From education to employment

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The need for stronger vocational options for students wanting to pursue further education in less academic ways is being welcomed by the education sector, teachers and learners alike. The 14-19 reforms coming into effect from September 2008 reflect the Government’s move towards meeting this need.

In the workplace, there is a strong body of opinion among employers that new solutions are needed to meet the skills shortages. As a result, employer-focused, demand-led training and learning in the workplace will become more commonplace.

While the new courses being developed in response to 14-19 curriculum reform will be able to offer great options for students, new teaching resources will also provide more flexible choices for vocational learning. ICT, in the form of eLearning resources already prevalent in primary and secondary education, is now being implemented as a practical solution for vocational learners.

What does ICT offer?

Fundamentally ICT can offer new ways of introducing and reinforcing the key skills required in following a particular career path, that go well beyond the capabilities of even the best textbook. Activities can be brought to life in circumstances where the exposure to real experience is limited or more importantly when it needs reinforcing outside the classroom environment. For example, multi-media clips including sound bites and video demonstrations can bring about a more practical experience of skills. Interactive class activities and video presentations support the delivery of theory lessons and can also be used as an effective revision tool.

Harcourt has recently entered into a partnership with City & Guilds, the UK’s leading vocational awarding body, to create a learning package which responds to learners” needs for more interactive and personalised vocational training options. ProActive Hospitality and Catering is the first fully integrated course which brings together e-learning, tutor support, e-portfolio and assessment for S/NVQ Level 2 in Professional Cookery.

The comprehensive ProActive textbook, written by industry experts and City and Guilds verifiers, covers the practical aspects of basic cookery and all the necessary underpinning theory. However the course goes beyond this traditional format to deliver the collection of these learning resources in an on-line format as well. The course thus aims to fully motivate learners by offering them new and more flexible ways of studying alongside traditional methods.

Paul Mansfield of South Downs College, who reviewed ProActive Catering, explains the impact of eLearning: “It is good for students ““ it really motivates them and can go a long way to bringing topics to life in circumstances where we cannot do practical work. For example the bank of video resources includes clips showing how to prepare and cook expensive food commodities such as salmon or halibut which many centres would not be able to afford to purchase again and again for the purposes of live demonstration”.

eLearning can also provide teaching support in the form of plans, recipes, worksheets and suggested assessment which can enable tutors to make more of their time with students. ICT can help take a lot of the administration out of managing the NVQ assessment process. e-portfolios which allow candidates and assessors to access information on each student’s work 24/7 can simplify planning assessment, storing and cross referencing evidence, and tracking progress.

Why does it work?

Because eLearning is more interactive it is in turn more engaging and fundamentally more motivating for students. All those concerned in using eLearning recognise that technology offers greater flexibility in how courses are delivered. As colleges consider the ways of increasing the delivery of vocational learning they have realised that they need to consider completely new ways of thinking about the environments in which pupils and students learn; both actual and virtual.

Ultimately, not everyone works in the same way. eLearning offers different ways to gain knowledge and for that knowledge to be accessed in vibrant and interactive ways. Resources can now cover the same volume of content but deliver it in a range of different ways that may be more relevant or exciting for the student. There is therefore now something for every type of learner and learning can be accessed time and time again at any location to reinforce learning and raise skills.

Jill Duffy, Director of Vocational Publishing, Harcourt.

What do you think about the role of ICT in FE?

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