Monday, 8 October 2007

The future of Further & Scarcity Education

Where might Further Education be headed, with so much information and connectivity now available online ?

Improved Accessibility
One current problem education has is accessibility. It usually has to be delivered face to face, by a dedicated teacher, who is trained and maintained at great expense. For children in full time education this is a sensible use of resource, always provided teachers are of sufficient standard.

But we know this is not always the case. It may be the case that, where teaching standards are insufficient or where schools become uneconomic, children in failing or closing schools and adults who have fallen out of the education system may do better online. The teaching profession already recognises that it's "whatever it takes", that there are many ways to reach the end goal, and that it's "about the teacher, stupid". Herein lies great knowledge and value.

Online tuition must now be considered as a viable additional option for both Further Education and what we might call "Scarcity Education". How much better that a tutor spends time dealing with genuine issues, and letting students move forward at their own pace.

Online tuition also offers students the opportunity to select unique course elements, to build a qualification that has individual elements tutored perhaps by recognised experts in their field.

How would such variety and diversity be "controlled" ?

More Flexible Assessment & Accreditation
For tomorrow's students, studying online at their own pace, and referring occasionally to a tutor, how do they first select the course ? How is the course accredited ? Who will recognise the course as being "valuable" to them ?

Here we need another step forward. At present, there is no means of recognising a student's tutor as delivering students of a measurable standard. If each tutor has a reputation to preserve, as measured by recipients of their "student product" and by students themselves, they will have a much more public profile to maintain, and a vested interest in producing better, more measurable "product" than their "competitors".

It is precisely because schools and FE colleges act as a "closed shop" that poor standards are not exposed for what they are. The school Head needs to employ staff who are committed to their student's learning, not just doing a 9-5 job. How better to do this than to show results from individual teachers, "graded" by their students and eventual employers ? For those who are truly committed, and these creatures still thankfully exist, this would be one heck of a motivator. Their efforts could actually get real recognition, and hence a better chance of attracting comparable rewards. This factor is just as true in a business environment, learning more business oriented skills, and the current lack of this focus results in poor and ineffective recruitment processes into large businesses.

So what's the answer ?

Reputation Communities
One answer is for the government to fund communities that support and encourage educationalist & training reputations. This would act as a central forum for teachers and trainers where they could come and show off their abilities and specialities, and their preferred operational hours. Although current 'A' Level results tell us anonymously how well a teacher is doing, it is from an Exam Board perspective, not from the students themselves, and not from employers.

Clearly, there is still a need here for face to face contact in a local setting. As such there is a need for security clearance for a smaller section of this "on-line" population. The government would be central in providing that security for more vulnerable sections of the population still needing face to face advice and guidance.

How can reputations be established ? By associating with someone with an established reputation looking to grow their "local network".

Opportunity Now
The future can develop this way right now. What is needed is a leader of the pack, someone with vision and contacts who can trial and promote such developments, and convince those with funds that this is the way to go, and that it fills a significant gap in current education provision.

No comments: