Saturday, 15 October 2016

Blended Learning, Jisc and the ES Task & Test



I just recently attended a training session on blended learning at my college specifically for work-based learning (WBL) and sponsored by Jisc (formerly the Joint Information Systems Committee) Jisc is a “United Kingdom not-for-profit company whose role is to support post-16 and higher education, and research, by providing relevant and useful advice, digital resources and network and technology services, while researching and developing new technologies”. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jisc)

I thought it to be very informative and fun.  We were introduced to some of the digital tools available to use for learners and more specifically, how to incorporate these online free tools into our teaching; all delivered very efficiently by the lovely Esther Barrett (Subject Specialist, Teaching, Learning and Assessment; https://www.jisc.ac.uk/staff/esther-barrett ). 


Lightbulb moment: I finally get it. Maybe because I have been
exposed to this kind of digital information enough times but finally, a light is on and I can see a way of incorporating all of this into my teaching in a much more functional way. Dare I say, I am planning on venturing out a little further on the precipice and get a better look at how I can build on my current teaching program that I am delivering? Well yes, when I get time to…I’m a bit busy at the moment.  So many learners, so little time now that my colleague and I are in full swing. 


I was fortunate to meet Kelly Edwards who is the Head of WBL Quality with NTFW (National Training Federation Wales) and I was able to have a wonderful conversation with her regarding the current status of Essential Skills delivery. She asked me a perfect question; one that I have been thinking about since our conversation last Thursday. 


After a lengthy discussion about how the delivery of Task and Test was going; she asked me, “If you had a magic wand and could change something about the current situation, what would you change?”


My response was to continue with the Task and Test (because I think it can be successful), but eliminate the Digital Literacy qualification from WBL as it is currently written. I don’t think it is fit for purpose. Not for work based learners. Digital Literacy is a difficult qualification to deliver and it really needs time to work through all the strands and tools that support it.


I think it is great for further education learners that are attending college as full-time learners. But for Work Based Learners? If we have to bring them into college for 10 weeks (3-hour sessions), it defeats the title “work based learning”.  And we need to realistically explore the question of whether or not our learners benefit or would use all the digital tools that they need to learn in order to pass the qualification. 


Cons:

1.   They don’t have time
2.   They don’t have computer skills; some learners don’t have access to a computer
3.   They’re worried about taking time from work
4.   They have to use their own personal time from work and they resent it
5.   Their employer is not going to support the time they need to have off from work for this qualification
6.   It is difficult to organize small groups to teach DL and impossible to teach one to one (no collaborative learning)
7.   Look at the jobs our WBL’s have, Hospitality (November, December and January is a bit of a bust because of holidays – so little contact with our learners then).
8.   DL delivery needs consistent time for delivery. Our WBL’s are not always able to commit to a set time for several weeks in order to pass this qualification.
9.   I could go on and on and no doubt there are some WBL Assessors that can add to the list; I wish you would

The Pros list is just too small to create at this moment so I am not going to bother (sorry).


But I wouldn't give up on it. I would have an ITC qualification specifically for work based learners that would meet their needs.  As I have thought more about this, I honestly think I could (with a little help) write one.  I wouldn’t go back to the former ITC qualification.  I would continue to incorporate the Microsoft Office programs but expand it further into some of the six strands of digital literacy. For example, introduce alternative online office programs such as Google Drive; Docs, Sheets, etc. Having said that, I think that was the point of having Office 365; but not every company has updated to Windows 10 with Office 365. 


Another important aspect is teaching online safety and privacy practices along with online copyright issues. If anything, it would create a more knowledge-based awareness for being online which is extremely important. 


It would be interesting to research our WBL’s.  With the exception of the ILM learners, I believe the majority of our WBL’s were lost in the education system a long time ago. Either they had a learning difficulty that was never identified or supported, or they were bullied in school, or had behavioral difficulties, or no confidence or simply was just not ready to learn – they are now with us.  It is an exciting process to behold. I am not just about getting them through their Essential Skills. I think I spend a lot of time encouraging my learners, supporting them on their journey towards a qualification and building their self-esteem; and this is why I love my job so much. I still hear from my learners and I still encourage them to carry on with their education and experience. 



This is a very long blog entry.  I have much more to say on this subject, but another day.


For now, let’s get some feedback. 
I need to hear from you. Sound off and tell me what you think. This is an important issue that needs some input because the Task and Test and Digital Literacy qualification are still new. The powers that govern this and put this all into place need to hear from those on the front line. Tell me what you think, please?

2 comments:

  1. Hi Melinda. This is really thoughtful and honest. By the way, although I am not currently a practitioner in WBL, I have attended the training and done some of the 'controlled tasks' as a learner. I can really understand the key issue which you raise here: namely the need to carry out tasks in the classroom, instead of online which would free learners to work in a flexible way in workplaces or at home. I know that discussions are taking place about this at NTfW, and I am sure that your voice will be listened to.
    I hope that Esther's workshop will have helped you and your colleagues to choose the right tools for your learners, and that you will continue to use Jisc's support to help you to do this. Meanwhile, it would be really interesting to hear comments from other practitioners - we (Jisc) will do our best to ensure that these views are heard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Paul! Yes, absolutely, I wish more WBL Assessors would chime in - we need to hear from those who are working on the front line. We need their experience and insight as to what exactly our WBL's need. And thank you, Paul and those at Jisc for all of the continued on-going and developing information technology in education. We are all connected. Cheers, MG

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