The Indices of Deprivation are published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to demonstrate comparable levels of deprivation across England at a small area level called Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs). This document details the top 10% LSOA areas of deprivation in the UK, identifying Manchester as having the third highest percentage of deprived areas in the UK. Further to this, ten specific areas of north Manchester, the catchment area for the course in question, are listed as being ‘most deprived’. These areas being, Harpurhey, Newton Heath, Blackley, Gorton North, Gorton South, Lightbowne, Ardwick, Charlestown, Beswick and Clayton.
To provide the best learner experience using online and blended modes of delivery, we examine and reflect on the implementation of an FE blended learning course using appropriate learning technologies to facilitate a student-centred learning approach. Using the VLE (Moodle) tutors aim to support students away from campus whilst recognising the variability of ICT skills and the availability of appropriate technology at their disposal. We evaluate the collaborative use of forums as a means to access external group work and assessment. We also discuss the use of social media and its affordances. The FELTAG report (2014, p5) states “learners must be empowered to fully exploit their own understanding of, and familiarity with digital technology for their own learning.”
In terms of pedagogical advances in technology, it is clear that the increase in equality and diversity must be considered within the quality of any course delivery. Current studies have focused on generations that appear to be seamlessly integrated into mobile technology (Brett and Cousin, 2011; Peart et al., 2013). Both Peart and Brett identify needs for support mechanisms within these cohorts, even given their familiarity with such technology. Beetham (2014, p2) comments ‘students need a flexible environment that lets them experiment, learn from each other, and create their own blend’ However, in the case of our learner demographic, ages range from 19 to over 40 years old, and there are a range of ICT skills levels along with a range of accessibility to items such as smartphones and mobile devices. We cannot assume that learners will arrive fully versed and ready to engage with these modalities fully in the first instance.
Our Mission Statement:
“Learner led in a way that allows learners to use technology appropriate to their existing ICT skills and accessibility options, so as not to distract from their learning.”
Our five areas of research and discussion will include::
i) Demographic information for the course
ii) Skills demographic – Skills questionnaire from the learners – start of term vs now.
iii) Qualitative and reflective data around Student issues: access to technology, internet access outside of college, existing ICT skills and how this relates to the existing literature detailing accessibility to ICT for those living in inner-city areas.
iv) We also investigate issues that tutors have in terms of implementing quality delivery of courses requiring heavy use of ICT for deliver.
v) We will also identify areas for improvement of quality of delivery based on Learner Voice based on resources and modes of delivery they found to be useful outside of college in terms of upskilling and employability.
The data produced from these studies is subsequently being used to improve and develop the blended learning programmes with a view to improving the quality and accessibility of self-directed study. From a technology point-of-view we consider the socio-economic barriers our students face whilst studying and discuss the issue of differentiating between subject-related learning difficulties and technical support issues. During the session, we would seek feedback and discussion, using various technologies to provide interaction with the audience, and welcome examples of best practice in HEIs in order to further develop our own understanding of the ideal blended learning model. We will also discuss the model of reflection and development used by staff and students to continually improve the delivery of the course.
It is considered that there are a wide range of issues which need to be addressed with the development of any blended learning course and this is further highlighted in instances where the course has been adapted from a traditional classroom-based environment to being predominantly delivered online. With the addition of limited access to technology for the learners and varied ICT skills, it is deemed essential that a documented strategy for assessing individual student needs is created and implemented. This must be constantly reviewed with student-led input allowing for a methodology which effectively supports learners whilst they are off-campus.
Brett.P and Cousin. G (2011) “Students as partners in blending learning.” Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education Issue 3.
Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG). (2010). The English Indices of Deprivation 2010. Accessed 27th May 2015. https://www.ukonlinecentres.com/funding/current-funding/uk-areas-of-deprivation
Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG). (2014). FELTAG Recommendations: Paths forward to a digital future for Further Education and Skills. Accessed 27th May 2015. http://feltag.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/FELTAG-REPORT-FINAL.pdf
Ofcom. (2014). Internet use and attitudes. Accessed 3rd March 2015. http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/cmr/cmr14/Internet_use_and_attitudes_bulletin_2014.pdf
Peart.D, Johnstone. S, Brown. J and Bangani.P (2013) “Putting the student and the Centre of their learning; A collection of papers presented at E-Learning in HE Conference 2014.” http://jiscrsc.jiscinvolve.org/wp/tag/hecon14/ [Accessed Feb 2015].
Some Useful Resources
Effective e-learning for health professionals and students—barriers and their solutions
Sue Childs, Elizabeth Blenkinsopp, Amanda Hall & Graham Walton (2005). Information Society
Additional Notes (session timings)
5 mins – Intro and explanation of session – I will use Kahoot to establish :-
i) Are you currently involved (support or delivery) with a Blended Learning Programme?
ii) ‘what is your organisation’s perception of a blended learning course’ (see below for choices)
10 mins – About the course, delivery and data (last year and this).
5 mins : Overview of current issues with technology and the associated support required. Initial ICT assessments (current practice for assessing ICT skills and availability of hardware off-campus) and examine local issues and other impacting data.
10 mins: Current process of course review, summing up and making recommendations (conclusions)
Q&A: 5 mins