The September 2012 AoC Learning Technology Survey Report carries interesting messages for all of us working within further education and in particular for me and the team at Jisc working to support the sector. Although we will be considering the report in detail later this month so we can ensure we meet the changing needs of further education I thought it helpful to share some initial thoughts.
The key findings from the AoC report highlight:
'The ability of Colleges to implement the education policy agenda, and deliver the required policy outcomes, relies… on the ability to manage the deployment of that technology in ways that best meets the specific requirements of the individual College. In particular this requires:
- Relevant and structured staff training in the use of technology across the curriculum
- A whole College approach to strategic planning in the use of technology;
- Representation on senior management team (SMT) for the development of technology strategy
- Efficient purchasing that takes into account collaborative initiatives such as shared services and migration of some services to ‘cloud’ technologies
- Technology resourcing as a core function of College business processes
- Specific funding for the development of e-learning.
Some of these findings will be of no surprise to us working within Jisc’s Regional Support Centres (RSCs), who support colleges with advice and guidance on how to best use technology, as we too are finding similar issues. We work to both advocate and support UK learning providers with how they can adopt 'A whole College approach to strategic planning in the use of technology'. We do this through eProgress Reviews and other consultations that put technology in the context of a college’s overall business.
We recognise that if we are to fully exploit the potential of technology to help Colleges meet their strategic objectives 'technology strategy' must be considered at the highest level in the organisation along with Business Strategy. We regularly support senior management to review their 'technology strategy, offering advice and guidance based on our experience of the very best practice the sector has to offer'. An example of such an approach can be found with Liverpool Community College.
Our network of 12 RSCs will continue to advocate and support College’s 'Relevant and structured staff training in the use of technology across the curriculum' by providing inspiration, support and training to those charged with providing Continuous Professional Development and supporting others to use technology effectively in delivering the curriculum. We are supporting those developing the next generation of teachers to ensure that technology is not an afterthought but an integral part of their development.
By creating and sustaining forums and networks of collaborative practice, often using collaborative social networking tools as well as the tried and tested JiscMail supporting Colleges and other learning providers to consider and enter into collaborative initiatives, exploiting technology to share services and to get the best deal from technology and what the Cloud has to offer. Jisc and Janet themselves are, of course, trailblazing as services shared by the sector.
Our recent investment in 32 projects in the FE and Skills sector is testament to its commitment to support 'Specific funding for the development of e-learning' and RSCs will be helping to disseminate the findings of these projects so the whole sector can improve and make the most of what technology, wisely deployed, has to offer.
The report also identified that the areas in which the use of technology is perceived to be the least effective are:
- Widening participation
- Reducing digital exclusion
- Engaging students with disabilities and/or learning difficulties
- Improving retention and achievement.
These findings show that although we work hard to support Colleges and other learning providers to make sure technology is more effective in these areas, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that colleges make the most of our guidance and advice. Jisc RSCs are regularly demonstrating how a variety of technologies can be used to reach out to different communities and widen participation, and how digital exclusion can be reduced by effective procurement and the use of Open Source Software and Open content. Along with Jisc TechDis, RSCs are supporting Colleges and others in 'Engaging students with disabilities and/or learning difficulties'.
The last of these areas is surprising given recent improvements in retention and achievement in the sector. However, given this perception it is important for us to demonstrate how, through the effective use of technology throughout the learner journey, providers can recruit, engage, support, assess and track learner progress and deliver 'Improving retention and achievement'.