Close the Digital Divide to Enable a ‘Digital First’ FE Sector | Ufi VocTech Trust

Close the Digital Divide to Enable a ‘Digital First’ FE Sector

In March the pandemic meant that the FE sector had to make a profound and sudden shift to digital learning to ensure that students could keep learning during lockdown. 

The response of the FE sector to the pandemic has shown how the very best digital technologies and blended approaches can support high quality teaching and learning and demonstrates the commitment, passion and dedication of the whole sector to supporting their learners. 

In normal times such a transformation programme would have been planned for two years. This Spring it was achieved in two weeks. Colleges are now taking stock of the lessons learned from that response and what this means for the medium to long term future.  

Research by the Association of Colleges (AoC), funded by Ufi The VocTech Trust, has been investigating FE colleges’ current capacity to enable high quality distance learning.  Findings from this work have been published as a collection of essays today (Friday 10 July) in a new eBook, Creating a Post Covid 19 EdTech Strategy With No One Left Behind, bringing together all the wisdom and lessons learnt from lockdown. 

The essays make clear that the different levels of preparedness for digital learning had a profound impact on the quality and types of blended learning solutions that colleges were able to offer. The report argues that the real issues going forward are cash and culture, not just technology. 

If the UK is to achieve the vocational skills that we need, a clear and embedded approach to the use of digital technology in skills training will be essential. As has been shown by the pandemic, digital technology underpins wider access and the essays show how crucial it is to use the lessons and short cuts to success learnt to ensure no-one gets left behind. 

Ufi is very pleased to be able to support the AOC and its delivery of this invaluable piece of work. This project is one of a number of specific strategies that Ufi VocTech Trust has implemented in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the vocational learning and training sector.  

We are proud that through the projects that are being delivered, Ufi will be supporting learning opportunities for millions of people across the country. 

Louise Rowland, Deputy Chief Executive of Ufi said:

Ufi is very pleased to have been able to support the development of this publication and the valuable contribution the essays will make in shaping the debate on the future of post-16 education policy and in supporting teachers, trainers and vocational educational leaders to collaborate, share best practice, using the important lessons from lockdown for future generations of students. 

Lockdown provided the impetus to accelerate the use of digital learning. It also revealed the underlying issues around culture and funding that are impacting digital readiness within the vocational educational sector, many of which are highlighted in the collection of essays in this publication. 

At Ufi we know that using digital is the means to widen access to vocational learning and develop the workplace skills we need. To achieve this, we need a system that is fit for the future, ensuring that all learners, teachers, and institutions have access to the best tools available and the skills and confidence to use them.

Steve Frampton president of the Association of Colleges said: 

College leaders and staff have worked incredibly hard to ensure students do not lose out on their education during these unprecedented times. We must make sure that the significant learning from the crisis is put to good use and informs the strategy for the next generations of learners.  

This publication is a great window to what a new blended and on-line digital learning future should look like. Incorporating the wisdom gained from the sector’s covid19 response and the innovative tools and ideas for reopening and high-quality learning and teaching we have the perfect blueprint for post-16 education.  

It’s now time the government seized the opportunity to create a truly inclusive digital first learning experience for all students no matter their circumstances to ensure no learner, or teacher gets left behind.


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