challenges of Education 4.0.
Digital technologies, better data management, and shared sector-wide e-infrastructure are the enablers, and all FE and skills providers must equip their learners with the abilities and attributes to thrive. Jisc is helping them do just that.
Perceptions vs reality
According to the government's industrial strategy, ‘within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills’.
Jisc’s 2019 student digital experience insight survey, published on 3 September 2019, found that less than half of the 13,389 FE students surveyed (49%) thought digital skills would be needed in their chosen career. Further, only 40% of students in FE agreed that their course prepares them for the digital workplace.
ASALL providers need a comprehensive digital strategy, with technology ‘designed in’ from the outset to the overall pedagogic approach. Teaching staff should be given opportunities to ‘upskill’ and ongoing support to develop their digital capabilities.
This is crucial. Jisc's 2018 digital experience insight staff survey of 1,921 university and college teaching staff found only 18.9 per cent of college-based respondents agreed they had time and support to innovate with technology. Only 44.2 per cent said they had regular opportunities to develop their digital skills.
Delivering with data
A rich and complex lifelong learning journey can be supported from pre-enrolment to alumni and across sectors, learning providers and employers – but it will require cross-sector datasets, intelligent unbundling of education, and a robust credit system that is recognised by employers.
We work with our members to help them make evidence-based decisions informed by data, and encourage ASALL providers to take this approach to curriculum-planning as a means of responding to labour market changes and skills needs.
Together, we need to utilise local, regional and national labour market intelligence (LMI), local enterprise partnership priorities, other local and national provider curriculum and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)’s outcome-based success measures to guide people through their learning and working journey.
Short courses and micro-credentials
As more people retrain while remaining in employment, fewer may complete a qualification over a single, prolonged and uninterrupted period. Short courses aimed at upskilling people in work at level 2 and 3 - as opposed to two to three-year commitments - could help address the UK’s skills gaps.
In addition, a sound, shared digital infrastructure to underpin micro-credentials and cooperation between providers could help join up the system and stimulate a more dynamic market.
As part of our learning analytics service, Jisc has already developed a national learning data hub, making sense of the patterns in student records and data. This is hosted on secure, resilient servers.
A similar digital system could support skills and lifelong learning, underpinned by micro-credentials.
Learning in a digital environment has the potential to be a great leveller. Although there are hurdles to overcome as access to technology is still far from ubiquitous, digital resources bring flexibility, and can enable people from all backgrounds to access valuable knowledge.
Technically, all anyone needs to learn online is an internet connection and curiosity. Although the reality isn’t always this straightforward, Jisc can support providers to deliver quality ASALL through technology, seeking to deliver Education 4.0 from cradle to grave that supports individuals and the economy, and grasps the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0.
The results of Jisc’s 2019 digital experience insights student survey were announced on 3 September 2019, with the results of the staff survey following in November. You can now register to participate in the 2019-20 surveys by subscribing via the digital experience insights service website.
- 1 Taken from the government review of publicly funded digital skills qualifications - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-publicly-funded-digital-skills-qualifications