Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why FE Is in Danger of Being a 'Museum Piece'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Why FE Is in Danger of Being a 'Museum Piece'

Article excerpt

Embrace digital change or get stuck in the past, technologist warns

The further education sector must change its attitude to technology or risk becoming a "museum piece", according to a leading technologist.

Bob Harrison, a key member of the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag), told TES that colleges should sell off "half-empty" buildings and invest in digital technology if they want to stay relevant for their students.

Mr Harrison spoke out after the government's response to Feltag's recommendations on how technology should be used to transform learning. The group said it was vital for the sector to keep abreast of rapidly accelerating change, and called for more online and remote learning as well as significant investment to improve the knowledge and skills of the workforce.

The government responded positively, pledging that all publicly funded FE courses would have an online element in future, and encouraging the Education and Training Foundation and digital charity Jisc to spend more of their resources on training the workforce to make better use of technology.

But Mr Harrison, education adviser to Toshiba, told TES that Feltag's suggestions were less about technology than changing attitudes. "Young people use technology in every other aspect of their life but are not allowed to use it in learning," he said. "If that mindset prevails in FE, what we will end up with is a museum piece, a historical model of how learning used to be."

Mr Harrison urged colleges to halt their large capital projects and refocus their spending. "Technology is a better investment for colleges than buildings," he said. "We need learning spaces but do we need these big palaces that are empty for half the year?

"Students of the future aren't going to want to travel 15 miles to listen to someone talk through a presentation when they can learn remotely via video link and download the presentation.

"Don't build any more buildings, sell off the ones that are half-empty and make sure every student on your programmes has a device and access to decent wi-fi."

Mr Harrison's comments echo the findings of a recent report by the Gazelle Colleges Group and technology firms Microsoft and Intel. …

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