Five years on from the Further Education learning Technology Action Group’s (FELTAG) first report, my colleague Ros Smith and I have been talking to leaders and practitioners in colleges across the UK to see how they have implemented the report’s recommendations and how today’s use of technology is helping to improve student experience and prospects.
Many colleges have put foundations in place for a successful digital strategy, such as renewing learning management systems and the way that they make use of student information.
Some have made great strides in innovative use of emergent technologies such as augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) for teaching and learning.
As an update to the original FELTAG report, we have put together a new guide showcasing the many examples of best practice.
It is clear from our conversations with the further education (FE) sector that making sure that the appropriate technology is in place to support learners is a challenge that never ends! This is in partly due to the ever changing legislative and policy framework that surrounds FE. As Debra Gray from the Grimsby Institute Group puts it: “For many years now, change has been the only constant in FE – so keeping agile in essential.”
Colleges must also keep up with the tech tools their students are already using. David Jones, from Coleg Cambria, puts in succinctly: “We need to catch up with our learners.”
David and Debra both believe that college leaders should lead by example and are visible in their engagement with digital improvement initiatives and in sharing their own digital journey.
It is also clear that colleges need to be agile in the way they tailor the kind of digital solution they put in place for their courses. The use of emergent technologies such as AR and VR for wide-ranging courses such as food processing, land studies and welding allows students to develop skills and experience without exposing them to hazardous situations, or using expensive materials.
If your college is considering a journey of digital transformation, there’s a very important aspect to get right before you start. Ken Thompson, principal at Forth Valley College, points out that although infrastructure isn’t the most exciting part of introducing new tech, it is “crucial to get the information management systems right – they are the rock on which other initiatives can be built”.
Our thought leadership and case study examples
The guide kicks off with six thought leadership articles by senior leaders that set the strategic scene.
- David Jones OBE, DL, chief executive, Coleg Cambria
- Debra Gray, principal, Grimsby Institute for Further and Higher Education, and deputy chief executive, Grimsby Institute Group
- Dr Ken Thomson, principal and chief executive, Forth Valley College
- Simon Barrable, principal, Portsmouth College
- Jamie Smith, formerly director of strategy and infrastructure, South Staffordshire College
- Graham Razey, principal and chief executive, East Kent College (EKC) Group
Details of how digital technologies can make a difference in the delivery of an excellent student experience are covered in more than 25 case studies and vignettes covering six subject areas, below:
Strategy and vision
- Forth Valley College – making learning work
- Grimsby Institute Group – becoming an entrepreneurial organisation
- Belfast Metropolitan College – laying the foundations for college-wide blended learning
- Coleg Cymoedd - building a digital workplace: a whole college approach
- Solihull College and University Centre - bringing the impossible into the classroom
- Basingstoke College of Technology - GCSE revision with a difference
- Dundee and Angus College - inspiring exploration, innovation and creativity with 21st century technology
- Harlow College - engagement is the key to success
- North Lindsey College - Digitally-enhanced learning and teaching
Building digital capability
- Milton Keynes College - digital capabilities for a digital world
- Epping Forest College - digital voice experts (DVX), a student-staff partnership to improve digital capabilities
- South Eastern Regional College (SERC) - a whole college approach to developing digital capabilities
- City and Islington College - student digital ambassadors set the pace
- Cardiff and the Vale College - designing accessible learning
- Plumpton College - 21st century digital tools raise the stakes in land-based learning
- Harlow College - Developing digital capability in partnership with staff and learners
- City of Glasgow College - transforming the image of construction through games-based learning
- Goole College - enhancing the employability of vocational learners with technology
- Portland College - mobile tech boosts student progression
- Grimsby Institute Group - mixed reality brings a new dimension to training
Assessment and feedback
- Blackburn College University Centre - digitally informed assessment design
- Basingstoke College of Technology (BCoT) - closing the feedback loop with social media
- ISA Training - the Learning Assistant e-portfolio
- Barnsley College - rethinking assessment of work-based learning
Supporting a flexible curriculum
- Doncaster College and University Centre - a tutorial programme for the digital age
- Isle of Wight College - a digital environment that works for all
- Heart of Worcestershire College - a holistic approach to embedding technology in curriculum design
- Bolton College - the future is conversational
- Weston College - digital innovation in adult education
- The real apprenticeship company (TRAC) - a paperless apprenticeship journey
To sum up, there are a few straightforward themes: plan ahead, get the infrastructure right, lead from the front and keep up to date with what your students are using and expecting to use to support their learning.
Having ticked those boxes, empower your staff to experiment and to learn and help each other to develop excellence in their practice. And never forget the reason for all this good work is to equip students with all the skills they will need to be successful in their studies, to thrive in their careers and make a meaningful contribution to the UK economy.