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RP_Etna Vol IV - On the Right Track - An Analysis of Skills and Attitudes to Technology in Scottish Further Education_JSC Regional Support Centre Scotland North & East 2010_123pg

RP_Etna Vol IV - On the Right Track - An Analysis of Skills and Attitudes to Technology in Scottish Further Education_JSC Regional Support Centre Scotland North & East 2010_123pg

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Published by Giancarlo Colombo

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Published by: Giancarlo Colombo on May 28, 2010
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10/26/2011

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1.1 Technological Environment

Technology has become embedded in colleges in Scotland; it affects all contexts and roles.
The situation has been encouraged, accelerated and facilitated by the Scottish Funding
Council’s capital funding initiatives. New and refurbished buildings have grown up alongside
virtual learning environments (VLEs), interactive whiteboards and wireless networks,
bringing a potential flexibility to teaching and learning and to college business processes
which has not yet been fully exploited.
Such changes in colleges are mirrored by changes in society more widely, where access to
high-speed broadband networks, computing technology and increasingly sophisticated
mobile technologies has opened up new, reliable channels of communication and delivery.

1.2 Access to Technologies

In the college context, the vast majority of staff and students report that the technology is
sufficient to cope with the demands that they make upon it. Target ratios of staff and
students to computers have been almost achieved and the networks which support them
have become increasingly robust and, with the introduction of wireless connectivity,
flexible.

1.3 Virtual Learning Environments

VLEs are now a central feature of all college networked environments, with high awareness
and engagement rates across the survey cohorts and a shared sense (among staff and
students) that the systems enhance the quality of teaching and learning. However,
awareness is still far higher than actual engagement with the technology and the VLE is
often used in a manner which mirrors traditional delivery, without using the attributes of
the systems which make them distinct, such as online discussion, assessment and student
progress tracking. There is consequently room for innovation and expansion in this area and
a need for ongoing staff development. There is also a growing need to monitor quality
output and enhancement in relation to the VLE.

1.4 Other Technologies

Interactive whiteboards are a specific technology which is almost ubiquitous across
colleges. However, there is an element of resistance against use among some staff and
ongoing training is still required.
Usage levels of video conferencing (VC) have been almost static since the first ETNA report
nearly a decade ago, though the current report of the series points to a recent slight
increase in use among senior managers. In the light of the developing sustainability agenda
(allied to pervasive and greatly enhanced connectivity), VC is a technology which needs to
be reconsidered and embedded more actively in college ICT strategies.

1.5 Training

Staff skills levels, as measured in the survey, are extremely high across the more common
software applications, though there is residual demand for training in some areas. As the
basics are covered, ongoing training is becoming increasingly targeted, and will probably
become yet more specialised. There is an ongoing need to monitor general technological
developments, to assess which of these are applicable to the college context, and to
deliver appropriate training.
Traditional methods of delivery still command the highest satisfaction ratings across all
cohorts, perhaps as these represent the best guarantee of safeguarding uninterrupted time
for training (lack of time is still seen as the greatest barrier to effective staff

ETNA: Executive Summary

8

development). There is demand for training to be delivered incrementally to allow staff to
integrate and use what they have learned before moving on to more advanced stages of
development. This is particularly the case in relation to VLEs and interactive whiteboards.
Other specific areas where training is required in the short to medium term are online
assessment, mobile technologies, online pedagogy, establishing and maintaining online
quality standards and assistive technologies.

1.6 Attitudes to Technology

One of the most positive features of this study concerns attitudes towards the application
of technology which are common across the board. The vast majority of staff see the
application of ICT not only as essential to keep pace with modern society, but as
intrinsically enhancing the teaching and learning process. There are, of course, some
reservations and an insistence that technology should never wholly supplant traditional
delivery and human interaction. (These reservations were repeatedly voiced both by staff
and students). This underlines the particular value of technology if used as part of a
carefully developed and communicated teaching and learning strategy.
However, with these provisos new technologies are now seen as fully integrated into the
processes of the college.

1.7 Wireless Networking , Connectivity and Mobile Technologies

Developments in these areas offer new means of reaching out to students, which have as
yet been barely tapped by most colleges. Embracing them more fully will have major
implications for teaching and learning and college business processes.

1.8 Technology and the Learner

Learners surveyed are largely very comfortable with the technology they encounter, though
a sizeable minority (14%) require additional support in areas such as using the VLE. Overall,
learners feel well supported by colleges.
Only a small minority feel that too much emphasis is currently placed on technology.
However, there is strong feeling among learning resources staff that students may not be
equipped to derive the maximum benefit from access to the technology and that
information literacy requires more emphasis.

1.9 Online Repositories and e-Portfolios

These areas are currently underdeveloped across much of the sector in Scotland and should
be a focus for training.

1.10 The Personalisation Agenda

This developing trend in the way that technologies are used is causing some difficulties for
colleges and the trend is likely to increase. The demand from learners for untrammelled
access to sites and to be able to connect their own devices – from memory sticks to laptops
– to the college network is already generating friction in some places; this is reflected in
some of the comments in the student chapter of this report. Acceptable use policies need
to be reviewed to take account of ongoing technical developments. The implications of
‘cloud computing’ need to be considered especially carefully in this context.

1.11 Information Demand

Information and communication technologies present a constantly changing landscape
where, as one senior manager commented, ‘the status quo is never an option’. There is no
doubt among this group that technology will play an increasingly crucial role in college
business processes - 80% of senior managers, for example, see the VLE as ‘essential’ to
college activities. There is consequently a high demand among managers for reliable
information and advice to underpin the development of learning and teaching strategies
and the deployment of relevant technologies.

JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland North & East 2010

9

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