From education to employment

Leading change – where do we start?

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology

The Government’s response to the FELTAG report was published last week. I have written about FELTAG, the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group set up by Matthew Hancock, MP and Minister of State for Skills and Enterprise, previously – and many of you will have contributed to the work of the group in some way over the past year.

Alongside other organisations, our Association has been examining the Government’s response and has started to consider how we can support our members and the wider community in meeting the challenges FELTAG set out: from equipping learners for employment and taking advantage of disruptive technology to supporting and developing staff in the use of Learning Technology. With 20 years of experience in promoting Learning Technology and supporting Learning Technologists however, we know that, while we face common challenges, every institution or individual starts from their own context and this makes it difficult to find one approach that works for everyone.

Across the FE and skills system there is a broad range of institutions and learners with very different requirements. That flexibility and local variety is in many ways what makes FE such a crucial part of our education provision. It reaches learners in ways that other provision cannot and creates ways to change direction at many different stages through the learners’ journey.

When it comes to Learning Technology there is a similar range of approaches and starting positions. Some providers struggle with inadequate infrastructure or wifi. Many can find it difficult to make strategic decisions about technology purchases or implementation because of the lack of evidence and the fast pace of technological developments. Others again are faced with implementing systems or processes with little guidance in regards to data management, e-safety or digital literacy. Most find it hard to engage staff beyond the early adopters or enthusiasts.

And yet, across the sector, there are strong examples of innovation in practice, research and strategy. Many colleges work in partnership with learners and employers to achieve effective use of Learning Technology.

In my experience however, there is too little time or scope for sharing this kind of practice, to exchange knowledge not just within one college or group, but across the country and across sectors. Learners leave one institution and move to another with little or no continuity for them, and often no way to take with them any of their learning data except for formal certificates.

That’s why I hope that the work of ETAG, the Education Technology Action Group working across sectors, which is currently underway, may help to identify and support more ways of creating continuity, cooperation and collaboration in Learning Technology across education contexts at a national level.

ALT and its members continue to contribute to this effort and as part of our forthcoming annual conference we will have our second FE, adult learning and skills day on 2 September. As well as a full conference programme, we will hold a session with a focus on policy developments over the past 12 months, inviting members from FELTAG and ETAG to explore these issues openly with participants. I hope that you will join us.

Maren Deepwell is chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), an independent membership charity whose mission is to ensure that use of learning technology is effective and efficient, informed by research and practice, and grounded in an understanding of the underlying technologies and their capabilities, and the situations into which they are placed

The annual conference of the Association for Learning Technology takes place 1-3 September at the University of Warwick and ‘early bird’ registration is now open

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