Promoting Innovation through Virtual Learning

Whoops – the title might have set your expectations too high!

I was chuffed to bits to be invited back to Wales yesterday, to present the keynote at the “Promoting Innovation through Virtual Learning” conference. It’s the third time in the last year that I’ve been to South Wales, and each time I seem to be drawn further up the valleys – this time to Merthyr Tydfil, almost at the foot of the Brecon Beacons.

A number of people asked me for the presentation, so here it is for download, as a PowerPoint file

I used a couple of videos during the presentation, so have put the URLs on the slides for them.

There were moments during the conference when I felt like a bit of a sore thumb – not because I was English -because there was a lot of references to free or open-source software.

One presenter kept referring to the fact that “FE doesn’t have much money”, and that was why they tried to base their ICT strategy on free software. Not sure if I agree with the logic of that – if you need something because is critical to success, do you only choose it if it’s free? Or do you evaluate what will give the best value (which may be free software, or it may be software you pay for) – especially when almost every research project into TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) shows that most of the cost of ICT is related to training for, running and supporting systems – not buying them in the first place.

If you were running an FE college, and you were on a tight budget (no huge leap of imagination required!), what would you do about teaching staff? Take whoever is willing to work for free or hire the best you can afford?

Is the fact that some colleges put “Is it free?” at the top of their criteria for choosing software an indicator that they aren’t yet thinking of ICT as a strategic contributor to learning, and to the objectives of the college?

And while we’re on the subject 🙂

Average spend on ICT per FTE student (2006/7)

Schools £58 - source: BESA

FE colleges £265 - source: interpretation of FERL/Becta data

Universities £300 - source: interpretation of UCISA data

So is FE under-funded for ICT?

Comments (2)

  1. Kevin Lawrence says:

    Ray it was good to see you on Tuesday.

    I was interested in your comments here. I’m not sure that the statement made "they try to base their ICT strategy on free software" is strictly true for the majority of colleges. I think it is fair to say that it is an option, but only where colleges have the in-house expertise to maintain and support systems such as Moodle, Mahara, ELGG etc. For example, not many colleges have gone down the OpenOffice route. It is true that many will evaluate open-source products when looking at  software options, but I think in the main IT/Network managers feel safer with proprietary solutions.

    Is FE under-funded for ICT? – In many cases yes, the powers that be, SMT, have other priorities and ICT spend isn’t always at the top of their spending list.

  2. Ray Fleming says:

    Hi Kevin,

    When I re-read my blog post, I wondered if I was being a little churlish 🙂

    Attending some of the sessions, there was quite an emphasis on using particular bits of software because they were free (not just in the "all for nothing" session, which about "using free and open source software to enhance teaching and learning"), which may have drawn me to the conclusion.

    I think one of the motivators for it is that staff and students are used to using a wider range of software outside of college and sometimes feel that they don’t get enough freedom from the college ICT systems when teaching, or budget to choose their own software on top of what they’re given. So if they can find a bit of ‘free’ software, then it frees them to use it, because they’re not haing to ask for some the college ICT budget.

    And on the "is FE under-funded for ICT", I’ve just added some source info to the article above


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