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Competition and collaboration

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology
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We face a lot of uncertainty at present. At times when funding cuts, reform, a General Election and other factors put additional pressure on all providers, the first instinct is often to focus inwards.

Intelligent use of Learning Technology has become a greater factor in many ways over the past year or two, with recommendations such as those proposed in the Government’s response to the FELTAG report highlighting the changing needs of employers and learners alike. Senior staff, teachers and trainers are doing much already to implement innovation, to develop the necessary skills and capacity to scale up their use of technology for learning, teaching and assessment.

And yet, despite the fact that we see individual colleges and their staff taking the initiative, what we don’t see develop in my view is a collaborative, open approach to research and practice at the national scale. In many instances individuals or their institution work in isolation or with a single commercial partner or funding body.

In the short term, solving problems and meeting targets within one institution is rightly seen as a success. In the long term, however, our experience shows that technology moves too fast, our use and expectations develop too rapidly for us to meet the challenges of effective, digital practice in isolation. Collaboration and knowledge exchange beyond our immediate learning environment is key to remaining competitive in the long run. Sharing research and practice openly, at a national level, supports innovation at all levels, strategic, pedagogical and technical.

It is an approach we try to instil in our learners when we encourage them to look beyond the minimum required reading or activity, and it is an approach that will help gain FE providers and practitioners the recognition that is often absent.

One step towards stronger collaboration and exchange is taking opportunities to share your work via national platforms, such as the Annual Conference our Association organises each year. We have welcomed a larger proportion of FE-based practitioners onto our Programme Committee this year with the aim to have stronger representation from the sector, showcasing and sharing their achievements or questions about Learning Technology under the theme ‘Shaping the future of learning together #altc’. Specifically we are looking for proposals relating to the following topics:

• Harnessing the power of the crowd – collaboration and connectivist learning;

• Social media in learning and teaching;

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• Open educational practice;

• Learners as agents of change;

• Participatory approaches to the development of learning technologies.

So whether you and your institution have never shared your work at a national conference, or you are seasoned presenters, we encourage you to submit a proposal this year to help us raise the profile of FE innovation in Learning Technology.

At the last two Annual Conferences we organised lively policy-focused debates with representatives from sector bodies, providers and Government, discussing key issues around policy in FE. This year our aim is to let the work presented at the conference, the voice of managers, practitioners and learners, come to the forefront to show how we can shape the future of learning together.

Find out more at http://altc.alt.ac.uk/conference/2015/submissions/ and #altc on social media.

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity

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