It is hard to believe that it was almost five years ago that the Government published its response to the recommendations of the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group established by the then FE and Skills Minister Matt Hancock.
In summary it was a wake-up call for Colleges, policy makers and FE agencies:
“FELTAG will aim to best support the agile evolution of the FE sector in anticipation of disruptive technology, for the benefit of learners, employers & the UK economy as a whole.”
The recommendations came under six major themes:
1. Horizon scanning and context
To what extent does the College have the leadership and vision to not only see the digital future but plan for it?
2. Learners and Learning Technology
To what extent do the Learners use their own technology and expertise in their learning?
3. Employers and Learning Technology
How close does the College work with employers and their digital technology?
4. Regulation and Funding
Does the current funding and accountability systems support of hinder the use of digital technology?
5. Investment and Capital Infrastructure
Is the investment policy and capital infrastructure sustainable, sufficient, safe and robust?
6. Providers Capacity & Capability
Does the workforce have the confidence and competence to use technology effectively for teaching, learning and assessment?
Many FE Colleges welcomed the recommendations and embraced the spirit of the FELTAG. The regulatory and funding bodies OFSTED, OFQUAL, ESFA and other Government bodies were less speedy in their response and some think still act as an inhibitor to the innovation needed to ensure Colleges stay relevant to the changing digital world and consequent change in learning habits.
Some FE College’s really embraced the spirit of the FELTAG report and, despite cuts to their budgets and the distraction of the wasteful area based review process, have invested in the infrastructure and workforce capability and capacity to fully exploit the potential of digital technologies. Others have not been as perceptive. Whilst the original momentum of FELTAG aimed for a 10% online component of every course (rising ultimately to 50%) this got depleted with Ministerial changes and competing and conflicting policy changes.
Whilst the future is always difficult to predict, especially when technology changes so quickly, the direction of travel is clear. Increasing amounts of teaching, learning and assessment will be digitised and whilst technology will never replace teachers, teachers who use technology effectively will replace those who do not. This means more online content, collaborations, communications, codesign, coconstruction and creation.
Those FE College’s that acknowledge this fact and act quickly will not only survive but thrive. Those who do not will sadly not survive.
Support, funding and CPD, is available from a range of sources as it is really dependent on individual Colleges to develop their own strategies for the future. These include:
- JISC https://www.jisc.ac.uk/
- Education and Training Foundation https://www.et-foundation.co.uk/about-us/
- UfI https://www.ufi.co.uk/
- Chartered College of Teaching https://chartered.college/
- Blended Learning Consortium http://www.blc-fe.org/
About the Author
Bob Harrison is the Chair of Governors at Northern College, Board member of Oldham College, UfI Trustee and former Education Adviser for Toshiba Information Systems Northern Europe.
Follow him on twitter @bobharrisonedu