Although many colleges have made substantial investments in computer technology, there are wide disparities in the levels of equipment within colleges, says the Further Education Funding Council.
A national survey showed that only 5 per cent of colleges were at an advanced stage in developing networks to give students access to electronically-stored materials.
Many colleges did not have a substantial networking capability. Some had developed too quickly leading to problems such as inadequate technician support; poor storage conditions and misuse of the network due to inadequate monitoring.
Last year only 6 per cent of colleges had effective electronic links with universities to support their franchised work. College staff were unable to communicate easily with university colleagues. Students had less access to electronic facilities than their university counterparts.
Ageing equipment presented another problem. Older software was sometimes unable to to read students' work completed at home.
A few departments continued to use 10-year-old computers. "While some older equipment adequately fulfils requirements, it present a dated image to students and it does not match the facilities they find elsewhere in the college," says the report.
Only about 10 per cent of colleges monitored the use of hardware and software adequately, yet annual spending on learning technology could exceed 5 per cent of the budget.
Many students are able to use digital scanners in building their portfolios.
"Sometimes, however, this facility is misused and students submit assignments and evidence for portfolios where the majority of work is not theirs," according to the report.