Looking to the future, the landscape of educational delivery is far from clear, particularly with regards to the use of technology in education – a hot topic on everyone's lips at the moment.
This month, a report was published by the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG), making a number of interesting recommendations to Skills Minister Matthew Hancock regarding their vision of a digital future.
FELTAG asserts that learning technology, when used astutely, can improve FE learners' chances of reaching their potential. This is partly based upon the fact that through digital learning, a greater pool of learners can be reached, giving more people the opportunity to achieve and succeed. People want flexible learning at a time, place and pace that suits their needs and their lifestyle – an online learning experience can offer this, engaging learners who have otherwise lost interest.
The paper's recommendations are split into clear sections looking at the effect on the learner, the employer and FE staff as well as exploring what level of investment is required, and how the regulatory and funding systems should support the adoption of new digital methods.
Ofsted is encouraged to include a requirement for all providers to explicitly embed e-learning in their teaching strategy whilst awarding organisations are urged to increase the amount of e-assessment across FE. As far as funding is concerned, the report promotes funding by 'learning presence', not 'physical attendance' and expresses the opinion that by 2015-16, there should be a 10% wholly online component to every publicly funded qualification.
In line with other recent reports, FELTAG calls for a greater role for employers in the development and delivery of the FE curriculum, engaging businesses to find out what digital skills they are looking for.
Of course, should the recommendations be accepted, there would be significant changes afoot for FE establishments. For example, the report calls for entire workforces to be brought up to speed on the impact of learning technology. This would involve significant investment in the knowledge, skills and understanding of teaching staff, management, principals, governors and support staff - this learning would then have to be refreshed regularly as part of their continuous professional development.
At NCFE, we support new technology within education and believe that digital methods can provide a learner-centric approach to education, helping us to fit learning to individual needs. What's more, it can support and empower teaching staff to further strengthen their teaching. There's no doubt that the pace of technological change is accelerating and it's vital that the education sector keeps up with this.
It's with this in mind, that NCFE offers online resources, online assessment and has recently launched NCFE Learning Hub, a new e-learning platform which can be used to register your learners and send them course content. There's the functionality to email learners with e-learning modules to complete, as well as tracking facilities and reporting mechanisms to show you your learners' outcomes at different stages.
However, having said this, we also understand that with big change comes big challenge. There will undoubtedly be a number of issues raised within FELTAG's report which you may be concerned about.
We would like to know – what are your thoughts on FELTAG's recommendations? How can NCFE support you with some of the issues raised? We're particularly interested in your thoughts on workforce capacity.
David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the national awarding organisation