Feltag online learning target was ‘red herring’

The 10 per cent target for online learning included in the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag) report in 2014 was a “red herring” according to one of the members of the group.

Bob Harrison, learning technology adviser, made the comments during a discussion about the Feltag recommendations two years on at the Bett educational technology trade show at London’s ExCel on Wednesday (January 20).

“The percentages were always a massive red-herring. They were put in there deliberately — not because we believed it should happen, but because we knew it would put it on the management agenda,” said Mr Harrison.

“It was always about the direction of travel,” he added.

The discussion, which was chaired by Diana Laurillard, professor of learning with digital technologies at the Institute of Education at University College London, was one of a number of talks in the FE and Skills: Learn Live arena at this year’s four-day Bett show, in London’s Excel, from January 20.

The arena was new for 2016, and its introduction came after the Bett team acknowledged last year that FE had been underrepresented in the past.

Speaking in the same talk as Mr Harrison, Roy Currie, chair of the 157 Technology and Innovation Group and director of information and learning at Bedford College, agreed that Feltag had put technology on the management agenda.

But, he added: “Two years is nowhere near enough time to see the kind of substantial and attitudinal change we need.”

Looking to the future, Mr Harrison said that the “spirit of Feltag” had been “embedded in the area review process”.

Cathy Ellis, director of enquiry and emerging practice at Highbury College, Portsmouth agreed that the “Feltag agenda” was being taken forward through other priorities.

“Prevent, area reviews, apprenticeships, maths, English — looking at those through the lens of technology. That’s where I think we are,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology, told a packed arena that over 15,000 people had signed up for the first part of the Blended Learning Essentials (BLE) course, which ran for six weeks at the end of last year.

The free online course, funded by the UfI Trust, is designed to give teachers the skills they need in order to use technology more effectively to support their learners.

The BLE “will be one of the ways that you can support upskilling your workforce when you’re going through the area review process,” said Ms Deepwell.

Doug Belshaw, IT in education consultant, and Bryan Mathers, visual thinker, spoke about their work to develop open badges that recognise individual learning steps, and which can be “issued for anything”.

The badges are designed to “recognise the skills and qualities that don’t fit on a CV” in an education world that’s “moving from a centralised model of learning”, they said.

Elsewhere at the show, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan gave a keynote address in which she talked about what the government was doing to support technology in education.

In it, she praised the Fashion Retail Academy, which she said was run by leading fashion retailers and offered learners digital qualifications “to complement their more traditional ones”.

“It is these kinds of partnerships that will lead Britain to be the very best at vocational training because they are focused on what the economy needs,” said Ms Morgan.


Maren’s marvels

When FE Week reporter Jude Burke asked Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology, for her pick of the Bett show exhibition she made a beeline for Bett Futures.

Featuring around 30 new educational technology start-ups, Bett Futures is “one of the places where start-ups and colleges and providers can meet and mingle”, said Maren.

Start-ups are “usually a lot more flexible”, Maren said, and colleges can get a “solution that fits your particular context”.

“I think it’s a great way of driving innovation in your classroom.”

The start-ups we speak to are certainly innovative. One — the Curiscope  — uses virtual and augmented reality to get learners “excited about subjects”, according to founder Ed Barton.

It certainly got Maren excited, who said it was “very accessible” as it used “equipment that most colleges already have”.

Another start-up that got our attention was OhBot This programmable robot head is a novel way for learners “who’ve never done any programming before” to “get going”.

Our final stop, Raspberry Pi is rather more established. Carrie Anne Philbin, education pioneer, told us the “tiny and affordable computer” has many uses in FE, including in science “to collect data”, and in arts to “create digital art exhibitions” as well as teaching programming.

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