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Call for more creative use of IT

COLLEGES must be much more imaginative in their use of information technology if they are to hit recruitment targets, David Melville, chief executive of the Further Education Funding Council, warned this week.

"Students are increasingly looking for 'any time, any place' learning. If your college cannot offer an on-line program to achieve a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer qualification, then there are others who can."

A bigger range of options would come from all sectors and the boundaries between further, adult and higher education would become increasingly blurred, he told the annual conference in Leicester of the National Information and Learning Technologies Association (NILTA).

While he warned against the overhyping of the new computer age, saying that traditional learning was not dead, colleges must face the fact that all students would soon be using the Internet and their personal computer every day to write their assignments.

Professor Melville is himself something of a computer buff, having used one since 1966, when he was a physicist. He also boasted of having possessed a e-mail address for more than 30 years.

The rate of change in colleges had been dramatic - two years ago very few further education colleges had their own website. Now nearly all of them had one and the sites were improving all the time.

"The nature of learning needs to change to match the changing nature of life and work, and to meet the rapidly-changing skills of employers and individuals," he said.

Not only had the idea of a job for life gone but so had the qualification for life. The expectations of younger students would continue to grow relentlessly. Having experienced computer games, mobile phones, PCs and access to the Internet, they now expect such technologies to be part of their learning life.

He warned the national Learning and Skills Council and its 47 local arms not to stint on the cash when they replace the FEFC and the training and enterprise councils in April.

Without adequate and properly-targeted funding, "well-intentioned plans could go awry," he said. "However painful it may be for providers, more and more we can see funding following the student."

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