The publication of the FELTAG report and the Government Response to FELTAG, which was looking to find how we can best support the further education sector with the evolution of new technologies, for the benefit of learners, employers and the UK economy, has been met with a lot of enthusiasm. But, there has also been some confusion, especially around the definition of a 10% wholly online course component.
Has the question 'are further education providers supposed to be having 10% of their courses delivered online by 2016', been echoing round your staff room? Well now we have the answer from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) through their 'delivering online learning: SFA response to FELTAG report'. ??
The SFA response commits providers to producing a strategy which looks at a greater blend of delivery and assessment types. It explicitly states that it is not expecting them to convert 10% of learning delivery to online methods.
I work at Jisc, a charity whose vision is to make the UK the most digitally advanced education nation in the world. What I'm most pleased about is that this clarity will enable us to work with partner organisations to support the sector to achieve the recommendations in an efficient and effective way. We can now act on our objectives to enable all providers to achieve a more blended learning offer.
What's happening now ?
As the report's recommendations affect a number of agencies and sector bodies we felt the best starting point was to get everyone from across the sector in one room. Everyone needed to actively participate and agree on what we could do together to make all the relevant recommendations a reality for learners in a collaborative way. SFA, BIS, NIACE, AELP, HOLEX, Gazelle Group, 157 Group, Institute of Education, AoC, Natspec, Tinder, ETF and WEA were all involved. In addition, OFSTED and ALT, who were unable to join the initial meeting, will participate in the future.
Together we identified the areas where no or little activity was already in place to support learning providers and identified the six areas where our activity would have the biggest impact and the smallest amount of duplication:
Set up a Collaborative Sector Forum to deliver for the sector?
The group want to support a forum of the further education sector bodies. This will provide oversight and/or coordination of our approach when delivering the FELTAG recommendations. It will also allow monitoring of action taken.
Engage students through a variety of activities?
One of the most important elements of the work around FELTAG is ensuring that all these activities are delivering for students. By working together to promote existing student engagement projects and innovation and develop new projects we can make sure that these activities are meeting learners' needs.
Get your help to design the curriculum ?
We all want to engage employers and learners more directly in designing courses and programmes, by offering them the opportunity to collaborate on curriculum design. This should bring the sector together and improve approaches to a blended learning.
Provide leadership and governance around the use of digital technology at a UK level
?By developing training and support for leaders and managers, we would enable them to understand how they can best use technology to educate their learners and make efficiencies within their college. This would include advice and guidance around strategic decisions.
Help bring together a pool of discoverable online resources for the sector ?
As a group we will encourage and support student-generated content and provide more effective approaches for staff to discover and create learning resources. This will help to promote usage of the content and also the creation of future high quality materials.
Build a best practice workforce that are digitally qualified
?The group will create a further education online academy to enable the entire teaching workforce to become professional digital practitioners. The academy would look to develop digital literacy and confidence in using tech. It may also include validation and accreditation qualifications, bring together existing resources, allow crowdsourcing to promote the sharing of ideas/resources and ultimately help future proof the sector.
The government response to the FELTAG Recommendations makes it clear that digital technologies are central to the future for learners and the workforce in the FE and Skills sector. Providers are encouraged to use digital technologies to support all aspects of their work, especially learning, teaching and assessment. The government wants to encourage greater use of 'blended learning': a mix of face to face and technology-based learning. This will, firstly, meet the needs of employers and those in employment. Secondly, this wider use of digital technologies can release cost savings and efficiencies for learning providers. If you would like any support with the FELTAG recommendations please contact our Regional Support Centres and keep your eye out for further updates on this joint work.
Paul McKean is further education and skills customer advocate at Jisc, which provides digital solutions for UK education and research