Further education (FE) plays a critical role in developing communities, growing skills and supporting social mobility. It helps prepare a diverse student population – one with a wide range of needs and expectations – for next-stage education and the workplace. Technology-based learning can help institutions deliver engaging and flexible courses to meet the demands and expectations of learners while helping protect and grow funds by minimising student drop-outs and expanding the available student base.
Shaping a future workforce
Despite the important role FE plays in social mobility – described as “the movement of people through social strata” – and helping learners of all backgrounds and ages reach their full potential, its budgets are under constant pressure. According to FE Week, the funding rate for 16- to 18-year-olds in the UK has remained unchanged for six years, “meaning that providers have faced a real-terms funding cut over that time.” Institutions must attract and retain students to meet enrolment and completion targets and avoid any negative impact on their budget and to do that, they must understand and meet student needs.
Meeting diverse needs
This can be increasingly difficult to do because the FE student population is by its nature extremely diverse. It comprises 16 to 19-year-olds continuing their education as well as a broad range of adult learners including part-time students and those retraining for today’s workplace. Many students in FE have additional priorities to manage alongside their study, such as full or part-time work and childcare or other commitments.
How can course content and delivery be framed to suit each individual when the student body has a range of needs that are so diverse? One way is to look beyond a ‘one size fits all’ approach to learning and consider content that can be tailored and accessed when and where students need to. Detailed and sophisticated tracking and measurement is also essential to catch any problems before they result in missed learning objectives or even student drop-outs.
3 ways technology can help
Technology-based learning can help institutions increase student enrolment numbers, retain students and improve course completion rates through engaging, flexible courses that adapt to students’ needs. It can also help colleges and other institutions diversify their offerings through flexible online delivery and new approaches to learning. Here’s how:
- Attracting and retaining students through engaging course content
Self-paced, personalised content can help create a targeted, enjoyable and effective learning experience. Such an approach adapts according to individuals’ needs, for instance by supplementing a course topic with additional content to improve understanding. It can also help meet the needs of students with accessibility requirements. With tools that include speech-to-text and text-to-speech, tutors can create accessible courses that enable students to concentrate on their studies, without having to manage adjustments themselves.
Multimedia content can be an asset to engage learners and maintain interest. Video, for example, can be a useful medium for explaining complex topics in a way that makes it easier to understand; it is also a familiar and engaging way for today’s tech savvy individuals to consume information.
- Appealing to a wider student base through flexible access and diverse delivery models
Digital-based learning can help meet the needs of students for whom full-time on-site attendance is unattractive or unrealistic. This can include international students, those living at distance from the institution and adult learners juggling study with work or childcare. Remote and mobile access to course content or even diversification into fully online courses, can be a means to attracting and retaining students where geography is a barrier to enrolment.
In some situations, a completely different course delivery model is required. Pedagogically sound courses built around models such as outcomes-based learning or competency-based education are enabled by data-driven, flexible online delivery platforms.
- Monitoring progress to maximise course completions
Data is also central to successful progress tracking and monitoring, which is key to student retention and course completions. Data and analytics not only provide valuable insight into what’s working and what’s not, it can also help identify students potentially at risk of not meeting targets or dropping out. With such information, teaching staff can decide upon an appropriate course of action and ensure early intervention to get students back on track.
Insight into the full student journey helps institutions provide on-point information that is valuable when it comes to evaluations. This can include insight into how the organisation helps students progress, how students are performing and engaging with courses, and how assessment is working.
Demands across education are constantly growing. Technology-based learning can help FE institutions provide a personalised learning experience to encourage registrations and retention through engaging course content and delivery, ensure a motivational learning experience and support flexible access that helps students manage their time. Diverse delivery models, including fully online and outcomes-based CBE can be enabled through digital platforms which also provide insight through data to help keep students on-track.