We need to identify and pool the ‘gems’ that staff have drummed up under lockdown, writes Linsey Taylor

Prior to the pandemic, in my experience it was not unusual to find teaching staff who were reluctant to upload their materials to their institution’s virtual learning environment, and who rebelled at the suggestion of putting up recordings of their classes.

They cited reasons such as students not turning up if all the resources were online, or that it would threaten their job ̶ as if the materials being online removed the need for an educator.

But current circumstances have forced everyone’s hand and the big push has resulted in thousands of people creating and uploading hours’ worth of content.

It is time to acknowledge that materials being online, even lessons, do not in the slightest bit remove the need for the teacher or educator.

If it were so easy to learn remotely from pre-prepared materials, people would not have been attending educational establishments for years – and I am sure that the Department for Education would have revised its funding model quite dramatically.

So now that educators can be recognised as being a key component in a student’s learning journey, hopefully there can also be an acceptance of posting excellent-quality materials online.

Even better, it should now be clear that uploading content is crucial so students have access to both content online and their educator. One does not replace the other, but together they can undoubtedly give students more opportunities to learn.

Current circumstances have forced everyone’s hand

Even once face-to-face learning is the norm again, we must remember that providing high-quality, easy-to-share resources can significantly improve learners’ experience of education.

As we have also found out, online learning can be used to enhance inclusivity and support learning for those who have found lockdown improved their chances.

But there is also an opportunity to enhance the quality of content, also known as “learning objects”, across the sector. By this I mean that there will be amazing videos, quizzes and slide presentations that have worked really well in a session.

These resources could benefit so many more learners if shared more widely. The challenge is to uncover the gems, find an appropriate place to upload them and develop a method of identifying content to guide educators to find them.

Providing this quality content will need time, resources and an ongoing quality monitoring process.

These are serious challenges in the commercialised, time-poor and money-strapped environment that providers from across the further education sector operate in.

But – necessity being the mother of invention – this year has most definitely forced the issue. There must be a whole range of “learning objects” and different kinds of content in organisations across the country that have been developed and trialled, which are just asking to be re-used out in the sector.

I have been involved in meetings with the Department for Education and College Collaboration Fund (CCF) participants over the past few months, and see exciting prospects of their materials being shared in the near future – which I encourage those interested to keep an eye on via the CCF website.

In the long-term as a sector, we must reach a point where educators can smoothly and effectively not only plan their year ahead and map out their scheme of work, but also identify the extra resources they can access and utilise those to enrich learning.

To achieve this there will need to be a lead from the top and buy-in from the whole workforce.

I will leave you with two questions.

Firstly, do you have learning objects of which you are justly proud, and that you know have made a positive impact on your learners? More importantly, if given the chance, would you share them?

And secondly if there were a bank of learning objects on which you could call – would you?

As we go forward, I very much hope the answer to both those questions is increasingly “yes”.