Embedding blended learning in further education and skills
A guide covering the relevant advice, services and practical support you need to enhance the digital capabilities of your staff and develop the right infrastructure to drive blended learning.
About this guide
Our research shows that there are huge differences among teaching staff in the use of digital technologies to support learning, even within the same college department.
Some hardly use technology at all, others create a few resources for the virtual learning environment (VLE), while innovators integrate educational technology (edtech) as part of a richer approach that we call ‘blended learning’.
Under this approach, traditional face-to-face methods are combined with online, often interactive, activities and content for study, feedback and assessment. It can be a powerful tool as colleges strive to implement the recommendations of our updated stories of effective digital practice from UK further education and skills report and become learner-led organisations.
Blended learning enables learners to access a wealth of resources, take more control of how, when and where they study and develop the digital capabilities that they will need in the workplace. Integrating edtech in the curriculum also helps clear obstacles to education for people who have previously found themselves excluded, including those with disabilities or caring responsibilities.
Used imaginatively, blended learning can also develop skills in collaborative working and team-working, for example through project-based learning. In turn, it can improve both engagement and attainment – and so boost the reputation of any college.
This guide is intended to signpost the advice, guidance, services and practical support that we can provide to colleges wishing to embed blended learning into the curriculum.
Get the basics right
First, colleges need to have a clear idea of what students want and what sort of infrastructure, equipment and resources are appropriate.
One of the best ways of tailoring digital change is to involve learners in discussions about how best to design opportunities for using technology in learning.
Learners are increasingly taking on the roles of digital champions, leaders and ambassadors – an approach that is driving development and innovation. As a starting point, take a look at our guide on empowering and engaging learners.
You can also benefit from a wealth of up-to-date insight in our 2017 student digital experience tracker survey, which indicates key technology trends across the sector and identifies students' habits, attitudes and expectations towards learning technology. This research gathered opinions from 22,593 students from 74 UK colleges, universities and skills providers. To gain insight from learners at your college, sign up for the 2018 tracker survey.
A key finding of the 2017 survey is that only 69% of FE students have access to reliable wifi. Colleges can boost wifi access with eduroam, while the eduroam companion app will help students find the nearest connected venue while they are on the move.
The tracker results also indicate that many students still rely on college-provided devices such as computers and printers, even though an increasing number also use their own devices for learning.
Against that background, a robust digital infrastructure is vital. We have the experience and expertise to support colleges transform digitally – a process that can be particularly valuable for newly merged – or merging – colleges, which often have to cope with complex issues around integrating different learning management systems across multiple sites.
Another critical aspect is security – how do you control who accesses your resources? The UK Access Management Federation service provided by Jisc, gives approved users a single solution to access online resources and services. You can also obtain expert advice from our subject specialists regarding how to address online safety needs.
Make sure your staff and learners are digitally capable
Digitally-confident teaching staff hold the key to an effective learning experience. So, staff must understand how to choose and get the most from a diverse range of tools, and must also be able to support students’ use of technology.
Our building digital capability project provides guidance, tools and resources to help equip staff in a variety of roles with digital skills. We also provide a variety of events and training; for example, a digital leadership course supports senior leaders to become digitally-informed and respond more effectively to technology-driven change.
For comprehensive information about integrating digital practice throughout a college, see our guide on developing organisational approaches to digital capability.
In view of the well-publicised technical skills gap in the UK, employability is a growing concern for colleges.
As such, a curriculum designed to deliver knowledge and qualifications, while simultaneously developing the sorts of skills learners will need after education is increasingly important.
Effective practice examples and guidance
To find out how other colleges are implementing blended learning and developing digital capabilities, there are plenty of case studies in our report breaking through: stories of effective digital practice from UK further education and skills.
The report is structured around key areas of interest to decision-makers, managers and teachers in colleges and learning providers and surfaces a variety of effective practice to include; taking a strategic approach to developing the student digital experience, through to how peers have used technology to develop learners’ employability.
To help colleges with future curriculum design, we have put together guidance and some examples of effective practice:
- Enhancing the student digital experience: a strategic approach
- Enhancing assessment and feedback with technology: a guide for FE and skills
- Using assistive and accessible technology in teaching and learning
- Scaling up online learning
- Developing blended learning content approaches
- Enhancing the digital experience for skills learners
- Technology for employability: FE and skills case studies (pdf)
- Develop your students’ employability skills through technology
Ensure access to all the relevant learning resources
There is a vast array of resources for learning, teaching and assessment available online, but how do you identify the right one to choose?
Students need support to develop their digital capabilities so that they are able to source good quality content when they are working on their own, or with peers. Now more than ever, it is critical that students can evaluate the content they find and know how to integrate useful material into their learning. Colleges need to ensure that appropriate and relevant online content is woven into the curriculum.
We’re here to support you with curriculum development. Through Jisc, your college has access to free and heavily discounted digital resources via Jisc Collections. This includes free, curriculum relevant e-books for FE (covering A-level and BTEC courses plus GCSE English and maths), and diverse teaching and learning multimedia content which includes Hairdressing Training, Primal Pictures: Anatomy and Physiology Online, MediaPlus, Historical Texts and Journal Archives.
Furthermore, we provide a suite of library management tools that will enable staff and learners to find and assess the content and resources they need.
To view the full range of services available for FE, visit the catalogue of services.
Further information and advice
Our account managers are your first port of call for advice and signposting to a wide range of Jisc products, services and money-saving deals that are available to you.
They will also facilitate the introduction to Jisc subject specialists who can support your college to empower staff with the relevant digital capabilities and share their expertise in developing the curriculum to embrace blended learning and manage feedback and assessment.
We also offer an enhanced level of support through our consultancy service.