Technology can be a significant enabler in enhancing teaching, learning and assessment, but for some further education (FE) and skills providers the question is: where to start?
In a lot of cases it shouldn’t be a case of reinventing the wheel. There are many examples of effective technology-enabled practice already being delivered across providers in the UK. Often it can be a case of looking at what your peers have done and the impact of their actions, and thinking about how these can be applied to your own organisation, that’s the best starting point.
Here are six case studies from learning providers who have used technology to effect a positive change.
Leicestershire Adult Learning Service: more relevant, engaging learning
A common problem facing FE and skills providers is supporting learners with GCSE maths and English. Skills for Life students taking GCSE English with Leicestershire Adult Learning Service benefit from a blended learning approach. The course is demanding – teaching time amounts to just 30 weeks. So, to support independent learning, lead tutor Sarabjit Borrill encourages learners to develop their own technology resources.
Using a Moodle platform and tools such as Wikis, learners work closely with their peers to create compelling interactive content, and acquire new skills as they do so. The service has also experimented with video feedback, which provides learners with detailed comments that can be reviewed again and again, and acted upon in their own time.
Since the approach has been implemented learners are more engaged and proactive – to the extent that the majority attended a workshop even though it was during the college holiday.
Swindon College: taking ownership of assessment
Transformation of the assessment and feedback process at Swindon College has given learners ownership of their experiences.
Learners are encouraged to build their own e-portfolios on the Mahara system. They can upload videos, images, screencasts and audio commentaries to their e-portfolio to illustrate how their ideas have progressed through their studies.
Having personal choice over how they present themselves encourages introspection by asking the individual to record their evidence in the most effective format. It also develops their decision-making and digital literacy skills. This is particularly important when applying for employment or putting in an admission to university.
For assessors and verifiers, there are also advantages in having easy access to students’ work, getting a much richer picture of learners’ achievements, and being able to assess groups as a whole where apps such as Google Hangouts are used to record group evidence.
Harlow College: learners as digital ambassadors
The enthusiasm that young learners often have for digital technologies can be a useful tool in supporting the development of staff and learners’ digital skills – something that’s required for them to be successful when they move into employment.
At Harlow College learners have been given the tools to play an active role in the development of everyone’s digital capabilities, through its digital ambassadors’ programme.
Every learner is provided with an iPad preloaded with a selection of apps that support learning. These include apps that call for collaboration and team working, whereby learners who are particularly enthusiastic or have good digital capabilities are able to encourage their peers to engage in online learning. Once mastered, they’re then allowed to move on to apps such as iMovie, to explore and develop their own digital learning environments.
The result is that students drive forward adoption of new technologies by their peers, rather than it being imposed by staff.
St Helens College: opening up the world of work
Learning providers not only have to support their learners to gain the qualifications they need, but also employability skills that will make them stand out in a competitive job market.
St Helens College is approaching this issue from multiple directions, to convince foundation degree students of the value of networking and presentation skills. Former students have been enlisted to share recent experiences of networking, including the value of LinkedIn, while local employers contribute by acting as a panel for mock interviews. Teaching staff have also changed how they plan, deliver and assess their courses, including factoring in time for acquiring new approaches and skills within their weekly CPD allowance to support learners’ employability.
In the time the programme has been running, learners have developed a better understanding of how to use social media to showcase their achievements and form relationships with potential employers, and have improved communications and digital literacy.
The whole college now uses LinkedIn, with students also building in more work-focused activities, such as using Padlet to share information about employers.
Borders College: partnering to offer innovative solutions
Borders College in Scotland is spread out across a wide geographical area, with many of its learners in remote locations where broadband coverage and mobile phone reception are poor or non-existent. This poses a challenge in achieving the college’s goal of offering leading-edge digital services.
With IT solutions company Fujitsu the college has set up an innovation hub. Here, learners and staff are among the first to try out emerging technologies in an education setting, to test how a device or application could support learners and the college’s overall vision.
The information and learning technology team works closely with teachers to understand their teaching objectives and then search out the best digital tools. This approach has already led to the college investing in a number of technologies, helping them to verify that a product is fit-for-purpose. They then use effective procurement skills and determination to negotiate the best price.
Bolton College: improved service platform
Many colleges are now starting to consider personalised learning and user journeys as a way of enhancing their offer.
Bolton College’s senior management team first took an interest in this in 2013, undertaking a wide-ranging review of its information and learning technology (ILT) systems. Over the following two years, the team worked to create a sophisticated platform that could provide tailored support for learners, deliver more choice, and achieve business efficiencies.
The system uses data and analytics to create a clear picture of each learner. Information about students is gathered via their own editable profile, from which the college can provide targeted resources.
For example, two students who open the same interactive online tutorial may find that it moves in very different directions; a session on employability skills would start with the same basic introduction and then diverge to focus on interview techniques that are specific to the learner’s specialism or career aspirations. Information can also be loaded in from other departments about careers, training or social events that students might be interested in based on their preferences.
Importantly, the learning development and mentoring team also monitor data about individual attendance and performance so that they can offer appropriate pastoral care if a learner looks to be disengaged or struggling.
I’ve shared just a few examples of effective practice here, but many more exist.
With other sector bodies we’re collating the best practice case studies in our report on the evolution of FELTAG, allowing learning providers to draw from a wealth of ideas and inspiration, and start thinking about how they can embed it in their own context.
I would also remind everyone that, although it’s brought together under the FELTAG headline1, the lessons in this report are not confined to this agenda only, or even to England. All colleges are under a directive to do more with less, for which technology can be a significant enabler.
Please take a look at the report, or if you have examples of your own to share get in touch with your account manager.
- 1 Read more about FELTAG and their recommendations on the FELTAG website - http://feltag.org.uk/recommendations/