Category Archives: news

Webinars, FELTAG Confusion

It is no wonder that many in the FE sector are confused over the implications of FELTAG.

In my previous blog post I quoted the SFA response to FELTAG which includes the following comment.

This is activity which replaces face to face lecturing time including webinars, but not time spent on researching information on the web. 

I read this as

These are activities, including webinars, which replaces face to face lecturing.

However it should be read as

This is activity which replaces face to face lecturing time and webinars.

If you read the Provider Support Manual from the SFA which has more detail it states:

333. The following are examples of online learning:

  • Learning materials that the learner accesses on a college virtual learning environment such as Moodle
  • Video demonstrations or Powerpoint presentations accessed outside the classroom
  • Structured learning packages that are not facilitated by a lecturer.

334. The following are examples of activities that do not constitute online learning and should not be included in calculation of the Percentage of online delivery:

  • A video of a practical demonstration that is shown in the classroom with the lecturer present
  • Work undertaken on a computer with a lecturer present
  • An online webinar delivered by a lecturer
  • Homework assessments that are undertaken on-line
  • Email/telephone or online tutorials or feedback discussions.

Webinars would include using tools such as Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, Big Blue Button and Google Hangouts.

The SFA responds to FELTAG

Tablets and phones by Zak Mensah

Following the publication of the FELTAG report and the somewhat confusing response from BIS, across the FE sector there has been a lot of discussion about the implications of FELTAG, the 10% online delivery particularly getting a lot of attention.

I have attended a lot of events and meetings where we have discussed FELTAG, and though there was a lot of positive comments about ensuring our learners gained the necessary digital skills for future employment, the challenges of ensuring our staff have the necessary skills and training to deliver on this often came to the fore. In addition the 10% dominated many of the discussions, partly as it wasn’t clear what was online and what wasn’t? Most people were sure that “searching the web for information” was not online delivery, whereas computer-mediated content and assessment probably was. What was less clear was if discussion forums or webinars counted towards the online 10%.

This week the SFA released their response to FELTAG, and as one of the major funding bodies for Further Education this has been eagerly awaited in the anticipation that they would clarify and clear up the implications from FELTAG.

We now need to record on the ILR for the proportion of the Scheme of Work which is delivered “online”.

The 2014 to 2015 individualised learner record (ILR) includes a field which asks for the proportion of the curriculum design (scheme of work) delivered by computer-mediated activity rather than by a lecturer. This is activity which replaces face to face lecturing time including webinars, but not time spent on researching information on the web. 

It is good to see the clarification that webinars are considered to be online and as expected that researching on the web isn’t.

However it will be interesting to understand in more detail what is included and what isn’t. I consider all the following could be used to replace face to face lecturing time.

  • Having a discussion online using a forum on a VLE, or within a Google+ community.
  • Researching using online and digital collections, ie not using Google and the web, but using specific digital resources, such as an e-book library; the British Library Newspapers Archive; a collection of online journals.
  • Creating a blog and commenting on the blogs of others.
  • Having a discussion on Twitter, using a single hashtag.

The SFA also clarifies what they understand by the 10%.

We are not expecting providers to convert 10% of learning delivery in each programme of study ‘en bloc’ to online to meet a ‘directive’. Rather, we are encouraging providers to establish a strategy to determine where the adoption of a greater ‘blend’ of delivery and assessment types adds most value to a learning programme…

There was some discussion that the 10% could be an aggregated 10%, however the statement from the SFA implies they are expecting every programme to adopt blended learning in some format.

The challenge will be designing, developing and delivering the computer-mediated activity to meet this 10%. Unless the staff have the necessary skills, it will be a difficult process. It is one thing to use learning technologies for the odd activity here and then, it’s another thing to plan and schedule in 54 hours of online delivery into a 540 hours programme. The response from the SFA does indicate that colleges shouldn’t just convert the 10%, but it is clear they are expecting providers to strategically establish processes for implementing 10% (or more) where it “adds value” to a programme.

In many cases I would suspect that some courses already are meeting the 10%, it’s just that it isn’t part of the formal scheme of work. In this instance, the challenge will be for the teaching staff, how they will reduce their face to face time by 10%.

The other response from the SFA is that they will be looking at current use of online delivery this year, combine with the IRL information from 2014-15, to then get the data that “will be used to gauge the current volume of online delivery and establish a baseline to inform funding policy development and implementation for future years.”

The response to this has to be either, start now, don’t wait… make sure you train the staff. Though I am sure some providers may think that if they don’t start the process of change, the policy might disappear in the future…

It is good that we are getting clarification and the real value of FELTAG is getting the message out that the use of learning technologies should be used where it adds value to learning and improves the learning experience.

Image Credit: Tablets and phones by Zak Mensah

So long and thanks for all the fish…

After nearly seven years at Gloucestershire College as their ILT and Learning Resources Manager I have now left and started a new job on Monday this week.

Back in 2006 I was Director of the Western Colleges Consortium (WCC); it was being wound up as the partner colleges were merging and moving away from a shared VLE platform to individual institutional VLEs.

I was pleased to be appointed at Gloucestershire College and when I started in November 2006. Over the last seven years the college has had a new build, merged, refurbished and restructured.

We have been through two Ofsted Inspections, coming out Good each time, with some positive comments about ILT and the libraries in the reports. We did a lot of learning technology projects, including ones for MoLeNET, Becta, LSIS, AoC and JISC.

I enjoyed my time at Gloucestershire, according to many staff who took the time to speak to me, I made a difference.

Across the college many staff and learners are using a range of learning technologies to enhance and enrich learning. From the VLE, to interactive whiteboards, mobile technologies, video, audio, learning objects, e-portfolios, social media, web tools, and other learning technologies.

The libraries are well used and liked by learners and I. My opinion are fantastic learning environments.

So where am I now?

I am the Group Director of ILT for what will be Activate Learning, which encompasses Banbury & Bicester College, City of Oxford College and Reading College. Activate Learning is the new name for what is currently the Oxford & Cherwell Valley College group. My responsibilities include ILT, IT, Learning Resources (which includes the libraries) and Business Systems.

It is going to be an exciting and challenging opportunity.

iPad Off

iPads

I read this article in the Guardian about schools asking parents to buy their children iPads to support their learning.

It’s quite a negative article, but in many ways I do agree with the sentiments behind it.

Back in January I wrote an article, “I need a truck” in which I noted:

The Essa Academy in Bolton has decided that the best way forward for them is to issue every learner and every teacher with an iPad. Now I am sure that they thought long and hard about it before making this choice, but I do wonder if they missed a trick?

The first questions I would ask are: Is every learner the same? Do they all have the same needs and do they all learn in the same way in different contexts?

I then went on to explain what I meant using a transport analogy. Read more…

This echoes some of the sentiment in the Guardian article, but a lot less sensational! By the way don’t read the comments on the Guardian article, for a moment as I persued them I thought I was reading the Daily Mail or the Telegraph.

If the parental comments are to be believed then the schools undertaking these kinds of iPad implementations haven’t really explained the “what” and the “why” they are doing this. I would suspect that this is because they may not actually know the “what” and the “why” and have seen other institutions, like the Essa Academy, are doing and believe that they should be doing the same.

This paragraph astounded me

Providing tablets is not an unquestioned money saver for schools. Honywood community science school in Essex gave all its 1,200 pupils a tablet computer for free, although it did ask for a £50 contribution towards insurance. The cost was estimated at around £500,000. But 489 tablets had to be replaced after a year, while four out of 10 needed to be sent for repairs.

What on earth was happening in that school where 41% of the tablets had to be replaced and another 40% needed to be repaired. So 81% of the tablets were broken, or broke down in a year. Would be interesting to know which tablet they were using. Were the problems with the tablet itself, the way it was used, or was it because it was given to the learners for “free” they didn’t look after them. Probably a combination of all three, however still 81% is an incredible statistic.

The problem with every learner having an iPad is that it many ways it can be restrictive. A lot of things can be done on an iPad, but in some ways other devices or tools may be better, faster or more efficient.

e-Learning Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2012

A somewhat quieter year this year with just over 100 blog posts posted to the blog.

As I did in 2011, 2010 and 2009 here are the top ten blog posts according to views for this year. Interestingly, the VLE is Dead – The Movie blog post which was number one last year and number two for the previous years, does not appear in the top ten , it was the 15th most viewed post.

10. Keynote – iPad App of the Week

The tenth most viewed post was my in-depth review of the Keynote app for the iPad. I wrote this review more for myself, to get a my head around what the app was capable of. Whilst writing the blog post, I was very impressed with the functionality and capability of the app, it was a lot more powerful and flexible than my first impressions of it.

Keynote opening screen

9. ebrary – iPad App of the Week

I spent some time trying out the various mobile ways of accessing our college’s ebook collection which is on the ebrary platform. This was a review of the iPad app, I was both impressed and disappointed. It was much better than using the web browser on the iPad, but was less impressed with the complex authentication process which involved a Facebook connection and a Adobe Digital Edtions ID. Very complicated and as a result less than useful for learners. Though it has to be said once the book was downloaded it did work much better than accessing it through the browser. The only real issue is you have to remember to return the books before they expire!

8. MindGenius – iPad App of the Week

MindGenius is not the best mind mapping app for the iPad, that has to go to iThoughtsHD however if you have MindGenius for the desktop then this app is an ideal companion for starting mind maps on the iPad and finishing them off on the computer.

 7. iBooks Author

In January of 2012, Apple had one of their presentations in which they announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author and an iTunes U app that built on the iTunes U service in iTunes. At the time I wrote three blog posts about those three announcements. All three of those blog posts are in the top ten, the one on iBooks Author was the seventh most popular blog post in 2012. It looked at the new app. I’ve certainly not given it the time I thought I would, maybe I will in 2013.

6. A few of my favourite things…

Over the last few years of owning the iPad, I have downloaded lots of different apps, some of which were free and a fair few that cost hard cash! At a JISC RSC SW TurboTEL event in Taunton I delivered a ten minute presentation on my favourite iPad apps. The sixth most popular blog post of 2012 embedded a copy of that presentation and I also provided a comment on each of the apps.

5. 100 ways to use a VLE – #89 Embedding a Comic Strip

The fifth most popular post this year was from my ongoing series of ways in which to use a VLE. This particular posting was about embedding a comic strip into the VLE using free online services such as Strip Creator and Toonlet. It is quite a lengthy post and goes into some detail about the tools you can use and how comics can be used within the VLE. The series itself is quite popular and I am glad to see one of my favourite in the series and one of the more in-depth pieces has made it into the top ten. It was number eight last year and tyhis year was even more popular.

 4. I love you, but you’re boring

This blog post was the first in a series of blog posts looking at Moodle and how the default behaviour of the standard system results in problems for learners and staff.

 3. “Reinventing” Textbooks, I don’t think so!

In January of 2012, Apple had one of their presentations in which they announced iBooks 2, iBooks Author and an iTunes U app that built on the iTunes U service in iTunes. There was a lot of commentary on iBooks and how it would reinvent the textbook. Looking back I think I was right to be a little sceptical on this one. Maybe in a few years time, we will see e-textbooks that change the way in which learners use textbooks.

2. Thinking about iTunes U

The blog post on iTunes U, which followed posts on iBooks 2 and iBooks Author, is the second most viewed blog post this year. I discussed the merits and challenges that using iTunes U would bring to an institution. Back then I wrote, if every learner in your institution has an iPad, then iTunes U is a great way of delivering content to your learners, if every learner doesn’t… well I wouldn’t bother with iTunes U. I still stand by that, I like the concept and execution of iTunes U, but in the diverse device ecosystem most colleges and universities find themselves in, iTunes U wouldn’t be a solution, it would create more challenges than problems it would solve.

1. Every Presentation Ever

Back in January I posted a humourour video about making presentations, this was the most popular blog post of mine in 2012.

It reminds us of all the mistakes we can make when making presentations.

So that was the top ten posts of 2012, which of my posts was your favourite, or made you think differently?