The way we learn needs to reflect how we live and work. Our daily lives are a seamless blend of physical and digital interactions. Schedules are increasingly flexible, with portfolio careers on the rise and continuous learning becoming a more common feature of our routines.
Developments in education technology represent an opportunity to prepare young people and adults with the skills and capabilities they will need to thrive in the future. Not only that, but for further education colleges and independent training providers, EdTech offers solutions that can help them successfully address the UK skills gap and guide students into promising careers.
Here, we will explore what EdTech offers the further education sector and explain why it’s time to embrace the confluence of technology and learning.
Operating in an uncertain world
Time and again, since the coining of the phrase after the Cold War, our world has been described as VUCA, or volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Automation has been ‘stealing people’s jobs’ since the first industrial revolution. However, the convergence of technological progress – the development of artificial intelligence, 5G and the internet of things, amongst other innovations – with a pandemic that has devastated the global economy across all sectors and industries, has resulted in a particularly bleak outlook, especially on an individual level. For students entering further education now, a bright future must seem very far away.
Yet with crisis comes opportunity. Large-scale change is not possible without considerable disruption. And to make the most of this rare chance to rethink how we live and work, we need to address the skills gap, particularly when it comes to digital capabilities.
One of the immediate impacts of the pandemic has been widespread digitalization and a shift to studying and working remotely. What would have taken years of gradual change has happened in just a few months.
Although businesses, individuals and educational institutions were not prepared for this to happen, most have managed remarkable pivots and have found ways to remain afloat and function effectively. A survey by TES Global revealed that, following the crisis-induced transition to online teaching, 79% of teachers felt more confident using technology in their teaching practice.
Students have acclimatised to online learning and become accustomed to fitting their education into their lifestyle, rather than vice versa. And while many would not have chosen an online course, they are now seeing the benefits of being able to study anytime, anywhere. Remote access and the flexibility to learn in a classroom or via digital platforms will become ever more attractive attributes that potential students will seek when choosing where to study.
Further education fit for the future
As work becomes increasingly digital, the education sector needs to match its pace of change. To prepare students for immediate job opportunities and promising careers, as the further education sector is designed to do, learning methods, as well as course content, must reflect this shift to digital.
What’s more, innovative new technologies have vast potential for good that will only be leveraged if the future workforce is prepared with adequate digital training.
As the CIPD and Accenture have recently reported, “technology has the power to make learning not just more efficient but also more effective through enabling the creation of immersive, engaging and interactive content.” And Huffington Post reports that 68% of parents think that proficiency in tech is a necessary life skill, making the integration of technology into learning essential for education and employability providers who want to remain competitive.
Finally, given the uncertainty that has come to characterise an age marked by the buzzwords ‘flexible’ and ‘agile’, education providers need to be prepared to continue to operate between the in-person and distance learning models, to secure themselves against a future which could contain further pandemics and other unforeseen challenges.
Embracing EdTech is common sense for institutions planning to successfully deliver training and education in the future.
Maintaining excellence with a shrinking budget
Funding for further education has declined considerably. According to the Augar Review there are now 2.2 million further education students receiving just £2.3 billion of public funding, compared to £8 billion supporting 1.2 million university students. What’s more, FEC teachers are paid less than their counterparts in schools and funding flows are complex to navigate. 16-19 year olds choosing vocational routes receive nearly a quarter less funding than those following more traditional academic routes.
Again, this is where EdTech can help. Once in place, administrative systems can support teachers to concentrate on teaching rather than on complex reporting processes.
For further education colleges and independent training providers, just managing the employability aspects of study programmes alone can be a painful process. With classrooms full of students following personalised programmes, each of whom is taking a work placement that has to be arranged, their progress and attendance tracked, plus employer and student satisfaction measured, it’s no wonder that teachers delivering employability programmes can struggle to manage them effectively.
Teachers’ valuable (and expensive) time should be reserved for students, delivering excellent learning experiences that support their progression.
Embracing the support systems that EdTech platforms offer enables FE providers to improve the learning experience they deliver, increase efficiency and reliability of reporting, and to more easily produce the data required to keep stakeholders happy and attain the correct level of funding.
What’s more, when overwhelmed students face the thousands of courses available to them, one of the first places they’ll go for helpful information is rankings. And in order to maintain a prominent position on a league table, a programme provider doesn’t just need to offer an excellent education; they need to demonstrate their results.
Instead of teachers, whose expertise and passion lies elsewhere, spending incalculable hours collecting, formatting and submitting data, EdTech solutions enable programme providers to sidestep these major data-headaches.
EdTech supported success
To thrive in today’s uncertain landscape, students need to be prepared with the digital and soft skills required to harness the power of technology. Given the social, environmental and economic challenges we face, using EdTech to manage the administrative elements of education and employability programmes, and to bring the learning experience in line with the way we live and work, is essential for providers who want to continue to deliver an excellent, and relevant, learning experience.
Aptem Skills is the leading online solution for delivery of work preparation and work experience. It helps FE Colleges and private training providers deliver and evidence the employability components of Study Programmes. It delivers employability training, supports work experience and provides job finding resources. Find out more.