All too quickly September has rolled around again, bringing with it a sense of anticipation and hard work for those working in FE. Colleges are busy welcoming new students who bring with them new expectations about their learning experience and what they will get out of it. New courses are launching and everyone is dealing with the introduction of new Government policies and the phasing out of others, with all the changes to teaching and assessment methods that these entail.
This year, we've seen the real growth of and interest in technology to support and improve teaching and learning, alongside a raft of policies that significantly impact the 16-19 landscape. What it boils down to is tutors having to constantly adapt and evolve their teaching methods, often being asked to do more with less and needing to update their skills without the time to attend structured training programmes.
When we've spoken to tutors about the type of support they lack the response often comes back around peer to peer sharing of ideas and teaching content. Without the proper resources to improve their skills and learn new ones, these informal networks are vital in giving FE professionals support and access to different ideas and ways of thinking.
Someone who understands the importance of building these communities is Sarah Simons, the founder of UKFE Chat. Initially conceived as a way of finding FE tutors on social media, UKFE Chat has grown to include a community of active FE practitioners who meet on twitter and in the real world to share best practice and discuss the challenges and opportunities of their profession. Realising the wealth of experience at all levels among the group, Sarah decided to commission essays on a range of topics that could be developed into a book and made available for anyone to download. The UKFE Chat Guide, supported by City & Guilds, launched on 4 September and includes some really great thinking from across the sector.
It's this spirit of content sharing that we embrace at City & Guilds as we recognise how invaluable it is to people. In February this year we launched the Think Out Loud Club with a similar aim to inspire FE practitioners about how technology can positively disrupt education and to provide a safe forum where people can share the pleasures and pain of adopting new technologies.
We've also been looking at how we can support the FE community to develop new content and this autumn we are piloting The Content Exchange, a website which will provide an online repository for sharing teaching and learning content that can be downloaded and re-used across the sector. We know from our research among practitioners how important access to quality, re-usable content is and based on the positive feedback we've received so far, we hope The Content Exchange will grow as more tutors share their materials to meet the needs of the sector.
In addition City & Guilds Kineo, the part of our business focussed on developing learning and technology solutions, is also passionate about making e-learning tools available to as wide an audience as possible. It has developed an open-source tool, Adapt, which is freely available for education institutions to use to develop their own e-learning content.
With so much change in the sector and tutors being asked to do so much with so little, continuing to build communities that work together to share content, tools and ideas is the only way to improve the education experience for everyone.
Kirstie Donnelly is UK managing director of City & Guilds Group, a global leader in skills development