FE colleges reveal that current IT plans may not support the efficient introduction of work-based learning

By Victoria Wilson

With an increased focus on work-based learning in post-16 education, there is a need for colleges to ensure much greater flexibility in how and where students study for the skills required by the workforce of the future.  

But a recent survey* of FE staff has suggested that the sector may not be taking full advantage of the technology that could support this. In the survey, conducted by Capita, 84% of respondents said their institutions had no current plans to adopt a hosted – or cloud-based – information management solution. This could make it difficult for college staff and employers to manage the administration of students who are studying off-site as part of an apprenticeship or work-based learning opportunity.  

Without cloud technology, emails, phone calls and paper forms would need to go back and forth from the workplace to the college tutor to log attendance and achievement information, wasting hours of valuable time in administration.

With a cloud or hosted solution, an employer could update a college on the progress of an apprentice via their tablet, a tutor could keep a check on a young person’s attendance on a work placement or a student could check the due date on an assignment, whether they are working in a hospital research laboratory, on a building site or in a maths class at college. 

Karen Reece, head of Capita’s further and higher education business, said “FE institutions are actively reshaping their provision and offering more apprenticeships and work-based learning. It is a new era where education and skills are increasingly being delivered far beyond the four walls of a campus building. 

"Our survey results indicate that FE institutions may also need to examine how their IT infrastructure supports the changes and avoid creating a paperwork mountain.

"The foundations are in place for FE colleges to play an increasingly vital role in upskilling the nation’s learners for the years ahead. An institution’s technology could be a key element in helping them deliver on this obligation."

According to the survey, only 2% of college staff said their institutions had already adopted a hosted information management solution, just 7% said they would be implementing in the next 12 to 18 months and 7% had plans to take this route at some point further in the future.

With IT services in the cloud, students and staff can log in anytime, anywhere, and technical staff are freed from the responsibility of maintaining on-site servers, carrying out data backups or managing software upgrades, enabling them to focus on delivering technology that directly supports teaching and learning. 

 

*The survey was conducted at the Capita Further and Higher Education Annual Conference 2017. 62 delegates responded.