Blended Learning news from the Westminster Briefing

Up in Manchester today for the Westminster Briefing on the use of learning technology in Further Education.

A great panel chaired by my good friend Rachel Challen from Loughborough College, discussing how we encourage lecturers and trainers (and the organisations they work) in to embed technology and develop the digital literacy skills of both themselves and their students.

Some really interesting points from Kevin Campbell-Wright of NIACE and  Deb Millar of Blackburn College on getting whole organisation buy-in for blended learning which overlapped and reinforced those in my presentation on what’s being done at Heart of Worcestershire College:

  • All staff need to be ‘sold’ the wins that will come from using technology in learning (Deb calls this ‘baiting the hook’)
  • Teachers need to be given the time, access and opportunity to develop their digital literacy and learning technology skills
  • Individual teachers, departments and whole colleges need to take a collaborative approach to design and development
  • We need teachers to advocate to teachers on the benefits of edtech and have opportunities to share their pedagogy, digital designs
  • We need to actively collect and reflectively use learner feedback

All of this means investing in both staff support and in development and design time. Blended learning isn’t the ‘cheap option’ and it shouldn’t be seen as that – it is an opportunity to provide more inclusive and flexible study programmes which reach more learners and build the digital literacy skills they need for the future.

There was also some good news from Steve Nichols of the SFA who said he hopes that a ‘carrot rather than stick’ approach can be taken when it comes to funding the blended curriculum.

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2 thoughts on “Blended Learning news from the Westminster Briefing

  1. “Teachers need to be given the time, access and opportunity to develop their digital literacy and learning technology skills”

    This is the key problem from my own perspective. With the cuts in FE the logistics and staffing levels are being hacked and hugely impacted upon. Currently due to drastic staff cuts my own personal timetable is back to back with no admin time at all for marking or prep never mind CPD self-development or digital training, the only free time I have is half hour lunch breaks, teaching 29 hours face to face (and not on a full-time contract). Personally I am very experienced in building online content and regularly integrate this into my teaching but this is regularly done often into the night just to ensure my learners have what they need. With FE getting cut harder and harder into the bone teachers are going to have less and less time to commit to self-development, especially difficult for those with limited digital skills to start with.

    I have no argument with the benefits of using technology to blend the learning experience, in fact I believe this is helpful and beneficial for learners when executed well. I personally believe teachers are painted as disconnected and to blame for the lack of work happening in this area, the reality is those who are, are doing it in their own time way beyond what is expected of them as teachers. If I were to add up the real hours I work to fulfil my current job role (most of it on hourly paid contracts now because the salaried contracts have been reduced drastically by cuts) it is quite alarming. Last year I worked out I was on average per week about £4.33 per hour. This is where experienced teachers are fulfilling course coordinator/leader roles on hourly paid contracts.

    I enjoy my job and this is reflected in my commitment, but there will become a time where the pressures of time and responsibility will heavily shadow over putting self-development and training first.

    This certainly isn’t a rant, but a very clear picture of life as an FE teacher during harsh cuts and the impact that has on those in the already overstretched role. Many will leave or crumple and not be able to fuel the future of developing online content. Such a shame when technology can play such a crucial role. Giving teachers the time to commit to this is a vastly important issue that needs to be looked at and looked at properly.

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    1. I’d totally agree – and let me also apologise for taking so long to do so! I’m probably making your point about time pressures and lack of opportunity to engage because of them for you with this delay, I think.

      My latest post from the Westminster forum this week does shed some hopeful light on this situation – even though there’s clearly much work to be done.

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