Learning providers across the country face big challenges – from cutbacks and policy changes to increasing demands by employers, government and learners. They must overcome many hurdles as they strive to inspire learners, staff and local community.
So how can they be more effective and make things happen while under such pressure? For more and more colleges, technology is a big part of the solution.
As Chief Executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), I work with people from across education and training who deliver effective change. By learning from each other, we are better able to act, not just react, and thus give learners the best educational experience possible. Building on our successful one day conference on technology and curriculum design which ALT and the Association of Colleges (AoC) ran jointly in May, we are now working to involve a broader community in this conversation about how technology can help provide solutions and improve the learner experience.
The central focus and theme, Large-scale curriculum redesign in which technology plays a central role, revealed significant success stories to life. We saw how using technology well can increase learner participation and engagement. We saw how senior management can make a big impact for the better. But most of all we saw how much every member of staff cares about their learners and strives to realise their potential regardless of circumstance.
If we take just one topic explored by participants – the global reach technology can deliver– Ciara Duffy, virtualisation project manager at South West College in Northern Ireland, showed how online learning helped her college reach almost 6,000 students in remote areas in Ireland and in other countries in one week last November. Supported by their teachers, these students were able to learn together, increasing the college's ability to deliver outreach programmes and international learning (as well as dealing with adverse weather conditions in remote areas).
Much of the debate was about how "scalable" this work is. If a certain amount of effort is needed for learners in a college, how many more can be reached with the same effort channelled online? Can technology help learning providers stay competitive by reaching a broader audience? South West College's efforts and work being carried out by Mark Stubbs at Manchester Metropolitan University are examples of how technology can make learning provision scalable.
Similarly, there was strong evidence of how much more effective planning and assessment can be if we work beyond the traditional sector and geographical boundaries. Participants were invited to collaborate in designing a new post-graduate module by looking for lessons beyond their own area, learning from each other and appreciating other viewpoints and priorities.
The conference is now over but the dialogue is continuing about how large scale curriculum redesign can make things happen. As well as making the presentations and recordings of the conference available online, both presenters and participants are keen to follow up on the event. I would like to encourage you to participate, to come and share your success stories and questions with us.
The webinar is free to attend and details will be published shortly on the ALT website http://www.alt.ac.uk/events. Presentations from and video recordings of individual sessions from the event are now available at the ALT Open Access Repository http://repository.alt.ac.uk/2216.