There’s a famous saying that ‘change is the only constant’ and that’s certainly the case when it comes to the use of technology in further education (FE) and skills.
One of the main messages that I’m hearing from learning providers is that making effective use of technologies to ensure learners are equipped with the digital skills they need today, as well as in five and even 10 years’ time, is a daunting task. Adding to the pressure are the funding cuts being imposed in 2015/16, as well as changes that will revolutionise how funds are allocated in the future, and you quickly see a bigger picture emerge.
As these changes affect everyone in the sector, naturally they demand a joined up response. In an earlier blog we’ve already talked about how we’ve been working to bring together some of FE’s biggest professional bodies, plus the government’s Skills Funding Agency and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), in a collaborative sector forum to tackle the FELTAG agenda. Now I want to tell you about what we’ve achieved so far.
Setting out a vision
Looking back on what’s been achieved over three meetings and almost six months, I’m pleased to say we’re making excellent strides towards the report’s principal objective: ‘that ownership by the FE sector of FELTAG’s recommendations is key’.
The creation of the forum itself was the first step in realising this recommendation. From early on we wanted to set out our stall for all to see, and that’s what we’ve done, issuing an open statement that outlines our aspirations and acts as a guide for everything we do.
It emphasises that we have come together for one reason – to improve teaching, learning, assessment and management across the sector. We are united under a common goal and want to encourage debate and discussion and come up with solutions that are coherent, cohesive and genuinely beneficial to everyone in the FE and skills community.
The statement also sets out what we need from the sector and from government to help those who are already using technology well to advance further, and make sure that institutions where technology is less established aren’t left behind.
With our priorities set down, we’re now able to look at the next strand – taking action. At our first meeting we looked at where little or no support was being offered to learning providers, and identified five vital areas where we believe our collective efforts will have the greatest impact.
Each of these areas has now been developed into its own working group populated by members from the coalition who are responsible for making sure their designated area is moving forward and reporting back on progress.
- Learner-led engagement, where learners are empowered to exploit digital technologies and come up with new solutions to support their development. College Development Network will lead this strand.
- Curriculum development, which will see the delivery of advice and guidance for learning providers on designing a curriculum that’s mapped against future employment needs. Calderdale College is acting as lead.
- Leadership and governance, informing strategy from the top down through the development of new standards. Leading the programme is the Education and Training Foundation.
- Content creation, giving stakeholders the innovative resources they need to be successful. Tinder Foundation will be the lead.
- Continuous professional development, supporting and improving the capabilities of FE and skills providers, and ensuring the entire workforce is being brought up to speed to fully understand the potential of learning technology through the creation of an FE online academy. Overseeing this activity is the Association for Learning Technology.
For each of the strands Jisc will be supporting through its co-design activities, making sure that our work complements and advances what’s being done by the groups.
Perhaps one of the most significant things to have arisen from our meetings has been a change in remit from the FELTAG to the FE coalition.
While we first came together under the auspices of FELTAG to clarify and support providers with regards the 10% online provision requirement, it has quite quickly become apparent that the issues raised by FELTAG in England are also being felt elsewhere. All UK nations are facing similar challenges, and it makes valid sense for us to unite and tackle them together.
In this respect we’re starting to see agencies and bodies with roots in other nations join the fold – I’ve already mentioned Scotland’s College Development Network as leading the learner-led engagement working group.
To benefit the most people, we have also kept our definition of FE consciously broad, covering everything from further education colleges, private training, adult and community learning providers, voluntary and community groups, offender learning, apprenticeships and vocational learning provided by employers.
And that’s really what it’s all about – coming together for the greater good.
Find out more
If you’d like to get involved or find out more please contact Paul McKean, our FE and skills customer advocate, join the #feltag discussion on Twitter or visit the FELTAG website to sign up your support.