Earlier this month, Euan Blair, of training provider WhiteHat, told TES that his view was that technology has not been applied effectively across the FE sector – and this is a view that many would subscribe to.
Unlike corporate learning and development programmes, and HE to a lesser extent, compliance has often been seen as (one of) the most important factors when delivering programmes. The Skills Funding Agency, Ofsted and awarding organisations have all set out requirements for compliance that have been associated with learning "quality", but in many cases appear to have been put in place to measure the amount of effort/time that has gone into the delivery of each learning programme. That’s not to say that outcomes aren’t tracked, but without the appropriate amount of time devoted to the training process, programmes were simply not fundable.
Outside the world of FE, the amount of time or effort that a provider puts into delivering a programme is rarely the most significant measure of success. Outside these structured learning environments, we are all used to finding solutions to problems – or "learning" – in the most time-efficient manner we can. Sometimes this is asking colleagues, but increasingly it is asking Google or an equivalent.
In fact, as individuals, the concept of "guided learning hours" is used in the reverse sense to education. If we can learn something in 15 minutes by researching online (maybe on a phone whilst on a train) or by spending one day at a workshop, the 15-minute solution tends to be the one we take. I am massively simplifying the situation to make a point.
Engaging with learners
The incentives in the education system have often not been about engaging with learners in this time-efficient, effective and, therefore, economic manner. At GetMyFirstJob, we identified this for the recruitment process some time ago. We've worked with Euan during his time at WhiteHat and previously at Sarina Russo Job Access. Helping 150 other customers like Euan has allowed us to develop a deep insight into the way in which young people use technology to engage, research and learn. We’ve used this expertise to help providers deliver more responsive solutions to employers and learners – thereby increasing their fill rates and reducing costs.
So, the issue is whether the education system can evolve to see technology as an amazing enabler of learning, that will help individuals learn in the most effective manner – and that requires both investment and an openness to implement new approaches. Providers such as WhiteHat are well placed to drive this revolution, and will undoubtedly challenge organisations that may have invested significantly to deliver to hundreds of learners through traditional methods.
David Allison is founder and managing director of GetMyFirstJob.co.uk