Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Dunstable Departure

I finally have a date when I shall be free from the chains of Further Education college employment. From 30 June 2012 the daily trudge through traffic on the A5 south of Milton Keynes ends and I need no longer fear retribution for not including references to Equality Act strands in my lesson plans.

I shall continue with my role at Middlesex University but to have so much flexibility as to when I can meet current clients and potential new ones will be marvellous. In many ways, I wish I had retired from what was then Dunstable College several years ago as everything worthwhile that I have achieved recently has been completed in my own time - late evenings, weekends and stolen days here and there. Once, I felt that I could make a difference at College, when, as their ILT/E-learning Co-ordinator and seconded to the Learning & Skills Development Agency and its successors for a proportion of that time too, my days were spent helping staff not just at Dunstable but across the country. Those were great days and, especially through LSDA's Q Projects, where I was in a position to fund small projects for using technology in teaching, and with chances to speak to audiences at various agency gatherings, personally rewarding.

With a bit of luck I shall be able to pick up some of that type of work again although, with most funding sources drying up now, I guess it will have to be from persuading budget holders that spending a few hundred on yours truly will be beneficial.

There are many ideas that I'd like to launch but I know I can't do them all! Here's a flavour of where I may concentrate my initial efforts.

Staff ICT Skills Audit

Already being trialled by institutions here as well as in the States, I shall be working with colleagues to promote this simple way to discover who your ICT stars are and who needs a bit of extra help in this vital field.

On-line Surveys

Combining my skills in design and data analysis, I look forward to offering a complete service to those wanting to ask questions and get results - all on-line.

Web Tools

Staff development sessions on new and free tools and applications that can make a difference in course management and the learning experience.

Web Design

Sites that look good and do what people want them to do. Simply.


With huge picture files still causing trouble all over the place - from e-mail attachments and use on-line to those that are in desperate need of a bit of editing - some staff development sessions to explain everything ought to be fun and worthwhile for a wide range of people, and not just in education either, I suppose.


What's wrong with today's virtual learning environments (or MLEs as they may be termed in the States) is worthy of a separate article so I'll be brief here! Here, the UK Government gave institutions a pot of money years ago and they all rushed out and got WebCT, Blackboard, moodle or something similar. So what's happened since? Not a lot. Yes, most courses now have some material and links to resources on-line. Yes, management can now tick some boxes about using technology, show statistics about student usage. But, with a few exceptions, most provision of this sort has become stale, clunky and I have even heard students moaning about moodle, preferring tutors' individual sites and portals to materials. That global solution that the corporate VLE brought has limited value now as a student-programme interface. It's time for a change and I will simply love moving forward the thinking of anyone prepared to listen.

On-line courses

This could well be The Big Thing this decade. It's early days now and, for many institutions, the thought that they may not actually have students wandering around their wonderfully glamorous, glassy and smart premises that have cost taxpayers billions in a few years' time isn't one that does much for a Principal's ego, never mind career. I warn them all now, though: change is coming. Given the choice, at least a third of your students on full-time National Diploma-style programmes would prefer now to study at home in their own time and just attend a centre for tutorials, guidance and specific topic days on a few days a term. Once the others start to see the quality and range of qualifications that can be delivered on-line instead of in class then that proportion can only rise. They're only still enrolling because no-one has told them that there might be an alternative. That's because there isn't yet but I shall be doing my best to design and create one, or, more probably, promote what someone is bound to have ready first!

I may think of some other things to do but these ought to keep me occupied quite happily for a while after 1 July. I would, of course, also be delighted to hear from anyone who can make use of my time and skills!

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