Bob Harrison discovers a new acronym for vocational and adult education – the Vooc
A key recommendation expected from the impending Feltag (Further Education Learning Technologies Action Group) report is for a major initiative to raise the levels of confidence and capability of the further education (FE) workforce, and ensure that new employees have the knowledge and skills to use digital technology to enhance learning.
This was also a clear recommendation in the Commission on Adult and Vocational Teaching and Learning report ("It's about work...") published last year, and will be a major priority for the newly created Education and Training Foundation which has more than £18 million to spend on FE workforce development.
The history of further education has seen dozens of reports providing the filling for several filing cabinets, and the quango graveyard is decorated with the headstones of LSC, Becta, CEL,LSDA, LSN and LSIS. More important, hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been spent on devices and infrastructure which have dated very quickly and struggled to keep pace with the rapid advances of technology and the raised expectations of an increasingly digitally literate learning community.
There are some really innovative providers who are using technology to engage with and support learners in their learning, and they are growing in number, but one of the inhibitors to accelerating that progress appears to be the confidence and capability of the workforce.
Welcome to the Vooc – Vocational Open Online Course
But that could be about to change, thanks to the UfI Charitable Trust, which was established when learndirect was sold off to the venture capital arm of Lloyds TSB. Donald Clark is a trustee of the UfI Trust and of City & Guilds, a blogger (at Plan B) and international speaker on learning technology, and founder of e-learning company Epic, He is also a Mooc learner and advocate and has persuaded the UfI Trust to fund a variation on the Mooc model specially for vocational and adult education.
“Whereas Moocs tend to have focused on academic learning," he explained, "the Trust feels that the people working to support learning in vocational and adult education could benefit from a Vooc, a Vocational Open Online Learning Course." And appropriately, the first Vooc aims to develop the skills and knowledge of the teachers, trainers, tutors and learning support workers in how to make more effective use of digital technology and social media to improve learning.
Donald Clark added, “I am really pleased the UfI Charitable Trust has agreed to support the development of a blended learning programme, and the first module will be available for the sector in September 2014. We are an agile organisation so we can just get on with it and do not have to go through government departments or quango procurement and planning procedures.
"We have moved from idea, proof of concept and sense checking with a fantastic group of FE teachers and teacher educators, scoping and doing budget allocation in a few weeks. Anticipating one of the FELTAG recommendations, we will have the first of a growing series of Voocs ready in September.”
Bryn Davies, another UfI trustee and former college principal, also feels this Vooc could be useful for vocational teachers involved in 14-18 provision in studio schools, UTCs and Technical Academies. “The skills teachers need to make effective use of technology to improve learning are transferable whatever sector teachers and educators are working in," he said, "whether they are in schools, colleges or universities.”
The UfI Charitable Trust has already funded a maths Mooc (Citizens Maths) and other projects which align with the values and principles outlined in the “Scaling Up” report.
UfI Charitable Trust
The Feltag report is imminent and the Ministerial response due by the end of the month.
The Commission on Adult and Vocational Teaching and Learning
Bob Harrison is chair of the DfE ICT/Computing Expert Group and education adviser for Toshiba Information Systems. He runs Support for Education and Training