Friday, February 17, 2017

Useful Sessions from @A_L_T including "Course Design for Reflective Learning"


Don't Fear the Webinar image CC thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/psd/
 
 
I would not normally devote a post to a series of webinars but I think its important that FE staff in Scotland pick up on these and we move dialogue back to teaching and learning - in new ways !
 
With usual declaration of interest I am one of the ALT UK Ambassadors.
 
The FELTAG movement has moved on both the conversation and the delivery of learning in English Colleges and training providers it continues to prompt a multi-agency response to modernising learning practices.
 
I think all six topics are directly relevant to Scottish FE.
 
 
'New course design for Reflective learning'

Wednesday 22nd. February 2017 at 12.30pm. for one hour. 

 
This is our second of six webinars and is being led by Dan Scott, lately of Barnsley College and now working in e-learning development in the commercial sector. He will explore ideas and thinking around how e-learning design is now able to incorporate more reflection into courses as a means of learning, demonstrating achievements and characterising attributes.  


Dan will lead a ‘walk and talk’ webinar, exploring ideas on how reflection can be utilised more in online course design, drawing on his own experience as an expert in e-learning both in a college settings and in the commercial world.

He will be looking in particular at two questions:

  • How do we increase learner responsibility for what they learn and what they want to learn next?
  • How might  we design e-learning to enable this to happen?

This Webinar touches on another of our frontier themes; teaching the skills of self-employment, as we think about increasing the ability of all to self-manage learning and plot unique journeys through the learning. This is increasingly true for teachers in their own careers.

 

The FELTAG  reports are seen as the moment when e-learning became normative and an expected part of everyday funded learning in our Sector, rather than an excellent supplement or exotic add-on. For students, the need to turn their 'tech savvy’ knowledge into sound digital literacy is accepted as a discrete ability and as a part of the ‘employability’ mind-set that is now fully explored and understood. It has highlighted the importance for teachers of having their own literacy in using technology for purposeful pedagogy, rather than simply knowledge of it and is characterised by teachers being excited by articulating great teaching through technology, rather than simply using technology for its own sake.

 
Our 6 webinars are based on what we identified at ALT 2016 Conference, not so much as challenges but the new frontiers for us to cross. They are:

 

            • New course design for Reflective learning

            • Using technology to support unique Apprenticeship learning journeys

            • Digital literacy-in-action

            • Teaching the skills of self-employment

            • Utilising personal learning spaces in learning design

            • Using technology to capture and present soft skills

 

Registration details available now at

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Thinking about institutional On-Line Learning and Adding Value




This week,  back from the tropics,  I caught up with my emails and projects, had a tour around Kelvin College and caught up with Jason-Miles Campbell who looks after all things JISC in Scotland and we did our usual brain dump on what we are seeing across Scottish FE and HE - though some of these messages just as relevant for Scottish based training providers.

These are my own quick reflections.

1. Things are still going too slowly - FE and  HE institutions have focus on full-time students in classrooms and lecture theatres but they are not doing enough to support either these learners , part-time learners or perish the thought potential learners that are not yet in the institution or based in the workplace , through flexible  on-line offerings. Perhaps a change in the funding landscape is required to drive new behaviours ?

2. Having a virtual learning environment,  electronic whiteboards in every classroom  and great institutional wifi coverage are not on their own sufficient to change the learning paradigm. Surveys of full-time learners go someway to mapping out the services they need - but what about part-time learners , potential distance learners and employers ? What are institutions doing to close the skills gaps and confidence of teachers or to encourage new models of delivery ?  More work needs done on the entry and CPD standards for FE staff in particular.

3. Eduroam is still not embedded in all the places it should be . It makes it easy for academic staff to pick up wifi in any institution and encourages collaborative working . Makes it easy too for learners to move between campuses and institutions. Why are there still a number of centres resistant to Eduroam ?

4. If you follow the tenders coming out of Public Contracts Scotland - then you will have seen this year some big contracts to purchase on-line content for both College and University courses appearing from a number of institutions. Paid for content has a place - but would be good to see some more institutional development around the thinking required around the creation and  sharing of re-sources. Why are more institutions not thinking about content strategies, particularly around how they encourage more open practices among teaching staff?

5. Some developments spawned by a more proactive take on changing delivery models in FE in England are offering excellent staff development and content collaboration partnerships. There are some great models from Heart of Worcester College on content front , from UFI trust ( Citizen Maths and more )  , the Education and Training Foundation  and others on the staff development front and lots of really useful developments coming through from JISC . There still seems a lack of ambition and drivers in Scotland in this space. Given the different landscape a Scottish FELTAG model should be inclusive of schools , colleges , training providers and Universities - who all drink from the pump of public funding. This is beyond the bailiwick of any of the current agencies - can the institutions be collectively more ambitious?

6 Shared services, which was a big part of the modernisation agenda driven by SFC,  seems to have run into a wall.  Its hard to spot examples other than the collaborative procurement models from APUC   I hope someone corrects me and shows me some good examples of shared services in operation perhaps across the FE/HE divide ?  - other than of-course the great work of Jisc.

7. If Colleges are to make more of the opportunities that are arising from the growing apprenticeship market - they need to quickly start learning from some of the market leaders . There is a lot to be learned from organisations like http://apprenticeships.qa.com/  and probably scope too for some productive cooperation.

8. Moodle has its limitations as a VLE when it comes to ease of content creation and management and delivery to a broad range of mobile devices. A lot of  institutions are now wrestling with content mirrored across three or more server rooms - a growing challenge,  as finally the graphics  , music and video production sections have worked out how to upload content for teaching and assessment purposes. For institutions who are interested in moving more of this up into the cloud and thinking about giving learners a better all round experience - perhaps its time to take a long hard look at the new tools that are emerging for institutional delivery. The IT crowd will be worried about ease of migration and provisioning of the system. Canvas is really worth looking at . Spotted in last few weeks that Norway is one of first European countries to adopt Canvas as the VLE of choice for the University sector . It is worth a look at how this market is changing http://mfeldstein.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/e-Literate-European-LMS-Market-Dynamics-Fall-2016.pdf 

9. The new inspection model for Colleges could do with some more detail around new delivery models to help encourage new ways of supporting learners. The old model of awaiting an aspect report that gives some examples of progressive pedagogy seems clunky in what is increasingly a faster paced  on-line world.  Now staffing and responsibilities have settled down again - we could do with some more open on-line communities in this space to share best practice.  Would be great if these were inclusive of HE , FE and training provider practitioners from across Scotland.  Everyone is wrestling with same challenges around staff skills and delivery technology.

10.  It is superb news that Gary Maclean from City of Glasgow College won UK Master Chef   It is great news for the FE sector in Scotland as a whole . FE is the skills engine of many workplaces and delivers the skills training that simply does not happen in Higher Education . I hope it gives the sector back some more self confidence and it is picked up in  the Enterprise and Skills Review   Recent reforms have often underplayed the deep links that Colleges have to the workplace and the practical nature of skills delivery that is embedded in both the delivery and the  qualifications system in Scotland.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Report from @IPPRScotland "Equipping Scotland for the future: Key challenges for the Skills System in Scotland " Some Observations



The two upcoming brands of Malt Whisky in the Philippines

I came back to the  publication of  A report  by IPPR, Scotland, sponsored by FETL that  explores the current and future challenges facing the Scottish skills system and makes suggestions on some key areas for action.

It is a thorough piece of work, though one that you might have expected to come with a confident and joined up voice from within the Scottish FE system.

I had a look for some informed critiques on this excellent piece of work. It will probably start arriving once the paper has had broader circulation and folks have battled through their new year emails . I see it is being raised in a question at Holyrood today,  that may stimulate some further debate  - here is my tuppence worth.

The IPPR Scotland report outlines six priorities for action for the skills system in Scotland: I've set them out here with some commentary. I think it is worth too setting this paper alongside the ambition of the reforms that are currently moving at pace through the English system.

My overall reflection is that we need to speed up our thinking in this space in Scotland.  While a lot of focus has been on  the reorganisation of delivery structures to reflect the public funding available - we have perhaps been marking time around the bolder thinking that has in the past been a hallmark of the Scottish vocational system. It is often overlooked that like Scottish Whisky this can be a successful export if we are bold and get our thinking right.  This is not about sectors - it needs built around a learner's journey


1  Embedding an outcome approach and setting a clear national purpose of the skills system – it is not clear what the overall purpose of the skills system is
I think this also stretches into Schools and University system - some sectors or parts of it have forgotten than deep links to industry and employers  are significant for learners and for the CPD of teaching staff.
Outcomes should be for learners with institutions being rewarded on their delivery,  but these should be around distance travelled - so that the  resources follow the learners need for support. We can have both a high achieving and a more equitable system - this should not be seen as mutually exclusive.
2  Regional integration of the skills system – not just college regionalisation but across the skills system
While large structural reforms and regionalisation  are referred to frequently in the report this must mean more than simply College Regionalisation - The report does not pick up that there are a significant number of Regional DSWY groups with no College representation
There needs to be clearer vehicles for employers, local authorities, Schools , Colleges , Training Providers and Universities to engage with.  Perhaps there are still too many separate funding streams and this discourages real cooperation.
How in practice are skills investment plans (SIPs) and regional skills assessments (RSAs) really aligned with College Outcome agreements and how are the other delivery partners involved ?  If Colleges shape their offerings around these then all parts of the supply chain should be doing this too.
Also worth reflecting that though Colleges are now regional - there is greater disparity than ever in the size of these regional colleges.
You can be global and still reflect the needs of local learners.
3  Clarifying roles of learning routes within the skills system – there is too much confusion and duplication between routes at present
The University system has in many cases needed the carrot of additional funding to support articulation and the acceptance of HND/C students into the 2nd and 3rd years of degree programmes.
While there is increased investment in apprenticeships - the articulation links for these are very uncharted. How easy is it to switch and get due credit from an SVQ3 in to an HND or Degree programme ? or SVQ4/5 into post-graduate study ?  
The system seems to ignore the growth in wholly work based  professional routes in areas like accountancy and law spawned by English system of paying fees for Higher Education.  There are likely to be more wholly on-line global offerings arriving too. The system could get more confusing without some clear guidance and coordination.
4  Learners and employers co-designing a responsive skills system – the funding and implementation of the Apprenticeships Levy in Scotland offers opportunities in this regard
The levy is being used in the main to deliver the system in England not to re-design the system or the underpinning standards that support the system - the state is paying for this bit . Should the system not be redesigned around learners , employers and those who deliver the skills system.  You can't write out training providers , colleges, universities  and in time schools who all have a stake in delivering a responsive skills system.
There needs to be a more explicit expectation on employers. Reforms in England all about them making a contribution and having a greater say in the system.  
If it is going to be based on qualifications and assessments you need to use SCQF and make better use of SQA in this mix . There is a lot of experience in the system.  
5  Improving flexibility of learning so that learners can learn at a pace that suits their needs
Innovation here is being led by a few UK based training providers who are delivering directly into a growing number of Scottish employers and supporting apprenticeships in the main.  Colleges and Universities have been incentivised to focus on full-time learners in the 16-24 year old cohort.  There needs to be some fresh thinking and some fresh stimulus around the flexible learning agenda. This bit of innovative , flexible , on-line delivery has atrophied in the main-stream but there is lots of experience around Massive Open On-line courses and around open educational resources that need brought into mainstream delivery.
6  Increasing transferability of learning so that learning can be built up over what will be longer working lives, potentially in multiple careers and for multiple employers
There is much more scope for SCQF but we are not far away from having a national qualification transcript. We already have all of the elements in the Scottish Candidate Number and if you think digital rather than paper learners and employers should be able to access a single on-line transcript of learner achievements.
There is no mention in this report of the importance of core or transferable skills. Perhaps there is some wish to dilute this ?  - but for learners:  numeracy , communication skills and digital literacy will underpin most occupations in the future.
Finally as a footnote - I batter things into this blog so I should never be a spelling or grammar pedant (that in my opinion is the job of a good sub-editor)  However , I did spot Principle being used on a number of occasions in this report rather than Principal ;-)

Friday, January 06, 2017

Happy New Year to one and all - and make 2017 special


Hope you are all ready for another busy and productive year . I've not blogged much since early December as we were off visiting extended family in the Philippines over Christmas and New Year - here is a wee tropical tonic.


Philippines 2016/17

Looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones in the year ahead.

All the very best for 20017

Friday, December 02, 2016

Time to Re-Think the System ? Universities , Colleges and Work-based Learning in Scotland


CC http://www.thedeliciouslife.com/salami-chorizo-saucisson-sec-the-delicious-daily-11-04-2009/

'THE Scottish Government's policy of free tuition for university students has come under intense pressure from principals who said the sector was now "at tipping point". Universities Scotland said cuts had made current funding levels "unsustainable" with the future quality of teaching and research at risk' Herald
It is time to have a radical look at course provision across Work-based Learning , Colleges and Universities. If we want and/or believe in free higher education, then the system needs to change. This both to provide clearer support for learners and for the system to operate within the resources available from the public purse. There needs too to be much greater collaboration and support across these sectors and into Schools.

The system as it stands cannot continue as a three lane highway all funded in different ways with a combination of slip roads that can lead to dead ends for learners . I hope the Enterprise and Skills Review and the new overarching committee finally picks up on this.
A good case can be made to follow up on some of the models emerging in England, where with the support of employers, law , accountancy and many other professions are moving back towards being largely apprenticeship based.

The system often talks about an over supply of hairdressers but an over supply of law students is rarely seen as a challenge, this might seem trite - but the issues need unpackaging and probably requires a programme re-design across all three sectors - putting learners before any institutional or sectoral politics.

If we don't take some decisions here soon - then by the continual salami slicing of the funding for Universities , Colleges and Work-based learning - the system will fail to modernise, be damaged as a whole and diminish the prospects and opportunities for Scottish learners.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

What is FE landscape for a prospective supplier

Asked by a client ,timeously as I was about to board train to Leeds,   to sketch out the  FE landscape across UK - so really a view from the train as I hurtle down to chair an e-assessment conference.
Quite appropriately the image is a bit out of focus - Colleges are clear about the destination of their learners but are having a bumpy ride at the moment.

Here is how I think a company selling some innovative  cloud based  learning software into FE colleges might see FE across the UK.  The questions from the client - and answers high level. 

FE seems more diverse than HE across UK how would you describe it ?

Remember FE ,  like skills and education policy  is devolved,  so there are different policies and structures across Scotland, Wales , NI and England.

Scotland 
FE is now part of public sector now around 25 Colleges in 13 Regions
Colleges offer -  HE,FE, Apprenticeships, ESOL , school college partnerships and have broader roles around inclusion and employability to all 16+ across region 
Following regionalisation,  there is actually now a much broader spectrum of scale than ever before - now some super giant colleges , some large colleges and a few very small ones.  
Being part of public sector is significant for procurement - now they have to follow government frameworks etc  APUC is main procurement service for the sector  and watch Public Contracts Scotland website. If you want a sale in Scotland route is to get onto framework. Colleges are now more constrained around the investment decisions they can make - but also very squeezed financially.

Northern Ireland 
Already aligned regionally and more homogeneous in size similar to Scotland but less HE delivery in colleges.  

Wales 
Series of mergers since 2010 now 14 Colleges deliver similar to scotland but perhaps a bit less HE .

England 
Huge diversity of provision the big metropolitan colleges most like those in Scotland, Wales and NI . Currently undergoing a process of area review that will mean many  more mergers and perhaps a landscape like other home nations emerging ?  Across board - have not been strong delivering HE in FE .  If you are after the big ones look to rebranded 157 Group now called the Collab Group.

What are major pain points ?
Funding is issue across all UK FE. In Scotland around a 27% cut over last 5 years - huge drop in PT learners with disproportional impact on equalities . The focus has been on FT courses and 16-24year olds so other traditional FE clients particularly those looking for part-time courses  - older learners , women returners are excluded currently . NI possibly most stable having had greater period to settle post regionalisation . England in turmoil but will settle too post area review .

Education reform across UK in last 8 years follows same pattern, against different educational policies,  but  model seems to be  one of driving changes in schools but keeping funding stable , challenging HE but in the knowledge that they can access international and other research funds , and slashing funds for FE colleges .  FE is the poor cousin - the poorest cousin of all is adult and community learning which has almost disappeared in many parts of UK.

The re-invention of apprenticeships, work-placements , and re-invigoration of college employer links is common theme - which in time may bring some additional funding back to FE.  

Brexit will probably have a disproportionate impact on FE too 

Is there a funding crisis ? 
See in part answer above . Colleges have been delivering in face of severe funding uncertainty across the UK . Against this background there are some real local and even global success stories . But would be fair to say that restructuring and uncertainties around funding have absorbed more leadership time than innovation in important areas like curriculum delivery.

Is there a push towards improving teaching  ? 
Kind of .. The focus in most nations is on improving the outcomes and destination statistics for learners and the quality of teaching is part of the evaluation process  The main focus is on the retention and achievement of learners, alongside that,  evidencing stronger links to industry.

In Scotland Education Scotland do external quality assurance in England , Wales and Northern Ireland Ofsted -so yes but entry and CPD standards need refreshed and don't reflect digital learning so  there are not modern enough drivers to get staff more excited about blended or other innovative ways of delivering. The leadership has been absorbed in restructuring generally and have  not been strong on seeing and supporting innovative learning and teaching practices or using learning technology. But few education sectors have really embedded or changed practices so not just an FE challenge. 

Is there a push to improving student satisfaction ? 
NUS have become much more organised in supporting FE learners across UK in last 10 years . As part of internal and external quality assurance satisfaction rates are monitored at College level and less formally at national level. In Scotland,  Scottish funding Council are about to reintroduce a national survey.   Satisfaction rates are always on agenda of senior management teams . Evidence is and tribute to those working in FE that satisfaction rates have held up well even during period of severe cuts and restructuring.  However,  surveys don't cover those who can't get a place in a college or the external stakeholders who might rightly expect new services and greater flexibility from Colleges.

Are there growth opportunities ?
Yes, in all the home nations, and in face of funding cuts, colleges  need to be able to rethink and resize their offerings. How in Scotland for instance could a college offer something online to support the learners who cannot get into a College at moment ?  -see above large number missing out . In England opportunities will flow from training levy - employers will be looking for innovative providers to spend their training accounts with - growth across UK in supporting apprenticeships.

Teachers in schools across UK are being expected to be more familiar with work based learning - Colleges have specialists who can help develop both learners directly and teachers.

If you look at most workforce studies across the UK there is a  shortage of technicians that colleges produce.

Across UK demand for all that further education colleges can offer  is not going to slacken - but colleges do need to innovate faster. 

Ways forward  - look for TES or other national award winning Colleges , College Development Network Awards in Scotland, Beacon Awards in England   - target the largest colleges that win prizes for innovative approaches to learning - if the products and the price is right they will be very interested. 

You didn't ask - but there has been an ongoing push but  in England  to embed more online learning opportunities across FE in England . Check out the #feltag hashtag on the web and Twitter and you will quickly spot the innovators and their colleges. 

If you want to get in front of college learning technologists use ALT . The U.K. Association for Learning Technology and see how you can work with or support Jisc who work across FE and HE in UK.