Intellect Education Group Seminar – Key Technology Challenges in FE

After being based in and around Russell Square for the last 5 years during my time at ULCC, yesterday I found myself back in familiar surroundings for the Intellect Education Group seminar, which have their offices directly on Russell Square.

With speakers including Lynne Sedgmore (157 Group), Clive Hill (Birmingham Metropolitan and Matthew Dean (AOC), the morning promised to be an informative 'must-attend' session, and I was not wrong. 

Run under Chatham House rules, which means I can't really give a blow by blow record of some of the great content delivered during the session, I thought it would still be useful to share some of the core points raised during the seminar.

The core focus of the seminar looked to address the use of technology in FE, what the key challenges are and how suppliers can best assist institutions meet their objectives.

Focusing on the use of tech and the key challenges, in particular, the core points covered during the session included the following:

  • Now is the time to really shape the future of FE. FE plays a key role in facilitating links with the private sector and both schools and HE and now, more than ever, is the time to see how technology can improve this collaboration and improve the learner experience. With this in mind, never have the words of Peter Drucker been more appropriate – ‘the best way to predict the future is to create it together'. In order to shape the future, the education and private sectors really need to work closely together to best define the FE institution of the future!
  • Market forces will either push FE to the fringes, or a more collaborative approach with the private sector can make it more relevant
  • Curriculum & innovation - curriculum delivered through technology, and the efficiencies this can bring, is at the forefront of the agenda for FE
  • Job Outcomes and Skills - tracking the learners activities, using technology, will be a core focus for many colleges. Does the current funding model need to change to embrace this?
  • Services such as catering and security are outsourced within most FE institutions. Why is it not more common for IT to be outsourced, also? Trying to hold onto control is maybe a core reason preventing the widespread outsourcing of IT. Is this a legitimate reason, though, for slowing the pace of innovation within FE and helping to bring efficiencies? Food for thought...
  • Core technology opportunities and barriers within FE include:
    • Cloud - huge opportunities but need to be thought about in conjunction with bandwidth and connectivity. At this time, hybrid models seem most attractive
    • Personal devices - students typically have better technology (smartphones and laptops) then the technology provided within their college. Facilitating their desire to bring their own devices on campus, while still maintaining a secure network is a core challenge. 'Technology downtime' is a major complaint for many FE students
    • Shared Services - integration is important for this to work
    • Remote Access - again, a barrier to widespread provision of remote access for students and staff is bandwidth and connectivity
    • Virtualisation - VDI, in particular, is high on the agenda for many FE institutions
    • Web Learning Materials - providing anytime, anywhere learning is important, but needs to be considered in conjunction with eSafety. This area is a core topic of contention for many academics and IT staff!
    • Digital Divide - equality of access continues to be a challenge. Can the Get Online @ Home project potentially help with this?
    • eSafety is a barrier to learning - practitioners want to use Facebook and YouTube for teaching and learning, but have these sites blocked in many cases. Is there an opportunity to safely allow access to these sites for learners?
    • SharePoint has successfully replaced the staff and student intranet for many institutions. Taking this resource to the next level is on the agenda for many FE institutions
  • The pedagogical use of technology needs to change, but legacy issues are impacting this. The FE sector needs to focus on breaking down these legacy barriers to maintain relevancy moving forward
  • Sharing best practice and replicating this across the sector should be firmly on the agenda for FE

For a 2 hour event, there was an abundance of great content which, may not come across as well in this generic synopsis of the core points covered. If you get a chance to attend an Intellect event in the future, I highly recommend it.

Just as a closing request, there were a number of opportunities and challenges raised during the session that would be great to get your thoughts on. I will then share these back with the folks at Intellect and the wider community.

  • How can the legacy issues impacting the pedagogical use of technology be broken down. Has anyone got any great examples of how resistance to new technologies for teaching and learning have been overcome?
  • With this in mind, how can the desire for greater curriculum delivery through technology be realised?
  • How are institutions balancing eSafety with the need to make additional web learning materials available to students?

Your thoughts on the above would be greatly appreciated (please leave your comments below).

Thanks in advance,

Tim Bush

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