The FE & Skills Coalition Meets

The FE and Skills Coalition meetings have built on the work of FELTAG and continue to offer both colleges and other sector organisations an excellent opportunity to hear the current issues and challenges which colleges and providers are facing.

The latter part of this meeting which looked at the role of  AR & VR tools in FE & Skills was the subject of an earlier blog post.

The meeting heard from Paul McKean, Head of FE & Skills at Jisc about Jisc’s strategic aims in the FE & Skills area, and an overview on Jisc’s current activities in this area.

Paul highlighted the sheer pace and extent of change in the post-16 education sector. A plethora of reports, standards and policies over the last few years has given the sector plenty of challenges, and along with area reviews and mergers has meant much upheaval.

Paul explained Jisc’s key strategic principles for the next three years. These are:

  • Quality of provision – excellence in teaching, learning and improvements in digital capability across the piece
  • Sector transformation – including financial sustainability and more efficient and effective institutions
  • Employer-led training – including better support for work-based learning, apprenticeships and employability of learners

Paul stressed the determination of Jisc to continue to be pro-active in engaging with its members to highlight the benefits of technological solutions and in supporting members in realising those benefits.

Paul highlighted some of the new offerings from Jisc for our members. These included:

  • Digital capabilities discovery tool – which helps individual staff reflect on their capability in the use of digital tools for learning and teaching. This platform will be ready for open pilot in December 2017
  • Student Experience Tracker – The tracker has gathered over 27,000 responses from students since its launch. There are new case studies that demonstrate organisational impact.
  • The Apprenticeship Journey in a Digital Age – This toolkit highlights support and digital approaches for steps along the Degree and higher apprenticeship journey. Currently available as an interactive Powerpoint deck, it will be released as a fully fledged web resource in early 2018.

Paul expands on these points in a recent podcast and blog post.

Designing learning and assessment in a digital age

Sarah Knight and Lisa Gray, Head of Change and a Senior Co-design manager in the Student Experience team at Jisc reviewed Jisc’s activities in the area of technology enhanced curricula, some of which dates back to 2006. The work is essentially designed to help answer the question: “What do my learners need to learn or what skills do they need to acquire to meet the learning outcomes for this lesson, course or module?”

Sarah and Lisa introduced the FE & Skills assessment benchmarking tool  as a really useful framework to enable institutions to see where they are in this area and reflect on their practice and on what they need to do to develop further.

They also drew attention to the Jisc work on employability, where a study of this area has led to the development of a set of guidance materials to help institutions understand the requirements for producing employable students in a digital age.

They also touched on Jisc’s work across the learner analytics space, and the really useful insights and metrics that can come from successfully interrogating the huge amount of data that institutions produce these days.

Learning spaces and the way that effective design of classrooms and other spaces can help facilitate good learning experiences were also highlighted. There are many good examples of this from across both higher and further education including:

  • Interactive lecture theatres
  • Active learning classrooms
  • Multi-discipline laboratories
  • Technology offers new possibilities to simulate work environments

Finally Lisa and Sarah stressed the role of students as change agents, and highlighted guidance for institutions in forging effective student-staff partnerships.

Case Studies in Digital Skills – Ufi Charitable Trust

Katherine Laux is a project manager at the Ufi charitable trust. She explained that Ufi works to:

  • demonstrate the art of the possible
  • create a vocational technology market
  • change the way we learn

Ufi achieve this by funding projects that can provide scalable solutions to improve vocational skills. Katherine highlighted two case studies from the Ufi stable (these case studies are free to users).

Blended learning essentials

This online, interactive course aims to introduce anyone working in further education, skills or vocational training to the benefits of blended learning and the way that technology can support learners to be better prepared for the workplaces that they will be entering.

The course was developed by the University of Leeds and the Institute of Education at University College London. It is available for free, although for a modest £62 it is possible to access more support and ongoing access to the course.


iDEA (Duke of York inspiring Digital Enterprise Award) is the digital and enterprise counterpart of the Duke of Edinburgh Award. It is completely free and can be accessed on virtually any device. Anyone of any age can sign up and earn badges to show their achievements in four categories: citizen, worker, maker and entrepreneur.

By taking on further challenges, participants can progress to Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. As well as being fun, the badges provide a visual acknowledgement of achievement which can then lead to improved employment prospects in the technology and enterprise sectors.


The presentations from this event are available on the Jisc website.

Thank you to all those who participated and for their willingness to share their practice and ideas with us. Please continue this conversation by using #FELTAG and by joining the FE and Skills Coalition mailing list:

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