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.


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