How do you communicate with your learner?

Using communication technology for education has been around since long before most teaching practitioners were born and in 2015 with everyone from toddlers to pensioners chatting away over the internet every day. Why is it then that so few learning providers make use of 21st century technology to teach, assesses, talk with learners or employers, train staff or hold meetings. Don’t they have access to a PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone – two tins connected with a piece of string, what is the problem?

Queensland_State_Archives_2986_A_School_of_the_Air_primary_student_in_regional_Queensland_takes_class_via_two_way_radio_c_1960Old news!: 60 years + In 1948, the Alice Springs RFDS base was used to broadcast the first school lessons to outback children using High Frequency radio transceivers which enabled students to talk to each other as well as the teacher during classes. Just a few years later, the School of the Air (SOA) was officially established.  * Note (main photo): That looks to me like a serious piece of technology, being used by a very young person and apparently, a teacher could operate it too and teach and control the class. How odd.

open-universityPretty Old news: 40 years + ‘The Open University was the world’s first successful distance teaching university, founded on the belief that communications technology could bring high quality degree-level learning to people who had not had the opportunity to attend traditional campus universities.’ **

When the OU accepted its first students in 1971, 25,000 people enrolled and 20,000 registered on a course ‘In 2013, over 200,000 students were learning with the OU – many of them accessing course materials on their smartphones and tablets, studying when and where it suits them best. According to the National Student Survey, 92% were satisfied with the quality of their course, putting the OU in the top 5 universities in the UK for student satisfaction.’

Note: I believe that going by some FE management criteria, one or two graduates were actually beyond their technological sell-by date. That’s very odd.

Just Old News: 6 years +  Several years ago,  myself and RSC colleagues put on an event to raise awareness of the many ways that a few Learning Providers were delivering Teaching, Learning and Assessment on-line using basic or cost effective technology.

The event began with our centre manager sitting in his Lancaster office talking over a Skype connection to the delegates in a hotel in Bolton, projected onto a large screen. This was followed by a trainer with a large Learning Provider based in Manchester, although she was calling from her home elsewhere, demonstrated how they deliver courses over a Webex conference system to learners that simply couldn’t get into the training centre. I understand this grew to delivering courses on a global basis. Pretty much old hat now, at least to that Learning Provider.

The one that had the delegates asking questions, was a Bristol based Learning Provider, who explained that they had wireless cameras installed on the premises of some employers, connected through a router to the learning providers VLE.  It sounds more technical than it is and the kit cost less than £500. The demonstrator then proceeded to simulate an assessment with an apprentice who was in a garage in Trowbridge, talking on the mobile phone in his top pocket via blue tooth, but ‘assessing’ what the learner was doing by way of the Wireless cameras, which the assessor could also control remotely. It’s called on-line-assessment and although there are more simple ways of achieving the same today, as proven by a handful of innovative learning providers. It is still not the norm.  This is really old news, but not, it would seem, to the majority of learning providers in the FE & Skills sector.

Note: These case studies are available on-line.

Bury_your_head_in_the_sandOn-lineTeaching, Learning & Assessment has never been easier to access, is technically available at relatively low cost and being used at least socially by most people Including learners, teachers, employers and learning providers. It is without doubt effective, proven to be cost saving and in the case of the WBL learner in particular, the choice to attend lessons has minimum impact on his or her employer.

Sadly, I can only think of a handful of practitioners in the Northwest, presumably reflected nationally, that are teaching, training or assessing on-line.  That’s not odd, that’s inexplicable!

If like me, you believe that the sector should be way beyond the need to ‘raise awareness’ and simply need now to ‘get on with it’, call us. I have no doubt we can help you to kick start, what is already blindingly obvious.

Colin Gallacher
Learning Technology Consultant

Colin Gallacher
Learning Technology Consultant


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