Tech group urges minister for online content quota

Tech group urges minister for online content quota

All publicly-funded FE and skills courses should have a minimum of 10 per cent online content by 2015/16, a government technology task force has recommended.

The Further Education Technology Action Group (Feltag) report, unveiled in draft at the Education Innovation Conference in Manchester, also said there should be incentives to move the online course content to 50 per cent by 2017/18.

But the evidence does show that online learning helps those who are most disengaged the most.”

The group was set up last year by Skills Minister Matthew Hancock, who appeared at the conference via live video link, and compiled its report, called through online open-access documents as well as online and face-to-face group discussion.

Head of the Feltag programme Nick Lambert said: “This idea [of 10 per cent online content] materialised because it’s one of the biggest things people talked about, but then they all said: ‘But that’s never going to happen’.”

He added the full government response would be available in three weeks’ time.

[Watch a pre-recorded video from Mr Hancock addressing the EICE conference.]

The 10 per cent requirement would be mandatory, unless a “good case” could be made for a course being exempt, the report says.

Mr Hancock said: “I think we can harness technology to drive up standards. It’s about empowering teachers and using technology to improve and strengthen teaching.

“That may mean there are some changes to how teaching happens, for instance becoming more mentoring and more imparting of those very human characteristics you can’t get from the internet.

“I don’t want to be overly prescriptive on the government side of things, there’s a question of how do you implement that without leading to a tick box response, but we’ll look at that and think about it and come back with our response in the next few weeks.”

A number of delegates at the Thursday (February 27) Feltag event questioned how the 10 per cent requirement would affect accessibility for learners, particularly adult learners and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mr Hancock acknowledged the issue, but said the government was looking to address it through capital allocations.

He added: “We cannot let the best be the enemy of the good. You can’t say that until we have 100 per cent coverage of superfast broadband for everybody, you can’t do anything that uses super-fast broadband, for instance, so we’ve got to make sure we’re moving ahead while also dealing with accessibility issues.

“But the evidence does show that online learning helps those who are most disengaged the most.”

The draft Feltag report came just two days after a report by City & Guilds, entitled Culture, Coaching and Collaboration: How to unlock the potential of digital technology’.

It called for “a culture of experimentation” and support for FE professionals to work with technology experts to develop new teaching.

And the government is hoping to repeat the Feltag research process with the Education Technology Action Group (Etag).

Mr Hancock said: “I’m delighted with what’s come out of Feltag… and I’m also glad that we’ve now got a wider education-wide technology group including [Education Secretary] Michael Gove and [Universities Minister] David Willetts, to cover the emerging role of technology, drawing from FE, where FE leads the way.”

The 30-page draft Feltag report contained a total of almost 40 recommendations, related to learners, employers, provider capabilities, funding and regulation.

Among them were that awarding bodies should consider counting open badges of achievement given out by online courses or apps towards a student’s qualification, and for Ofsted to require all courses to have technology embedded in their teaching and learning strategy.