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FE needs 'culture change' to embrace digital future

The FE sector needs a “culture change” if it is to fully embrace a digital future, according to a leading technologist.

Bob Harrison, a key member of the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag), told TES that FE needs “more vision, leadership and action”.

Last week the House of Lords Digital Skills Committee warned digital skills training in the sector was “patchy, unresponsive and not meeting employer needs”.

The committee said the FE sector will play a “key role” in developing high-level skills, but that FE colleges “need to move up a gear”.

A recent evaluation into Feltag said the report and the government’s response have “significantly” raised awareness of the potential of technology, and many colleges and providers are realigning their teaching and learning strategies as a result

One of its recommendations was that from 2015/16 all publicly-funded learning programmes should have at least 10 per cent of their content wholly online, with incentives to boost this to 50 per cent by 2017/18.

Mr Harrison said he was pleased the Lords had called for a focus on digital literacy and not computer science and recommended that digital skills be embedded across the curriculum in schools and FE.

“Increasing numbers of teachers and most of the learners are already making the transition to digital but FE needs a culture change,” he said.

“The Lords report on digital skills plus an acceleration of the process of implementation of the Feltag recommendations should be the catalyst for faster change.”

Mr Harrison said he was keen to describe Feltag as "a movement not a report", and that the issue was less about technology than a “paradigm shift” in policy-making and funding.

He added: “Whilst we do not want to see the return of [education technology quango] Becta, we do need the EFA/SFA to quickly incentivise more online and blended learning, as well as the assessment and accountability systems to create some space for teachers and lecturers to be more innovative and creative using technology for learning and not just technology for teaching.”

Meanwhile, adult education body Niace has called for more recognition of the lifelong need for digital skills rather than a "narrow focus" on young people in schools, colleges and universities.

Its chief executive, David Hughes, said: “We must not forget that it is people who are furthest away from access to learning that can benefit the most from becoming digitally skilled; people with disabilities,unemployed and low-skilled people of all ages, including older people beyond retirement age.”

“There should be a culture in education and in the workplace that leads to a more lifelong approach because no one has the digital skills they’ll need in five years time, let alone in 50 years.”

Related stories

Why FE is in danger of being a ‘museum piece’ - June 2014

Online FE courses to become 'the norm, not the exception' - June 2014

Tech report says half of all FE learning should be online within three years - February 2014

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