There has been a long-running teacher tradition of spending evenings creating learning materials, taking them into work and swapping them over the photocopier. But, how do today's teachers in the further education & skills sector locate and exploit suitable learning content in the digital age? With affordable – and portable – computers, cameras and recording equipment, they can create varied and high-quality multimedia and interactive content. But as the kit becomes more easily available, the time to create content becomes scarcer.
Teachers and tutors across the skills sector ask the same questions of online content:
• How do I track down these resources online?
• How do I decide if they are suitable for my learners and the qualifications they are working to?
• How do I figure out if I have the rights to use them and adapt them for my own learners?
• How to make the most efficient use of my ever-decreasing preparation time?
Teachers often say it is quicker to start from scratch ... which invariably means a race against the clock to get resources ready for the next lesson.
How do I track down resources online which I can use and adapt for my own learners?
The recent ALT-C conference buzzed with talk of open educational resources (OERs), whereby teachers create their own content and make it available for others to exploit. If the content has been made open, which they can tell by checking the creative commons license which tells you legally how you can use the resource (use, edit etc), they can also benefit from their colleagues' wisdom and technical skill by re-purposing existing content for their own learners.
This opportunity is particularly valuable in the skills sector where the learner population is diverse as it allows you to tailor the resources to the individual. "We think of it as crowd-sourcing", said a tutor at the Jisc E-Factor' showcase in June.
But it's not always as simple as just finding the resources and using them as Matt Gallon, e-learning advisor at Jisc explains, "There's no shortage of 'raw' material on the internet. The thing that takes the time is turning it into a useful learning resource, with relevance to vocational qualifications."
It's important to check that the resources you choose are relevant to the curriculum and that people have taken the time to ensure they meet the needs of the user and requirements of the qualification. You often find that once you find a few good sources of open educational resources (OERs) this becomes less of an issue as they are clearly marked. The UK's largest source of OERs is Jorum, which helps teachers both find and share resources.
How do I decide if they are suitable for my learners and the qualifications they are working to?
The key is listening to your learners and seeing how they respond to the different types of resources you offer them. We all learn differently. As an example apprentices generally need resources they can access at a time that suits them, that's what makes online resources such an exciting opportunity.
"It's always really busy at work," says an apprentice at a body shop Birmingham "It's hard to take things in sometimes. I have a long boring bus ride so it's great to zone out with my phone and noise-cancelling headphones and go over what I've been learning in the workshop".
How can I create new resources?
In the past few years teachers have certainly begun to curate content and create mash-ups that they can share with colleagues and learners, and there are tools available to help, such as:
Thinglink – create interactive images and videos to help students develop 21st century skills and enrich their enthusiasm for learning.
XtLearn - which allows you to gather learning resources from anywhere on the web, mix in your own and share them with learners and peers.
Explain Everything – For Android or iOS tablets. A recordable whiteboard and screen-casting tool for creating inspiring video tutorials.
Another option is participating in Jisc's 'community opportunity', Ruth Hansford, project manager at Jisc explained, "We are inviting proposals from training providers in the further education and skills sector, in England, to develop new online interactive resources for apprentices.
"Jisc is looking for bids between £5K and £30K, with over £400,000 available in total for development of learning content. This content will then be deposited on the national repository for OERs, Jorum www.jorum.ac.uk."
Matt Gallon is an e-learning advisor at Jisc