We launched our report, the evolution of FELTAG, last spring to celebrate effective digital practice in colleges and skills organisations, and to inspire others. Here, two colleges discuss how they're getting to grips with the FELTAG recommendations.
The bulk of the report is made up of case studies from colleges and skills providers and we also included a series of interviews with thought leaders in some of the organisations that have really pushed ahead with the FELTAG agenda. It draws out their successes and highlights the insights that they have gained.
Since its publication, other colleges and organisations have used the report to help them make faster progress with their own digital journeys, by identifying strategies that have been proved to work and avoiding diversions down paths that have proved to be dead ends.
As the report’s title suggests, there is no arrival point on this journey - only the opportunity for ongoing progress. So we have continued to add new case studies and, at Digifest earlier this month, we published a new version of the report with a fresh set of thought leader stories to guide and inspire.
To whet your appetite, I’d like to draw your attention to just two:
Supporting students and staff to work successfully with digital technologies
“Further education has to take a lead from the retail sector where you have choices over what you buy and how, with as few obstacles in your way as possible.”
So says Michelle Swithenbank, deputy CEO at Hull College Group. Her interview offers an eloquent description of how her organisation is using digital technologies to offer learners quality training in ways that are accessible and relevant to more people, regardless of their personal circumstances or life stage.
Michelle drew her analogy with the retail sector because, as she points out, today’s shoppers expect to be able to choose whether to buy things in store in person, to browse online, or to pick and choose between the two. They want to do what is most practical in their own personal circumstances. In exactly the same way learners – especially adult ones - have commitments to fit their study around, so college staff must now be able to offer greater choice and flexibility and to make learning accessible.
Michelle says that the college group is blessed with some very innovative teaching staff who are keen to make all this happen - but their innovation can’t happen on its own. They need their organisation to provide support in a number of areas. Suitable infrastructure is one of these, and this comes with a cost and some significant timescales attached so this work continues.
It is encouraging to read about the realistic stance the college group has taken on that, and enlightening to find out about some of the solutions that they’ve hit upon to make large and meaningful strides quickly. These include the introduction of Microsoft Office 365 so that every user can access the same virtual desktop on any device.
Staff also need their college’s support in the form of encouragement to innovate and digital skills training - you can’t do something to people; you have to do something with them. That’s the best way to get people on board. If you read Michelle’s case study you’ll find out how this is progressing at Hull College Group, get some ideas for your own organisation and discover why her advice to any college leader thinking about implementing the FELTAG recommendations is to “lead the way, empower your staff and celebrate their success”.
In other words, you need to inspire confidence and Ken Thomson, in his thought leader story, also cites confidence as a critical factor in his college’s digital journey. Ken is principal and chief executive of Forth Valley College. For me, one of the stand-out comments in his interview is this:
“I said to staff two years ago when we started the drive for more creative learning and teaching that I was taking responsibility for what happened. This meant they were free to experiment without blame.”
Forth Valley College became Scotland’s first regional college when it merged in 2005. It is currently focused on an ambitious plan to create new learning experiences that give learners the job-specific skills they need but to go further - to develop each individual into a fully rounded potential employee with generic digital skills and digital confidence so that they can grow, adapt and innovate in future.
Ken’s own watchword for the college’s digital future is ‘interconnectedness’ and he explains that “everything works when it is joined together and interconnected”. Getting the college’s staff to the point where they feel confident to innovate, and have more time to do so, has involved lots of interconnected groundwork to improve infrastructure and provide staff training and accreditation.
The decision to ditch a plethora of software tools in favour of a single platform has brought about significant savings in cost, labour and time. And with the basics now efficiently managed – registers available in real time, timetabling streamlined and feedback from employers happening automatically – the road is clear for the college’s staff to focus more attention on their teaching and learning ambitions.
The new thought leader stories and case studies are inspirational stuff, so even if you’ve had a look at the evolution of FELTAG report before, it’s well worth taking a fresh look at the latest version.
We’re keen to hear about how your own organisation is responding to the FELTAG recommendations, so please do get in touch if you have a story to tell – email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet @sarahknight.