Going Digital

What does it take to get FE & Skills off the fence?

The word on the street, blogs, forums etc. Is that the use of technology to deliver teaching, learning and assessment is not as high as one would believe possible.

child-192712_640Now this may come as a surprise to some, what with it being fifteen years into the 21st Century and anyone in UK not in nappies is using at least one mobile phone, tablet or other device, plugged into online ‘everything. ‘Not as high’ translating into ‘who knows what’ percent of providers are not using technology to deliver high quality learning, effectively, creatively and accessible 24/7. But might be as much as 75%. If this guess is anywhere near right, then I am at a loss to understand what it will take to get the decision makers off of the fence and catch up with the estimated 25% of Learning Providers that have successfully embedded technology in its business strategy, to the benefit of all stakeholders, not least the learners and the Learning Provider itself.

The FE & Skills sector, is as we know under more pressure than ever to deliver high quality teaching, learning and assessment whilst coping with funding cuts and increasing costs just to survive, let alone grow. Despite being fully aware that similar organisations which have embedded technology effectively have proven how cost effective it can be, whilst transforming course materials creatively efficiently and engaging with learners using methods appropriate to 2015 rather than 1985.

And what about online delivery and I don’t mean fast food, I refer to the recommendations of FELTAG, which by the way hasn’t disappeared, not according to the SFA, even if it’s not currently being ‘enforced’ , I have no doubt it will be in due course, if only by reduced funding. But as stated so many times in these articles, FELTAG aside, delivering course content on line, makes perfect business sense. But it does need a strategic plan for IT which includes a technical analysis, staff skills audit and meaningful staff development.

knpMHuvuIn a recent FE News article by Christina Conroy OBE, ‘Going Digital’, Christina found that “the use of education technologies, blended and online learning is currently low in the FE and skills sector with less than 20% of provision delivering 10% online.” Going on to describe the key drivers and impact for technological change and that the “research highlighted that ‘people’ issues are the major barrier to developing and implementing a coherent digital learning strategy.

How right she is. Throughout several years involved in Technical Reviews, I found that there were precious few which had a written plan, let alone an IT strategy and the perceived barriers are usually cost, staff, lack of time or in my view a lack of understanding.

So whatever the individual or collective problem is, it isn’t raising awareness, nor need it be cost. But I would suggest one way forward is to stop papering over the cracks by aimlessly buying iPads, laptops, or off the shelf course material and employ people from within and without the organisation, experienced in the wide range of possibilities to develop a coherent digital learning strategy.  Such people are all around but one has to listen.

There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those that choose to ignore what they already know“.

Works of Thomas Chalkley’ 1713

Colin Gallacher

Educational Technology Advisor for Incentive-8

See also: Making learning materials fit to go online

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