Friday, December 02, 2016

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


'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.

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.  

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

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. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

#codesign16 Apprenticeship Reform in England and Digital Support for Apprenticeships

Some folks will know I  have been doing work with a range of clients in England around the impact of apprenticeship reforms and the readiness of the vocational system to accommodate what is a seismic change across England.

There will be a lot of useful learning happening through these changes, not least I think the emergence of some  new forms of e-portfolio systems to cope with the tracking and preparation of learners for the much more summative End Point Assessment that all Apprentices in England will now face.

If you are not sure what all these changes are or how they could impact on Scotland. I have some work in progress on the Potential Impact of UK Vocational Reform on Scotland.

In the meantime the  good folks at Jisc are running a sector wide consultation, #Codesign16 around  six topics,  to spark a sector wide  discussion,   over the next few weeks, this  to identify the most promising areas to explore to support the sector with a fiocus on -

What would truly digital apprenticeships look like?

While we don't currently have these massive reforms in Scotland, we do need to look at making the apprenticeship experience much more digital.

In England,  Apprenticeships is a growth area undergoing massive reform, with a government target of three million starts by 2020 this along with  the implementation of the post-16 skills plan will see what is on offer across workbased learning, in schools , colleges and Universities change radically. The employer levy funding beginning in April 2017 will create an estimated pot of  £2.5 bn, a billion pounds more than they currently spend on training and development in England. More effective deployment  of technology will be crucial to achieving government targets whilst maintaining a high quality of delivery.

In Scotland our target is to grow Modern Apprenticeships from 25,000 to 30,000 by 2020 , growing the number of Foundation Apprenticeships , Graduate and Advanced Apprenticships while focussing on overcoming the equality and diversity issues associated with apprenticeships.

To cope with the new system in England Jisc thinks it is the right to build on these reforms, embrace change and embed technology throughout Apprenticeship design, delivery and assessment.
To meet the needs of employers and apprentices in the 21st century.

I think there should be a few Scottish voices in this debate too - our training providers, colleges, universities and schools have much to learn from this discussion.

We need to think about what a digitally supported apprenticeship would look like in Scotland. 

Here is an opportunity to share your hopes and your fears, to tell Jisc what you think might happen, but also what you think should and could happen.

In addition, please can you consider the following questions: These questions are as relevant to the Scottish system as they are to the system being reformed in England. 

·         So what are the issues and problems in embedding technology in delivery and assessment of apprenticeships?
·         How is technology been used to support apprentices as they move through their apprenticeship programme?
·         What are the issues if we are to deliver an apprenticeship programme using a blended or even totally digital approach?
·         What are the problems or issues with using digital assessment methods? What are the potential solutions?

How to get involved

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Playing with Adobe Spark

I spotted a few of my friends chatting on twitter about how useful Adobe Spark is for quickly editing images and adding titles for a range of uses.

It  really is easy to use - the image is local tower blocks in Cardonald coming down last year.
All done in about 10 minutes - when you get used to this tool you could produce nice graphics and images in minutes.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Thinking about Pedagogy , Retention , Achievement , Attainment and a Digital Future in a Scottish College

I had the opportunity today to run a session with the senior management team at Glasgow Kelvin College. The aim of the session was to have a look around the landscape to spot some of the opportunities that lie before Colleges now they have emerged from regionalisation,

This was some of my input in what was a rewarding and interesting discussion with a highly  motivated team. 

I've shared presentation on slideshare and I will make it available too through Google Docs  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

#OER17 The Politics of Open

Image credit: CC-BY-NC-ND Jon Mould

It is that time of the year again - but it's that time in this decade when the UK probably needs to grasp open learning, before like our borders,  we succumb to our seemingly naturally conservative closed mind sets.  I'll not re-hash the Scottish Open Education Declaration.

If you believe the best education only happens in elite institutions and organisations and we just have to accept that or if you believe one day you will publish all of your teaching notes and naturally it will be a best seller.

Please stop reading here.

Worth noting that the first #OER conference was hosted at Cambridge University and if you are Scottish based have a look at how Edinburgh University is leading the charge .

But you don't have to be an elite institution or work in one to become an open practitioner !

Education is of-course a public good.

Please consider !

What could open practices do for learners ? 

Simply by making more learning resources more accessible in times of fiscal constraints
Encourage new forms of pedagogy and collaborative approaches to learning
Improve the overall quality and availability  of the learning experience
Reach into bits of the community and workplaces that need untoll gated access to learning materials.
Improve productivity and the exchange of knowledge and ideas .
Allow learners to be creators and to encourage them to lead in their own learning.
Prepare them for the real world - it is a sharing digital economy out here !
In time be the engine for much more personalised and non linear learning.

What could it do for teachers and trainers ? 

Improve content discovery,  creation , collaboration , re-purposing and publishing skills
Enrich both teaching practice and subject based knowledge and skills

Break down the artificial institutional barriers around school , college , work-based  and HE learning.

Re-light an enthusiasm for learning, if it is being extinguished by an ever diminishing pool of local resources.

What could it do for your institution 

Improve both the quality of delivery internally and allow institutional reach into many more places and allow you and your staff to become part of the global learning community  - rather than a wee local shop.

By embracing openness you are not giving away your crown jewels - you are helping your own staff and learners - and helping other people too.  Isn't that why you came into education ?

It's not just about opening up content it could be more open forms of certification and other practices too !

Who and what are the barriers 

It could be you if you are not already an open practitioner ?
It could be your institution if it does not have a policy on open learning and creative commons licencing ?
It could be your professional body if it gives no recognition for innovative practices or around the sharing of learning materials ?
It could be your : senior management team,  local education authority, your national government - but only because they don't yet see the benefits of open and need to be convinced.

Whetted your appetite ?   Doing some work in this area already ? 

The call for proposals to #OER17: The Politics of Open is now published at

The 8th Annual Open Educational Resources Conference will be held on 5-6 April 2017 at Resource for London, UK.

The conference will be chaired by social and educational technologist and Wikimedia UK Trustee Josie Fraser, and Alek Tarkowski, Director of Centrum Cyfrowe, co-founder and coordinator of Creative Commons Poland.

The conference themes this year are:

Local, national, and international policy and practice
Institutional/organisational politics
Participation & social equality
Open Party

The deadline for proposals: Midday GMT Wednesday, 16 November 2016. You can read the full call which includes session formats at

If you are interested in #oer/#oep the call for proposals for #oer17: The Politics of Open is published


Call for proposals - open
Submission system - late Oct.
Call closes - 16th Nov.

Review decisions and bookings open -  Dec.

Friday, September 23, 2016

From Outside Looking in : Highland Council and Tablets #slf16

Thanks to Donald Clark for reminding me - that sometimes you need be vocal.

I forget sometimes that now as a freelance consultant rather than someone tied into the education establishment I can voice informed opinions about changes in the system.
On the surface an announcement like this week's one that Highland Council is to roll out
20,000 tablet computers to teachers and learners sounds great.

It is a long overdue development to see a whole education authority in Scotland move into this space , it closes the digital divide , gets a browser in to the hands of every learner and teacher and as importantly into their households too and I hope the programme enables enough wifi and bandwidth in their schools so that these tools can be used meaningfully and that other devices can some along too.

I hope the tablets are not mainly used for note taking. If they use the arrival of the technology to rethink learning and curriculum delivery and engage the learners in this redesign then they will move learning along at pace across the region.

The ambition of the local authority has to be applauded. I hope too someone is having a look at the lessons that should have been learned from wee places like Islay High School who were doing this more than 10 years ago and the numerous pilots with mobile devices that were done across Scotland five or so years ago. I heard unofficially at #SLF16 that some of the cohorts of learners that were involved in these mobile learning initiatives were now getting exceptional results in their school leaving certificates ( Nationals, Highers and Advanced Highers in Scotland) I am not sure that this is being tracked officially anywhere ? Where is Scottish Higher Education with the data and research ?

But here's the rub - tablets don't change practice as much as a laptop would. It's probably too late but if any other local authority is thinking about this , have a look at the global evidence before being seduced by a tablet.

Have a look at Donald's well structured critique from 2013 and have a look too at the commentary . 

I've got a tablet and I use it a lot and it gives me a great window on the world - but when I work and move out into the online world I use a keyboard and a laptop or today my trusty desktop - this lets me create things, a tablet can only consume. I love being a consumer but being a creator - that is way cooler and much more empowering.

My kids love tablets too - but they work on netbooks and laptops !

Update - sometimes it is worth having a rant - the BBC article was incorrect ( fancy that, I thought they were infallible ) In fact Highland Region are going to adopt Chrome Books to sit on top of the well developed Google for Education platform that has been adopted across the region.

I was not saying that Tablets , phones and other devices do not have  a place in learning. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

#ulab, #ulabscot #ulab2016 Discovering ULab

I did an interesting piece of consultancy work earlier in the year looking at the impact that Massive Open On-Line Courses have had to date on learners in Scotland from an institutional perspective. 

It is actually quite hard to build an evidence base for this as the big platforms Coursera, EdX and Futurelearn  usually supply IP addresses but not postcodes. However, in the course of my work  I discovered one outlier that had engaged hundreds  of learners in Scotland and I am now having a shot at this to see why ?

Have a look at #ulabscot if you want to explore this phenomenon with me

The natural cynic in me wonders if it will be as transformational as it promises but I am suspending my disbelief as everyone should when trying something for the first time. 

You can find out more about the Scottish community of learners doing U-Lab here 

I've now joined  a vibrant global field of entrepreneurship and change that has reached over 85,000 people from 183 countries – with more joining every moment. Your fellow participants come from many different backgrounds and life experiences. You'll have a chance to get to know each other very soon.

This is an action-learning course, which means you'll be invited to do much more than just watch videos. 

Here is my first bit of homework from the introductory course. This will give you a flavour of the U-Lab tasks 

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

#altc Association for Learning Technology Conference 2016

I composed this on the train on the way to this year's #altc at the University of Warwick and looking forward to the  luxury of having three days thinking and inspiration time which is what #altc is.

I think my first #altc was in 2000 and in 2001,  really through circumstance,  I found myself on the organising committee for the conference at Edinburgh University . Thereafter, I've tried to get along to either the full conference or at least one policy forum or special interest group event in any year. Though sometimes due to external commitments it has been a flying visit for a day. My timeline is reminding me that I missed the 2009 conference as my six year old daughter decided she needed her appendix out that week in September. 

I'm looking at the delegate list. There is still more scope for a much deeper engagement with learning technologists in both further education colleges and in the training provider sector. While Jisc supports infrastructure  and innovation across these sectors Alt has the networks of practitioners that give learning technologists the community of practice to support them in experimenting with new approaches confidently but also the practical support to run existing systems and gain professional recognition. 

The main conference always runs in the early September window which utilises the university down time and gives university learning techs a quick inspiring burst of ideas before the new university term begins. Unfortunately this clashes too with period in Scotland when FE colleges start and learning techs are on boarding this year's cohort of learners.  

In terms of professional development and progression both membership of ALT and completion of CMalt certification  gives  learning technologists in FE an opportunity to access the breadth of understanding and knowledge or even mutual 'uncertainty' that can support continued professional development across the sectors, while CMalt offers appropriate professional recognition.  Even if you engage with alt community through special interest groups or regional forums you will get a lot back. The Scottish Special Interest Group now has around 150 members .

It would be good to see more learning techs from Colleges and training providers engaging directly with ALT , I think too there is increasingly a new group of learning technologists supporting the school sector that should be welcomed in too - there is a lot of learning around the system but still too may people and sectors re-inventing wheels or worse.

Josie Frazer just delivered a superb session on the issues around Trolling relevant for all sectors and I  am sure all the sessions and keynotes will be as relevant as this. 

If you are not here today follow the hashtag #altc and you will pick up something useful. If you are based in Scotland look out for the Scottish special interest group and their events. If you are a learning texhnologist in a Scottish college,  the college development network works closely with ALT and currently has a limited offer on access to CMalt certification.

Declaration of Interest
I've been a member of ALT since last century, served on number of committees over the years one year went from organiser to chairing the conference . I am co-chair of Scottish SIG with Professor Linda Creanor of GCU and an ALT UK ambassador.  I've made sure any organisation I have been involved with over the years has become an institutional member of ALT.
And no I didn't do it for the Lulz - I hope this is helpful !  I think the public education sector has been getting some constant Trolling from the press and political establishment.

noun: lulz; noun: luls
  1. fun, laughter, or amusement, especially that derived at another's expense.
    "the splinter group embarked on a spree of daring cyberattacks for the lulz"

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Preparing for the Apprenticeship Levy with @bobharrisonset @MartinLewarne @itslearningUK

 A week ago I had the opportunity to talk on a webinar about some of the changes coming in the Apprenticeship Space in England and how it might impact on Colleges and Training Providers . The clever people from ITSLearning  demonstrating great digital literacy - have now published the session as a  Youtube Video

Many thanks to @bobharrisonset @MartinLewarne @itslearningUK

Relevant too for  Scottish Training providers and Colleges.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Post 16 Skills Plan in England - Reflection from Scotland

Here are some of the main bullets from the Post 16 Skills Plan in England with some Scottish reflections. It would be good to see some innovative thinking in this space in Scotland. You can read both the Sainsbury Report and the Post 16 Skills Plan here  The Sainsbury Report is a big read but the significant follow up published on same day is the Post 16 Skills Plan.

This is not all happening next year - the system is to be fully in place by 2022.

I don't agree with all of this but I do agree with some of the reforms set out here.  This is an administration trying to shake things up and build a system that is  more effective for learners.
At the age of 16, students will have to choose between the “academic option” – comprising A-levels leading to an undergraduate degree – or the new “technical option”. This will signal the end of 16-18 students being able to opt for a mixture of academic and vocational qualifications, and is likely to lead to greater specialisation in individual providers and schools. For learners, however, there will be the option of switching between the two routes after completing A-levels or equivalent qualifications
Instinctively,  I don't like the notion of learners choosing either 'academic' or 'technical' but that might be hardwired into my psyche. But if the system allows learners to genuinely progress back into either higher technical or back into 'academic' learning and the system really works to break down that academic vocational divide, then it should be attractive to learners and their parents. With the caveat too that your decision is based on sound careers advice and not that the 'technical' route is the only one open to you.

I think this is saying too that if you choose this route you are probably leaving school to attend College or achieve this through a training provider rather than staying on at school and getting a taster of a vocational offer - though I do think schools in Scotland could offer full national certificates and other programmes, perhaps this will happen, but it might take a new generation of teachers with a broader view of learning and one that is not so focused on the academic routes. The current Developing Scotland's Young People policy is perhaps not as bold in its ambition as the Post 16 Skills Plan.
In the “technical option”, students will embark on one of 15 technical education routes: agriculture, environmental and animal care; business and administrative; catering and hospitality; childcare and education; construction; creative and design; digital; engineering and manufacturing; hair and beauty; health and science; legal, finance and accounting; protective services; sales, marketing and procurement*; social care*; transport* and logistics*.
This is always more complex that it looks - it will be hard to fit all the things that industry want in the way of skills into 15 technical education routes. Where for instance in the list are music and sports industry qualifications and what all needs to fit under the Creative Design route - in theory everything from graphics, journalism to furniture design.  But most Colleges in Scotland should recognize most of their current national certificate provision in this list - and progression and completion rates can be a challenge in FE provision in Scotland  - perhaps something to think about at SCQF level 4, 5 and 6 and maybe a good opportunity to look at what is in these courses along side what is in the modern apprenticeship and to have another look at progression pathways. There might be more than 15 routes but building a clearer relationship between national certificate and apprenticeships is clearly a good thing for learners.

Some people reading this might remember a previous aborted attempt to introduce GSVQs in a fixed number of routes - this looks bolder building a link on into the apprenticeship.

Colleges might be alarmed to see Social Care along with the other starred routes  listed above as a route that will mostly be delivered through an apprenticeship rather than solely a college based route, but when you reflect on this it does make sense. NC Social Care should be about clients and not mainly based in a College.
Within each route, learners can – following a transition year or traineeship for those “not ready to access a technical education route at age 16” – choose between a two-year, college-based programme (including compulsory work experience), or an employment-based programme, such as an apprenticeship (including at least 20 per cent college-based provision). Older learners will also be entitled to take these programmes.
This is really how national certificates in Scotland and apprenticeships could link together . The terms traineeship and transition year  is I think a better pre-apprenticeship term that the foundation term currently used in Scotland. In effect there is a traineeship then either a two year College programme or entry on to an apprenticeship -given there being a close relationship between the College programme and an apprenticeship programme.
 Each college programme will include a “common core” of English, maths and digital skills, as well as “specialisation towards a skilled occupation or set of occupations”.
This is almost  how many national certificate programmes in Scotland currently operate. They do though cover a broader range of core skills , essential skills , skills for learning life and work .
But, would a greater focus on numeracy and communication along with digital literacy improve the progression rates for Scottish FE learners as a common core in NC provision ? I have blogged in the past about the demise of IT as an essential skill replaced by Digital Literacy in Wales. Here is that transition happening in England . Digital literacy already has to be a component of the new apprenticeships in England.
After this, the pathways lead on to either level 4 or 5 higher technical education programmes, degree apprenticeships or higher apprenticeships. There will also be the option in some cases of taking “bridging provision”, leading to an undergraduate degree.
As learners in England are paying up to £9 thousand pounds a year to choose the degree route - so not really £9K think £27K before other learning and living expenses  . Employers including many of the professions like accounting now offer apprenticeship routes to full professional status so that canny learners can earn while they learn and avoid student debt .This has led to a growth in the number of what are called advanced apprenticeships.

The bridging provision exists through HN to degree in Scotland more effectively than in England but  there needs to be clearer links in Scotland between VQ level 3, 4 and 5 and HND and Degree provision. Colleges and Universities in Scotland are not good at recognising achievement through the apprenticeship route- even where this provision is now SCQF credit and levelled.
The new Institute for Apprenticeships will see its remit expanded to encompass “all of technical education at levels 2 to 5”. It will be responsible for bringing together expert groups to set the content and standards for each of the 15 routes and become the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
This makes sense, it has been a bit of a shambles in England with lots of competition creating an unhelpful maze of qualifications for learners and centres. Though there is probably exaggeration where the  reports talk of 160 awarding organisations and thousands of different qualifications. These awarding bodies and qualifications do not all exist in the College space in England.

 Effectively SQA really awards or accredits across this space already in Scotland but attention needs paid to these developments. I am sure if the expert groups create 15 robust routes there will be some expectation that these are adopted by organisations that operate across the UK . I am sure SQA will be watching this carefully. It also looks like the New Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education will have oversight of this rather than Ofqual ,so the Institute becomes a new strategic partner for SQA.
The report calls on the institute to review all existing apprenticeship standards “at the earliest opportunity” to ensure there is “no substantial overlap”.
I think this is highlighting the very mixed bag of fragmented standards and assessment strategies that were produced by the 'trailblazer' organisations,  who did not call on the experience of sector skills councils, awarding bodies, colleges and training providers in creating the new standards and assessment strategies and this  gives the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education the opportunity to tidy these up as they come to have this oversight.
Each qualification at levels 2 and 3 will be awarded by a single awarding body or consortium “following an open competition”, rather than the current market, which sees awarding bodies competing with one another. There will be one qualification for each occupation (or cluster of related occupations).
I highlighted earlier that this may be more of a challenge than it seems in terms of one qualification for a cluster of occupations.

The notion of one awarding body per subject is to control the  market in England which has been out of control for probably the last 20 years - this model was mooted by Mr Gove to control GCSE and A level inflation and was then abandoned. This could be the end of many of the small awarding bodies in England. I am assuming that City and Guilds, Pearson Learning , OCR and a number of the larger awarding bodies will carve this market up if this goes ahead. But, I am assuming that having been granted a monopoly the government will set the prices for qualifications and assessment. It is often overlooked that in Scotland,   SQA could be seen as almost a monopolist provider on the awarding side of the organisation but the Scottish government agrees the price tariff in Scotland not the SQA.

 I think it would be good if one agency had control of the standard and the model of assessment - but allow awarding bodies to continue to compete around innovative on-line delivery and assessment delivery .The innovation needs to be close to the learners.

 If only one awarding body has all the computing or accounting expertise  ..what happens when the qualification comes up for re-tender in 3-5 years ?  or what happens if there is a significant system failure with the one awarding body.

This is not currently a problem in Scotland but if a large employer decides they want to use these English awards, history shows that they will probably get funding for them in Scotland.

There will be a single set of “exit requirements” of minimum standards in maths and English for both college and work-based provision. Each college student will be required to complete a “high-quality, structured work placement”, and complete a logbook to demonstrate what tasks they have undertaken and what they have learned.

This is not yet really embedded in Scottish system every National Certificate learner would benefit from a structured work placement , some more focus on numeracy and communications and digital literacy and an on-line logbook or e-Portfolio that they can use for progression - this would sit well with employability and enterprise and the aims of Developing Young People.

There is currently a useful survey on the  Scottish Government Response to Employer Levy  on what employers think we should spend the Employer Levy on in Scotland.  If it goes ahead in April 2017 the treasury will raise £3billion pounds across the UK and around £250 million should be available in Scotland. It is probably time to do something more fundamental in this space . But , and say it quietly, Scotland does not have a great track record in innovation here,  SVQ's were copied from NVQ's , Core Skills from English Key Skills in earlier reforms.

Perhaps,  we should be doing a bit more thinking about the system being funded rather than just what we will do with the money that comes from the Employer levy ?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Digital Literacy, A New Essential Skill ; Food for Thought from Welsh Experience

Digital Literacy the Welsh Experience
A Think Piece
In Wales, based on recommendations from E-Skills the then Sector Skills Council and Jisc work (including a review of all the digital competencies frameworks globally) , and on advice of Graham Donaldson in his Report to the Welsh Government , a new essential skills framework has been developed to support work based and lifelong learning.
This fits with the requirement for Trail Blazers in England to consider the embedding of digital skills in the new apprenticeship frameworks.
You'll probably know the name Essential Skills in Northern Ireland, but in England you'll likely recognise them as 'Functional Skills', or 'Core Skills' in Scotland. In Scotland things have become particularly confused with Skills for Learning Life and Work being pushed in Schools , Essential Skills in Colleges,  while in apprenticeship frameworks Core Skills is still the brand that is used for the underpinning generic skill set. Though the superset in Schools and College are related to the core skills framework.

There is probably a separate blog post needed in figuring out why this drift apart has happened in Scotland and what should be done to fix this. I hope some thinking hats are going on - digital literacy is a sensible broadening of the narrower core skill of IT.
The Welsh government realised that IT alone was not going to equip learners to gain the dynamic digital skills they would need to support them in adapting with evolving digital technologies at home and in the workplace.

The decision was taken that from September 2015 digital literacy would replace IT as an essential skill along with employability skills, communication and application of number. Essential Skills is a compulsory element for anyone studying towards an apprenticeship or foundation learning programme in Wales.

Based around digital capabilities
The Welsh government has created a new framework of learner qualifications that incorporates all the key aspects of digital literacy models. It offers six themes across six levels, from Entry 1 to Level 3, including:
  • Digital responsibility
  • Digital information literacy
  • Digital productivity
  • Digital collaboration
  • Digital creativity
  • Digital learning
You can see the framework and the suggested models of learning and assessment in the context of the whole new Essential Skills Framework here
I will focus only on the Digital Literacy components here.
The components can easily be adapted to a checklist, a think list approach for Trailblazers in the development of their new standards.  
For  awarding and accreditation bodies across the UK many of whom have not yet looked at digital literacies as a core component of their skills offering this is a useful place to start thinking about how digital literacies should be embedded in learning and in the workplace to improve both the learner’s skill base and workplace productivity.
If you were a Trail Blazer or regulator thinking about digital literacy and skills this would be a good place to start.
Digital Responsibility
Be able to access a range of digital devices  
Know how to stay safe in a digital world and demonstrate how to interact safely in the digital world
Be able to access and use transaction based on-line services
Know what is meant by a digital footprint and know the protocols for you as an individual and within an organisation in its maintenance and demonstrate maintenance of a digital footprint.
Be able to work safely and securely in a range of digital environments
Be able to apply a range of protocols for digital responsibility and digital security in a wide range of digital communities and environments
Digital Information Literacy
Be able to select, identify and verify the source of digital information
Understand how to critically analyse and the review techniques to gather digital information
Be able to retrieve and use digital information to complete a task or solve a problem
Be able to evaluate and use digital information to complete complex tasks or solve complex problems.
Digital Productivity
Be able to open a file and use a range of input devices
Be able to present information in a digital format
Be able to open and respond appropriately to personal and business  messages
Be able to identify, maintain, resolve common digital issues   and use basic hardware.
Be able to organise, store, share, permission and protect digital information
Digital Collaboration
Be able to select and use appropriate digital tools to collaborate with others
Be able to plan, organise and apply effective and efficient collaborative working practices
Understand and demonstrate how collaboration can enhance personal professional and organisational practice
Digital Creativity
Be able to create, edit and enhance a digital resource including multimedia resources.
Be able to use a wide range of digital creative tools and techniques to complete a complex task.
Understand how to critically review, analyse and evaluate creative digital solutions.
Understand how a digital creative solution has the potential to develop opportunities for entrepreneurship and enterprise.
Digital Learning
Understand how digital technologies, tools and techniques enhance and extend learning opportunities.

Friday, May 20, 2016

#Jisc E-Assessment Survey

This report is worth a look at , if only to reflect on the depressingly slow pace of e-assessment across the public education system in the UK .  I think when I was involved in setting up the UK E-Assessment Association in the early noughties we hoped things would move much faster.

What are the challenges

I know I am lumping schools , colleges , universities and some work-based learning all together here and that some systems particularly in workplace are going a lot faster !

1. It is hard to get system and teachers to move away from pencil and paper even for high stakes summative assessment and even where there is a strong evidence base that on-line makes the assessments both more accessible and more cost effective.  Education leaders are afraid of making decision and changing procedures too. There still appears to be a big digital literacy deficit among teachers and educational leaders.

2. Centres are still not geared up for e-assessment . Even though much of this can now be done across wifi and even on candidates own devices .  You don't always need to invest in a bespoke on-line test centre.

3. The awarding bodies - either have their own bespoke systems or are too tied in to systems and processes that require paper.  Much of the e-enablement has focused on embedding the current system. Scanning of candidates scripts for electronic marking rather than any attempt to move the whole assessment and verification systems on-line. Any candidate evidence should be on-line and remotely accessible by now . That includes evidence at centre level internal validation should be through images of candidates work.

4. An unwillingness to open up the question banks that do exist . There should be rafts of on-line apps and systems that allow learners lots of ways to develop their skills through formative assessments on-line,  based on items from the awarding bodies past papers. I am still looking for a free platform that can do maths , numeracy , digital literacy , communications - call it what you will core skills , functional skills , essential skills-  diagnostic testing .  Staff should not have to create lots of assessment instruments and items they should be available for  re-purposing.

5. A lack of flexibility and a belief that exam halls are always the answer.  In terms of assessment in the round there is a push back to high stakes testing and away from e-portfolios and continuous assessment - which is in my opinion pedagogically unsound . This a feature principally in English system.

Over the last 14 years the system has had lots of advice but still learners are more likely to encounter an on-line assessment in situations out with formal education than through an educational establishment. Even at level of institutions preparing learners for the real world , this is wrong.

If folks looked at some of the platforms that are already available and open  for example they would see that there are already very reliable ways to automatically mark even short answer questions. I've raised this example before . I think in Scotland we need someone to make an instance of this available on an open basis to support adoption of on-line learning and assessment across life long learning and out in to our communities.

Monday, May 16, 2016

#dlw16 Digital Learning Week Homework

Education Scotland Digital Learning Week Logo 

Thought I'd assign some homework for schools in Digital Learning Week 

This principally aimed at senior phase. 

In no particular order. 

1. How good is your school wifi and are you ready for learners to bring their own devices ?

2. Have you got a clear policy that encourages learners and teachers  to use their own devices in class and around the school  ?

3. Have you worked out how to close the digital divide - can you supply learners,  who don't have access to a device that can reliably at least browse the internet with a suitable device - ideally for school time and to take home ? hint -  Kindle Fires are good value at moment.

4. How confident are your teachers in making the best use of GLOW - blogging , sharing , publishing their learning and teaching resources, working collaboratively with learners to create content with teacher and learners in other schools across Scotland and internationally ?

5. Have you worked out a policy or mechanism for making the best use of massive open on-line courses for staff and for pupil development ?

6. How much learning content created under Creative Commons Licences do your teachers and pupils produce each year and what platforms are you publishing this on ?

7. How good is your learning community at defining and describing your local area - do you use Google and other maps and suitable review sites as opportunities for teachers and learners to produce content.

8. Have you trained any Wikipedians - what are the Wikipedia entries like for your school and for the region that surrounds your school ?  How can you improve these ?

9. Digital literacy - have you a mechanism for measuring this across your learning community and a means of developing this for teachers and learners on an ongoing basis ?

10. Do you use technology to give learners an opportunity to showcase their work - and do you use it to cut down on meetings and use it for useful things like internal verification, across your school , across the local authority , nationally ?

11. How many on-line courses are your learners using as a supplement to or as an addition to normal classes and are you timetabling these to increase the choice available to senior phase learners and to make non-viable subject choices viable in your school ?

12. E-Books - have you worked out that many of the classic texts are now freely available as they are out of copyright and have you a strategy for making sure teachers and learners make the most of resources like this ?

13. Do most subject teachers have their own YouTube channel with a stream of helpful revision clips from a range of sources to support learners and/or what social platforms are they doing this on ?

14. Have you opened up a lot of your on-line learning to help and support parents - who would benefit from access to this learning ?

15. How many Microsoft Innovator Teachers , Google Certified , Apple or Intel or other trained teachers do you have and do you value your digital leaders ?

16. Do you know what an open badge is and have you worked out ways for your teachers and learners to build some open badges and award these ?

17. Has your school organised or supported a teachmeet ? Do you encourage teachers to contribute to #Pedagoo - do you regularly talk about how digital learning is changing the face of learning - talking about the pedagogy and the on-line resources freely available ?

18. If you think digital learning is still about - composing and sending emails , opening , creating and saving a document and using presentation software , a data projector or an electronic whiteboard and that phones are a needless distraction in school.  Then please ignore  1-17

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Festival of Computing #RUFestofComp16

I was asked to give  a shameless plug 

It is a great idea - I spoke to organiser, the  event inspires staff to tune in and change their own practice at institution and supports teachers, academics and students. 

Roehampton is a pretty unique venue and they have a superb line up of interesting speakers and sessions- 

Message follows - 

I would appreciate if you could spread the word about our Festival 

of Computing. We have talks and workshops for primary and

 secondary school teachers; school leaders and academics. Great 

event for networking and to share ideas. 

Tickets cost £60 for an 

adult and £40 for a student.

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