Further education (FE) and skills in the UK has come up against a lot of challenges in the last few years. Does FELTAG still have a place in this landscape? Absolutely! In fact, I'd argue more so now than ever.
FELTAG is a driver for providers to re-energise their visions for how technology can enhance their core business: improving the educational experience for all learners. Developing a digital strategy that can harness the potential benefits of technology to offer enhancements and efficiencies around the delivery of teaching, learning and assessment will ensure learners develop the digital skills they need in their future employment.
You'll have read before on the Jisc blog about the group of government, professional and sector bodies that have come together to deliver the FELTAG recommendations – first as the FELTAG coalition, and later as the FE and skills coalition (to incorporate Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).
Our latest meeting in March saw 40 representatives attend to update on progress and make sure that what we're working on meets the strategic priorities for the digital agenda. I'd like to share these with you, as well as the activities that we're putting into place to support each challenge area.
- Digital leadership – senior leaders and governors need to understand the role of technology in supporting their college's core business, embed digital in their strategies and model behaviours they wish staff to adopt. Jisc is currently developing a digital leadership programme to support leaders in developing strategy and planning skills for a digital organisation, while the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) funds a mastering governance of technology for learning online training course for governors. The ETF also offers an Excellence in Leadership, Management and Governance (ELMAG) portal, which brings together a range of courses, resources, toolkits and networking opportunities for FE and skills leaders, managers and governance officers.
- Staff digital capabilities – to deliver online and digital learning all staff within an organisation need to have the relevant skills to carry out their work. For many, this will mean having to acquire a new skillset. One of the most popular resources for doing so is the free online blended learning essentials course by UFI and a consortium of partners, which promotes effective digital practice and pedagogy for vocational education and training. Jisc has a digital capabilities framework that describes the skills needed in a wide range of academic, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment. It will soon include a suite of discovery, diagnostic and reflective tools, that will help individuals and managers identify and reflect on current digital capability, and plan for how these can be improved. Jisc is also currently piloting an FE and skills CPD Service (informed by the coalition) that will build on this service and support continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities. This will form three sections: online CPD resources; open and reusable best practice resources; and communities of practice.
- Assessment – there's an outdated myth around awarding bodies not recognising the use of technology to support formative and summative assessment. This simply isn't true, and thankfully we're now starting to see more providers integrate e-assessment in their practices. The recent e-assessment survey for EAAG (e-assessment advisory group) has some important recommendations for colleges and providers on how to take a more innovative approach.
- New models for blended delivery – this isn't about technology replacing what is already taking place in the classroom but using it with learners to work collaboratively, extend the classroom and encourage their creativity. Staff working in partnership with learners not only encourages more active engagement in their learning but also enables both to develop their digital skills. There is much guidance to support this, such as the ETF's Learning Futures programme about integrating technology into the curriculum, and Jisc's enhancing the student digital experience guide, with case studies and practical resources.
- Sharing best practice – If we're able to support the sharing of practice, both within an organisation, and also externally, it will encourage collaboration and stop people trying to re-invent the wheel. The Association for Learning Technology ALT is supporting this through its active community of practice, the FELTAG-SIG, and has also recommended that collaboration be encouraged at a senior leadership level to support cohesive digital visions, which ETF are supporting.
On the final point about sharing best practice, it's really important that we take time to celebrate and communicate successes.
Ahead of the coalition meeting, a number of partners came together to collect some of the best examples of technology-enabled learning in the UK and publish them in a handy report. This is done across six key areas: Delivering a relevant digital curriculum; engaging learners in the development of the digital environment; using technology to develop learners' employability; supporting students and staff to work successfully with digital technologies; delivering a robust, flexible digital environment; and a strategic approach to developing the student digital experience.
The report is a useful start in gathering the effective practice that exists in the sector. I say start, as there's much more to be done. Jisc, on behalf of the FE and skills coalition, is currently calling for providers to tell us how they've embraced technology and to what effect. This will form an updated guide, which we see as becoming a handbook for peer organisations to refer to and learn from.
Submit your entry until 18 April or join the conversation at #FELTAG.
Sarah Knight is senior co-design manager at Jisc