Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock has announced how the government plans to boost technology in order to improve further education. This includes a £5 million fund to upgrade the broadband network in colleges in 2014 to 2015, allowing them to introduce ‘cloud’ sharing technologies.
Speaking at The Spectator’s Skills Forum, he outlined the government response to a report published by FELTAG (Further Education Learning Technology Action Group).
Matthew Hancock said:
Technology is set to transform education over the next decade as much as it has revolutionised the rest of our lives in the past decade. It has huge potential to engage more learners and improve the learning experience.
The FELTAG report shows how we can tackle the obstacles which prevent providers from being able to take full advantage of the technology on offer. As a government, we will do all we can to remove these obstacles and our response highlights this. However, it is for everyone to take ownership of new technology - schools, colleges, and teachers.
I hope that this response will encourage others to develop a vision for the future which exploits the tremendous potential technology can offer to enhance learning. We can harness the power of technology to improve standards of education, and with it realise the potential of millions.
FELTAG made a number of recommendations that included the suggestion that policy makers, principals, teachers and governors need to keep abreast of technological developments. This is something the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) welcomes and will support.
BIS also recognises the need for an agile procurement policy which is able to react to fast-changing technologies. Although the final decisions on expenditure are made by individual colleges, BIS can support them where possible to upgrade their infrastructure. Further to this, any plans for new buildings will have to include ‘industrial-strength’ technological infrastructure in project plans.
FELTAG stated that currently, learners are not utilised for their knowledge and expertise in technology. BIS has asked the Education and Learning Foundation to develop digital leaders in colleges to support others. Specialist organisations will also be approached to assist other learners to improve their digital skills.
FELTAG also found that there was a need for significant investment in the knowledge, skills and understanding of learning technology’s potential among principals, managers, teachers and support staff working in further education providers. This will be supported by the Education Learning Foundation who will develop learning technologies resources and materials to increase staff training.
Finally, it was found that links between further education providers and employers need to become stronger. BIS will encourage the Education and Training Foundation to work with Local Enterprise Partnerships to develop better partnerships between providers and new and emerging digital technology industries, especially small businesses, in order to share learning and experiences.
In addition to the FELTAG response, the Minister also laid out a research report on the use of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) with school pupils aged 11 to 19 years. The research, funded by the Department for Education, shows how MOOCs are of particular value to post-16 year-old students who want to combine education with work - such as those studying apprenticeships.
The findings from the research will be used by the Education Technology Action Group (ETAG) who are investigating ways to remove barriers to the effective use of online learning in education.
Matthew Hancock added:
MOOCs are transforming the world of education, opening world-leading courses at highly prestigious universities - previously, only available to a privileged few - to anyone in the world.
This research shows they are also of particular benefit to further education where students are combining work and study.
We will carefully consider the findings to see how we can use MOOCs to make further improvements to post-16 year-old study.
Notes to Editors:
- The government’s FELTAG response is available at Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) recommendations: government response.
FELTAG was convened by Matthew Hancock, Skills and Enterprise Minister. The aim of FELTAG was to identify the structural and cultural inhibitors to innovation in the use of technology to enhance learning and to improve learning outcomes.
- Government is already developing a significant agenda for learning technology. In the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) we are piloting technology to deliver English and maths training and sponsoring assistive technology. The Department for Communities and Local Government recently ran a £6 million ESOL competition to support new and innovative community-based projects using technology to improve the English language skills of some of our hardest to reach communities.
- The 6 winning projects are now running programmes across priority areas of England aimed at those with the lowest levels of English. BIS, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health and the Post Office are working closely with the Government Digital Service to develop programs to improve digital skills and to support the assisted digital delivery of public services.