Why the Future is Digital for Further Education

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Driving Student Success With Modern VLE Technology

This month, FELTAG, the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group is holding an event in London on the topic of Embracing Digital Technology in Further Education. I’m looking forward to taking part in a range of discussions there and, in particular, to stimulating debate on the topic of how virtual learning environments can personalise the learning experience to meet the diverse needs of students in further education today.

People from all backgrounds take further education (FE) courses. In fact, according to FELTAG, “an essential characteristic of learners in the FE sector is their diversity.” This stands to reason when you consider the range of FE offerings and how they attract people of all ages, education history, academic ability and life stages.

FE students are most often part-time; they may be juggling work and family commitments and might have been out of education for a while. Many don’t necessarily attend a college or teaching institution – FE learning takes place in a range of environments including in the workplace as part of apprenticeships.

Such diverse characteristics all add up to make delivering a quality FE learning experience enormously challenging. Digital technology can help with this challenge.

 

Personalisation at scale: one size fits me

No ‘one size fits all’ approach to course delivery can hope to meet the diverse needs of the FE student population. Flexibility and adaptability are required and in this, technology-based courses are well-placed to give students a ‘one size fits me’ experience.

D2L’s virtual learning environment (VLE) supports personalisation at scale, enabling learning paths to be created on a per student basis. This is because content delivery can adapt according to each student’s progress and their particular needs. Course content can be made available when a student has reached the standard required to be at that stage. In this way, more independent learning paths are automatically created so every student accesses the right content at the right time to best support their progress.

Another form of personalisation, and one sometimes overlooked in VLEs, is meeting the needs of students with accessibility requirements through features that include speech-to-text and text-to-speech. With these tools, tutors are able to create a pedagogically sound course so that students can concentrate on their studies without needing to manage adjustments themselves.

 

Timely, quality feedback  

High quality feedback from tutors, given quickly, gives students the best chance of making whatever changes they need to make in order to progress, but providing in-depth feedback is a time-consuming process, whether it’s in person or written. With a modern digital learning platform tutors can provide audio feedback as they work through an assessment. This is incredibly time-saving for them and it also means that students are able to receive more detailed guidance.

 

Insight through analytics

supports the learning process to help improve student achievement, retention and graduation. It gives tutors and course administrators the intelligence they need to make effective decisions around course design, student feedback/coaching and general course efficiency improvements. Through detailed reports, tutors gain an expanded view of learning and teaching progress while real-time data gives them the insight they need to pinpoint students at risk of falling behind, so that they can intervene to get those students back on track.

Analytics make sense of the data to shine a light on student progress. Key measurements used to build up this picture include comparison of student performance, student interactions with the learning platform, time spent studying, revealed knowledge gaps and progress in relation to learning outcomes.

Students themselves also benefit from this data on their progress. Predictive analytics forecast outcomes such as end grades, to help learners determine what they need to do in the present to achieve the future result they want.

I look forward to delving further into this topic of meeting the diverse needs of FE students through learning personalisation at FELTAG’s event on 21 September. If you are attending and would like to book a meeting in advance, please email me to find a suitable time.  I hope to see you there! 

 

 

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