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2003 ILT in FE Report

2003 ILT in FE Report

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Published by Fevered Steve
These earlier reports are in basic word processed format. I've been unable to locate the print pdfs for these.

This was my first one flying solo as it were, afer Bob Powell left Becta
These earlier reports are in basic word processed format. I've been unable to locate the print pdfs for these.

This was my first one flying solo as it were, afer Bob Powell left Becta

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Published by: Fevered Steve on Jan 28, 2011
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ILT in Further Education: laying the foundations for e-learning

A report to the Joint Implementation Group of the National Learning Network

July 2003

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Acknowledgements

This survey report would not have been possible without the time and effort put in by the majority of colleges to complete the two long questionnaires. The survey, like its predecessors, benefited from the comments and observations of a range of individuals and agencies, including members of the National Learning Network Programme Board, officers of the Department for Education and Skills, the Learning and Skills Council, the Learning and Skills Development Agency, the National Information and Learning Technologies Association and the Joint Information Systems Committee.

The online survey facility was provided by Infopoll.

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Contents 1 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 2 2.1 2.2 3 3.1 3.3 3.3 3.4 3.4 3.5 4. 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 5 5.1 5.2 5.3 Management Summary ........................................................................................ 4 Some key messages .............................................................................................. 4 The survey ............................................................................................................. 4 ILT infrastructure .................................................................................................... 4 Access to ILT ......................................................................................................... 5 ILT for teaching and learning ................................................................................. 5 ILT expenditure ...................................................................................................... 6 The survey ............................................................................................................ 8 Context and purpose of the study .......................................................................... 8 Survey methodology and response ....................................................................... 8 Infrastructure ...................................................................................................... 10 Computer specifications ....................................................................................... 10 College computer stock ....................................................................................... 12 Local Area Networks ............................................................................................ 13 LAN performance ................................................................................................. 14 Internet Connectivity ............................................................................................ 15 Constraints on Internet use .................................................................................. 16 Access to ILT ...................................................................................................... 17 Access for learners .............................................................................................. 17 Access to Internet–enabled computers................................................................ 18 Managing demand for student access ................................................................. 19 Access for Staff .................................................................................................... 20 Mode of access for staff ....................................................................................... 21 Use of ILT for teaching and learning............................................................... 24 Electronic communications ................................................................................. 24 Learning platforms .............................................................................................. 25 ILT in the teaching and learning process ............................................................ 27 ILT in student induction ........................................................................................ 28 ILT in mainstream programmes ........................................................................... 29 ILT learning materials........................................................................................... 30 ILT and online assessment .................................................................................. 31 Staff IT and ILT skills........................................................................................... 32 Expenditure on ILT............................................................................................ 35 Identifying funding sources ................................................................................. 35 Sustainability of investment ................................................................................ 35 ILT and staff-related costs .................................................................................. 36 Major corporate information systems .................................................................. 36

5.4 6 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4

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1

Management summary

1.1 Some key messages This report shows that there is a robust ILT (Information and Learning Technology) infrastructure across the Further Education sector. Targets for student access to computers and the Internet have been met in the vast majority of colleges, and the targets for staff access are also close to being met in most colleges. College networks are increasingly capable of meeting the demands placed on them. The use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) as a learning platform is increasing in colleges, and those that do use a VLE find it easier to use than other platforms. The report also identifies a new set of challenges for college management. Firstly, the large investment in colleges’ technology infrastructure since 1999 has been slow to have a widespread impact on teaching and learning practice. The survey identified a number of examples: the use of VLEs or of electronic learning materials with students remains at low levels; ILT is often a supporting element, outside scheduled learning activities; online assessment remains the preserve of ILT enthusiasts. Secondly, a key element in achieving this integration of ILT into teaching and learning is a well-trained body of staff. Colleges are beginning to identify development needs that go beyond the acquisition of particular technical skills and concentrate on the integration of ILT within teaching and learning practice. The third key area, and one underpinning the whole process of ILT use and development, is the question of sustainability. As the large numbers of computers bought in 2000 and 2001 reach the end of their useful lives, college budgets will begin to feel the strain. However, replacement is not the only issue here. Management attention will also have to be given to how future innovative technologies will impact both on college budgets, and on teaching and learning practice. 1.2 The survey

This study, to assess progress in the provision of ILT within the further education (FE) sector, represents the most recent of a series of studies undertaken in 1999, 2000 and 2001. It aims to provide comparative data to judge the impact of the deployment of National Learning Network (NLN) monies for the development of ILT infrastructure in the sector. Two hundred and fifty-six colleges (64% of the sector) responded to the ILT Monitoring Survey, the outcomes of which are presented in Sections 3 to 5 of this report. One hundred and ninety-seven colleges (49% of the sector) responded to the ILT Expenditure Survey, reported in Section 6. A further 13 colleges responded to the ILT monitoring survey and 9 to the expenditure survey, but were too late to be included in this analysis.

1.3

ILT infrastructure

We estimate that the actual number of computers in the 401 English colleges in 2003 is around 300,000, compared with around 260,000 in 2001 and 160,000 in 1999. Around onesixth of the current stock has survived since 1999, and around a half dates from 2001. A quarter (25%) of computers designated for student use are open-access and the remaining three-quarters (75%) are sited in classrooms. This level of availability decreases in the evening and is at its lowest at weekends. However, a higher proportion of open-access computers remain available for students beyond daytime hours, with just under a half of these machines available for use at weekends. The local area network (LAN) backbone in over 70% of colleges is 100 Mbps Ethernet, and a further 20% of colleges have Gigabit LANs. Ninety-four per cent of computers designated for student use are networked, and all student computers are networked in 83% of colleges. Forty-two per cent of respondents say that their network could cope with a significant increase in traffic, compared to 24% in 1999. The number struggling to meet demand has fallen to 5% from 22%. Despite the improvement in LAN specification, over half of the sector is, however, still stretched to full capacity. This seems to indicate that the nature of demand for ILT in

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colleges could be described as a ‘motorway effect’, which sees traffic rapidly adjust upwards each time an additional lane is opened. All colleges have been provided with a free 2 Mbps internet connection via JANET as part of the NLN initiative. Around one-third of these (33%) have, or plan to have, additional bandwidth. There also seems to be a growing polarisation between the majority of colleges which seem relatively content with 2 Mbps, and the third that have invested in extra bandwidth and seem hungry for more. Broadly speaking, the FE sector has a robust infrastructure capable of delivering a wide range of electronically mediated learning experiences. Demand for this technology is clearly widespread and may continue to grow and devour any future increase in capacity. 1.4 Access to ILT The median ratio of full-time-equivalent (FTE) students per computer has fallen to 4.0:1 (7.6:1 in 1999). The highest value calculated for 2003 was 9.7:1 at a single college, whilst only four colleges (less than 2% of the respondents) had ratios of 8:1 or greater. This compares with 43% who had ratios of 8:1 or greater in 1999. The median number of FTE students to computers with internet access is now 4.1:1 and three-quarters of colleges have now achieved the target set by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) of 5:1. This compares with a median of 21:1 in 1999, which had fallen to 4.95:1 by last year. The number of colleges who are unable to meet current demand for internet access fell from just over a half in 1999 to exactly a quarter in 2001. This proportion has remained the same since then. The ability to meet demand for the internet and the demand for computers per se have converged steadily since 1999, in line with the increasing proportion of computers connected to the internet. The NLN target of one internet-connected computer for every permanent member of teaching staff has been achieved or bettered by 26% of colleges, from a level of 15% in 2001. The actual achievement of colleges in providing computers for staff is better reflected in the median value of the ratio of permanent teaching staff to internet-connected computers, which has fallen from 3:1 in 2000 to 1.4:1 this year. The figure inferred for 1999 (when the question was not directly asked) is 7:1. The characteristic mode of access to computers for teaching staff remains sharing a computer in a staff room. This mode of access has remained at a constant level since 1999. It has acted as a buffer as sharing student machines declined (all or most teaching staff shared with students in 20% of colleges in 1999; by 2001 this had fallen to 6%), and having sole use of computers has increased (all or most teaching staff have sole access in 31% of colleges, compared to 5% in 1999). Taking the sector as a whole, the 1999 targets for access to computers and the internet have been exceeded for students and almost achieved for staff. Two questions still remain. Is this ILT infrastructure being used effectively in teaching and learning? Is it affordable in the long term? 1.5 ILT for teaching and learning The use of email for staff communication is well embedded in almost all colleges and is common practice in nearly two-thirds of the sector. Electronic communication both with and between students is however a far less extensive use of college networks. All colleges have an acceptable use policy for electronic communications, and acceptable use forms part of the student induction process in 94% of colleges. Over three-quarters (76%) of colleges indicated that they monitored electronic communications, using software, members of staff, or a combination of the two. Ninety-three per cent of colleges use their network as a learning platform and 40% use it as the main platform. Eighty-four per cent use their intranet as a learning platform, and this is considered the main platform in 14% of colleges. As a more recent technology, VLEs are far less widely used: 59% of colleges have them and only 11% use them as their main platform.

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These three types of learning platform are heavily used as repositories for course documents; however, beyond this their use differs considerably. College intranets are also heavily used for learner support. Intranets and VLEs allow the uploading of materials more easily than networks, and VLEs most easily allow student tracking. The use of ILT for student tracking and the use of electronic information to support teaching and learning are, however, at a modest level. Thirty per cent of colleges commonly use electronic information to support personal tutorials, and information from tutorials is recorded electronically in 20% of colleges. Electronic student portfolios or records of achievement are maintained in 22% of colleges. By far the most frequent use of ILT in mainstream college programmes is to support learning; ILT is used in all or most programmes in 48% of colleges. ILT is widespread as a traditional classroom tool in 21% of colleges. Using ILT with traditional learning resources to produce blended learning is seen as widespread in 18% of colleges. Seventeen per cent of colleges also report the use of ILT to enable learners to access some or all of their programme at a time convenient to them. The use of ILT for remote access or to produce an individualised programme of study are the least common uses of e-learning in colleges; 34% of colleges make no use of ILT to enable individualised study, and 28% do not use ILT for remote learning. Learning materials are most often used at the individual teacher’s discretion. This was the case in 52% of the colleges surveyed. Their use is directed by a college-wide plan in only 17% of colleges, and by a plan at department or course level in 28%. The internet is the most frequently used source of learning materials, being used in 94% of colleges and being in common use in 43%. Of the 78% of colleges that use NLN materials, only 5% describe their use as common practice. This reflects the early stage in embedding the use of NLN materials, with only the limited range of Round 1 materials available to colleges at the time of the survey. Online assessment, taken in the context of each college’s whole programme, is seen as insignificant or limited to individual enthusiasts in 50% of the colleges surveyed. It is seen as a widespread activity in only 3% of colleges. The most extensive use of ILT with regard to assessment is to store and record outcomes of assessment; this happens to some degree in 68% of colleges, though only 10% describe this as common practice. Seventy-three per cent of college teaching staff are considered to be competent or advanced in their personal use of IT, compared with 67% in 2000. However, in the use of ILT with learners, only 56% of teaching staff are considered competent or advanced. (In 2000 this was 42%.) Both sets of skills are improving and the gap between IT competence and ILT competence has steadily narrowed since 1999. The use of ILT remains a peripheral activity in much of teaching and learning. Electronic communications are more frequently used between college staff than with students. ILT in induction is often focused on areas that already have inherent IT content. In mainstream programmes, most ILT use remains a bolt-on element, outside scheduled teaching. However, the first signs of embedded ILT practice are beginning to appear. There is some evidence of ILT being used in traditional teaching, and some blended learning is taking place. Staff skills in ILT are improving faster than their general IT skills, and many colleges see the embedding of ILT into teaching practice as a key development need. 1.6 ILT expenditure The estimated total expenditure on ILT for the FE sector as a whole in the year to July 2002 was £206 million. Hardware accounted for the largest amount of expenditure at £87 million (42% of the total), followed by ILT-related staff costs, estimated at £51 million (25% of the total). Seventy-eight per cent of the total expenditure came from within colleges’ own funds, and 8% came from each of the Standards Fund and the NLN. The remaining 6% came from other funds, notably from the European Union and the National Lottery.

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The current level of computer stock in the FE sector, noted above, will prove difficult to sustain within the present hardware budget without careful planning of the life of these assets. A key question then is ‘how useful for teaching and learning is a four- or five-year-old computer?’ Investment decisions will need to take account of what would be considered a reasonable life span for these assets. However, growth and innovation continue, therefore management planning for sustainability must also take into account the potential for change and innovation in current practice. ILT staffing costs are difficult to identify, as it is almost impossible to extricate exactly what items in the staff budget are driven by ILT. However, the survey shows that it is indeed a significant amount and that, certainly for the near future, colleges will need to invest in and develop the staff skill sets necessary for the realisation of the full potential of ILT. Major corporate information systems represent long-term strategic investment by colleges. Student records systems are by far the largest item of current major systems expenditure. Student numbers are a major driver of many other costs; they drive staffing levels, estates, and of course ILT investment. This investment should therefore provide much-needed information for colleges needing to plan for sustainability and possible future growth.

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2 2.1

The survey Context and purpose of the study

This study was carried out from February through to June 2003 on behalf of the LSC. The survey seeks to assess progress in the provision of ILT within the FE sector, along with the extent to which this provision is integrated into the teaching and learning process. Three previous studies, undertaken in February 1999, September 2000 and September 2001, provide comparative data to judge the impact of the deployment of NLN monies for the development of ILT infrastructure in the sector.

2.2

Survey methodology and response

The study took the form of a survey, using two separate questionnaires, of all 401 FE colleges in England. The main questionnaire (the ILT Monitoring Survey) explored quantitative issues relating to infrastructure and practice. A second questionnaire (the ILT Expenditure Survey), directed to each college’s finance director, concerned expenditure on ILT and the sources of funds for this expenditure. The two questionnaires were published and disseminated simultaneously in both paper-based and web-based formats. Two hundred colleges (50% of the sector) submitted completed ILT monitoring questionnaires, and 132 colleges (33% of the sector) completed the ILT expenditure questionnaires prior to the original deadline in March. A second call for responses from the LSC resulted in a final total of 256 colleges (64% of the sector) submitting completed ILT monitoring questionnaires and 197 colleges (49% of the sector) submitting completed ILT expenditure questionnaires. A further 13 colleges responded to the ILT monitoring survey and 9 to the expenditure survey, but were too late to be included in this analysis.

Table 1 shows the breakdown of respondents to the ILT Monitoring Survey by type of college. Table 1 Respondents by college type Sector 65% 26% 5% 2% 3% 100% Respondents 65% 27% 5% 2% 2% 100%

College type General FE and tertiary Sixth-form college Agricultural & horticultural college Art, design & performing arts college Specialist-designated college Total

The breakdown by college type reveals that the sample is sufficiently representative of the numbers of different types of college nationally to ensure a high level of confidence in any inferences drawn from the data. The actual number of art and design colleges (6) and specialist-designated colleges (4) in the sample reflects the small number in the sector, but prevents us from making specific observations about them as a group. The regional breakdown of respondents to the ILT Monitoring Survey is shown in Table 2. Table 2 Respondents by regional location Sector 8% 18% 13% 8% 7% 13% 15% Respondents 10% 18% 10% 8% 7% 14% 18%

Region South West South East Greater London Eastern Region East Midlands West Midlands North West

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Yorkshire and Humber Northern Region

10% 6%

10% 5%

A high proportion of colleges from the North West and the South West regions and a disappointingly low proportion of colleges from London submitted responses. However, the general profile of the respondents still mirrors the sector quite closely. Table 3 shows the profile of colleges responding to each survey grouped according to numbers of FTE students enrolled at each college. Table 3 Respondents by college size FTE band 0–750 FTEs 751–1,750 FTEs 1,751–3,000 FTEs 3,001 FTEs and greater ILT Monitoring Survey 10% 37% 27% 26% ILT Expenditure Survey 11% 38% 26% 24% Sector 10% 38% 27% 25%

Again, both surveys show a reasonable match to the sector as a whole. However, as NLN monies were allocated on the basis of the FTE bands shown, the slight bias in favour of smaller colleges in the responses to the ILT Expenditure Survey has been corrected by weighting the results of this survey. The profiles shown in the three tables above, taken with the high response rate for both surveys, lead us to a high degree of confidence in the data. These surveys were detailed and conducted within a tight time-scale. It is understandable, therefore, that as a consequence some returns were incomplete in some sections. For this reason the basis of calculation in the report varies from the sample maximum at times.

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3 3.1

Infrastructure Computer specifications

The original Becta survey of ILT in colleges, carried out in February 1999, found that only 38% of computers available for learning purposes were of an acceptable standard for use with internet applications. The specification (arbitrarily) chosen was Pentium II MMX. From the survey of 2000 onwards, we have asked colleges to use their own minimum baseline specification for an acceptable level of performance and to delineate stock against this benchmark. It is hoped that this will provide a robust basis of comparison over time, since it matches the continual changes in the technology of computers with changes in user expectations and increased technical demands of current software. Respondents were asked to describe the baseline specification that they would currently consider buying for college purposes in terms of its speed, RAM and hard disk capacity. They were also asked to describe what they would consider the current ‘best-buy’ specification. The three dimensions of speed, memory and hard disk capacity were then weighted to produce eight bands representing machines of increasing capability. Table 4 below shows a typical specification for each band and the percentages of colleges designating each band as their baseline specification. Table 4 Baseline specification of computers Typical band specifications Percentage of respondents

Speed (MHz)

RAM (Mb)

Hard disk (Gb)

Baseline specification 2000 29% 25% 23% 20% 2% 0% 0% 0% 0%

Baseline specification 2003 5% 12% 21% 9% 9% 8% 2% 17% 15%

Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6 Band 7 Band 8 Band 9 and greater
Data = percentage of respondents

200 500 500 650 650 700 750 1,000 2,000

32 32 64 64 128 128 256 256 512

2 4 6 10 15 20 20 20 40

The median specification of band 5 is somewhat misleading as a typical baseline computer within the sector. The table shows that as the performance of computers has increased, around one-third of respondents (32%) have specified as baseline Pentium 4 computers that were unavailable in 2000. A slightly higher number (38%) continue to specify a baseline computer in the bottom three bands – essentially Pentium II or low-specification Pentium III. This dichotomy in what constitutes a minimum specification may be caused by the requirements of the particular software or learning materials used in each college. However, it may also be the result of the rapid escalation of marketplace specifications, leading some college managers to specify on the basis of current availability rather than user requirements and expectations.

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The best buy, by contrast, is typically a significantly higher specification than the baseline. Although 30% of respondents cite the same specification for both baseline and best buy, another 30% cited best-buy specifications six or more bands higher than the baseline. This probably reflects the rapid upward movement of technical specification within the marketplace; colleges may define a baseline requirement in terms of user needs, but find it cheaper to buy over-specified machines, or indeed impossible to buy the baseline as the market moves rapidly on. ‘Best-buy’ specification of computers Typical band specifications Percentage of respondents

Table 5

Speed (MHz)

RAM (Mb)

Hard disk (Gb)

Best-buy specification 2001 0% 0% 4% 15% 23% 34% 6% 13% 3%

Best-buy specification 2003 0% 0% 0% 1% 1% 2% 2% 33% 59%

Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6 Band 7 Band 8 Band 9 and greater
Data = percentage of respondents

200 500 500 650 650 700 750 1,000 2,000

32 32 64 64 128 128 256 256 512

2 4 6 10 15 20 20 20 40

As shown in Table 5, over 90% of respondents cited computers in the highest bands as their ‘best buy’. However, as the available specification of computers has increased, prices have tended to fall. The median price paid for a best buy computer is now £650, down from £700 in 2001. Despite this there remains considerable variation between colleges in terms of prices paid – 3% colleges (eight out of the sample of 256) gave a price in excess of £1,000 for their best buy.

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3.2 Chart 1

College computer stock College computer stock (% of total)

3% 4% 12%

Baseline spec or better Above Pentium II, below baseline Pentium II

18% 63%

Pentium I and below Apple

Data = percentage of respondents

Chart 1 shows that 63% of the current installed stock of computers in colleges is at, or better than the college’s baseline specification for desired level of performance. This is exactly the same proportion as in 2001. A further 18% of stock is better than the Pentium II specification we set as benchmark in February 1999, and would still be considered higher than baseline level in many colleges.

Chart 2

Change in computer stock over time (numbers of computers)

350000 300000 250000 200000 150000 100000 50000 0 1999
Data = percentage of respondents

2002-03 purchases 2000-01 purchases Pre-2000 purchases

2001

2003

More dramatic than the relative changes described above is the increase in absolute numbers of computers in colleges. A very rough estimate that can be inferred from the data is that the actual number of computers in the 401 English colleges is around 300,000, compared with around 260,000 in 2001 and 160,000 in 1999. An equally rough calculation, illustrated in Chart 2, suggests that around one-sixth of the current stock has survived since 1999, and around a half date from 2001. An estimate of the total number of new computers bought since

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that date for use in teaching and learning would then be around 100,000, yielding a net increase of 40,000 above the replacement investment of 60,000 machines over the last two years. Table 6 shows the type of access to computers across the sector. As might be expected, computer availability is at its greatest in the daytime, decreases in the evening and is at its lowest at weekends. However, a higher proportion of open-access computers remains available for students beyond daytime hours, with just under a half of these machines available for use at weekends. Though colleges may wish for a greater proportion of computers to be open access, the actual space available in college buildings that were designed to meet the needs of another age may prove a constraint. Table 6 Daytime Evenings Weekends Computer placement Open access 25% 22% 12% Classroom only 71% 62% 28% No access 4% 17% 60%

Data = percentage of computer stock

3.3

Local area networks

The specification of college LANs has continued to rise in line with the specification and volume of the computers that they support. Ninety-five per cent of all computers are networked, the same percentage as in 2001. However, 83% of colleges report that all machines for student use are networked, compared to 60% in 2001. Ninety-one per cent now report that all staff computers are attached to the network; this figure was 69% in 2001. Ethernet technology dominates college networks. Chart 3 shows the stages in the life-cycle of LAN capacity occupied by each bandwidth. Gigabit Ethernet is beginning to grow its share of the FE market, whereas 100 Mbps Ethernet is now a mature technology at the peak of its growth, and 10 Mbps Ethernet is now an old technology declining to a mere 6% of the sector. Local area network – backbone

Chart 3
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Percentage of respondents

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1999 2000 2001 2003 10M Ethernet 100M Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet

Data = percentage of respondents

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3.4

LAN performance

The improvement in LAN specification leads to an expectation of a concomitant improvement in performance and in capability to meet demand. Chart 4 shows that there has indeed been such an improvement. In 1999, only 24% of colleges had the capacity to meet an increase in demand upon the network, whilst 22% could not cope with existing calls upon them. By 2003, 42% of respondents say that they could cope with a significant increase in traffic. The number struggling to deliver has fallen to 5%. Despite the improvement in LAN specification, over half of the sector is still stretched to full capacity. This seems to confirm that the notion of a motorway effect, which sees traffic rapidly adjust upwards each time an additional lane is opened, still applies to the nature of demand for ILT in colleges. These data must be seen against a backcloth of substantial increases in demand upon networks. Not only must each college network support its share of the additional 140,000 machines we estimate to have been added since 1999, but it must also deal with the increased proportion of the total that are networked (95%) rather than stand-alone. The burden is further increased, moreover, by the increasing use of networked applications.

Chart 4
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Network capability to meet demand

Percentage of respondents

60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1999 2000 2001 2003 Over-stretched At capacity Spare capacity

Data = percentage of respondents

Colleges continue to restrict network traffic in bandwidth-hungry applications. Seventy-eight per cent of colleges identify large files as an actual or potential source of problems on the network, and hence seek to control their use. This is only 6% fewer than the 84% who cited large files as a problem in 1999.

Table 7

Network performance 2003 2001 47% 49% 3% 2000 38% 56% 4% 1999 35% 60% 5%

Always smooth without appreciable delay Generally works well but slow at busy times Slowness/unreliability a frequent problem

53% 42% 4%

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Data = percentage of respondents

Table 7 shows colleges’ appraisal of their network performance. The rate of improvement in network performance continues to lag behind other indicators. Frequent problems continue to affect a small percentage of sector colleges. More dramatic, however, has been the rise to 53% in the proportion of colleges who describe their network as always smooth, without appreciable delay, and the decline to well below half of all colleges who report the network performance to be slow at busy times. Those students whose networked learning is scheduled at such busy times, however, almost certainly find their experience systematically worse than winners in the lottery of timetable slots who find they are scheduled to use the network when traffic is low. This notwithstanding, the improvement since 1999 is impressive, particularly given the increased demands on the network described above.

3.4 Internet connectivity All colleges have been provided with a free 2 Mbps internet connection via JANET as part of the NLN initiative. Table 8 shows that around one-third of these have, or plan to have, additional bandwidth. This has fallen from around two-fifths of colleges who stated an intention in 2000 to go beyond 2 Mbps. The most significant fall has been the dramatic reduction of those colleges planning to have between 2 and 3 Mbps. The 10% fall since 2000 in this group of colleges almost exactly matches the increase in those planning to stick with the free 2 Mbps. It seems plausible to infer that this is the result of colleges deciding that the benefits arising from, or the volume of traffic flowing through, relatively small amounts of additional bandwidth do not justify the cost. For colleges with 4 Mbps or more, however, the tendency is towards increased bandwidth, with 11% of colleges planning 10 Mbps or more.

Table 8 Bandwidth 2 Mbps 2–3 Mbps 4 Mbps 6 Mbps 8 Mbps

Total planned bandwidth 2003 67% 2% 14% 2% 1% 11% 2001 64% 6% 18% 0% 3% 5% 2000 59% 12% 19% 1% 1% 4%

10 Mbps and greater
Data = percentage of respondents

The profile of colleges planning bandwidth of 3 Mbps and above shows a continuing tendency for those seeking larger bandwidth to be larger colleges. Eighty-eight per cent are larger than the sector median value of FTE student numbers, and 93% of those seeking bandwidth in excess of 10 Mbps are larger than the sector median. Seventy-eight per cent of the largest 10% of colleges also intend to take on greater bandwidth. This still leaves the other 22% of the very largest colleges who are content with 2 Mbps for the near future, among them several of the largest colleges in the sector and some with a longstanding reputation for good practice in ILT. Whilst a number of different internet service providers (ISPs) are contracted to provide the additional connectivity, JANET has increased its dominance with 63% of these colleges, an increase from 53% in 2001.

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3.5 Constraints on internet use Colleges were asked to rank a list of possible constraints upon expansion of internet use in the order of their significance within the college. The results are shown in Chart 5. The weighted scores are derived by giving a score of five for every time a constraint is ranked first, four if it is ranked second and so on.

Chart 5

Constraints on increased use of the internet

Student skills No interest Course design Access points Access speeds 0 1 2 Weighted score 3 4

Constraint

1999 2000 2001 2003

The number of access points remains a key constraint, despite the large influx of internetcapable machines into colleges. As mentioned in Section 3.2 above, it may be difficult to provide more open-access points given the logistics of adapting existing buildings for ILT use. Access speeds continue to decline as a constraint, however, a result of the investment in high-specification computers and LAN capability to support the now-universal JANET. As technical hurdles are surmounted and as use of the internet becomes commonplace, pedagogical issues have grown in importance. For staff, course design and planning to exploit the possibilities of the Web maintains its place in the rankings, together with the student skills needed to engage effectively with the internet as a tool. Lack of interest remains in fifth place, but has increased in importance over previous years, perhaps as a result of trying to embed internet use in more recalcitrant areas of the curriculum. Colleges were invited to list other factors restricting growth. Inappropriate use, including restriction of access to unsuitable sites and the potential for inadvertently restricting suitable sites, continued to be the most important constraint. Eight per cent of all respondents mentioned this, compared with 11% in 2000 and 2001. The 2 Mbps bandwidth was cited as a constraint by another 8% of respondents, returning this issue to levels cited in 2000, having gone down to 4% in 2001. Three per cent of respondents pointed out that they thought there were no constraints to using the internet with students in their particular colleges, and a similar number thought that the level of staff skills was an important issue to address. Broadly speaking, the FE sector has a robust infrastructure capable of delivering a wide range of electronically mediated learning experiences. Demand for this technology is clearly widespread and may continue to grow and devour any future increase in capacity.

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4

Access to ILT

4.1 Access for learners The survey requested an actual count of computers available within the college. Based on these data, calculations were made of the availability of computers for both students and staff within colleges. The proxy variables that have been calculated to estimate this are the ratios of computers to students and to staff. These measures were used in the studies in 1999, 2000 and 2001, and allow comparisons to be drawn. They are also the format used by the LSC to define the targets for access to computers which it encouraged colleges to seek to achieve by 2002. There is no single, unambiguous measure of student numbers that can safely be used to calculate access ratios. The use of FTE student data as a basis for calculations reflects a recognition that they make an allowance for total hours of attendance, which other possible measures such as a simple count of student numbers do not. This allows us to get closer to the underlying question – ‘how easy is it for a student to access a computer within the institution?’ We have not attempted to distinguish particular groups of students, nor to separate out attendance mode, pattern or site, though we recognise that these may have a significant influence in determining access in practice. The analysis used the latest complete set of FTE student data available from the LSC, which covers student numbers for academic year 2000-01. If student numbers have changed dramatically over the intervening period, using this older data with 2003 data for computer numbers will distort the apparent ratio of students:computer. Information about changes in enrolments over this period suggests that any such effect is likely to be minimal, that is that the calculated ratios are a true reflection of the actual situation in colleges in spring 2003. We have examined two key ratios: - FTE students to all computers within the college - FTE students to internet-enabled computers The improvement since 1999 in the availability of computers for students is shown in Chart 6. The mean number of FTE students per computer has fallen from 8.2:1 in 1999 to 4.1: 1 in 2003. The median value (the ratio at the middle of the range of values) is 4.0:1 (7.6:1 in 1999). As might be inferred from the similarity of these two figures, the dispersion of values is far less than in 1999, with fewer colleges having very high ratios. The highest value calculated for 2003 was 9.7:1 at a single college, whilst only four colleges (less than 2% of the respondents) had ratios of 8:1 or greater. This compares with 43% who had ratios of 8:1 or worse in 1999. The median value is, nonetheless, likely to be the better estimate of the typical situation within sector colleges.

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Chart 6
40

Ratio of FTE students to all computers

Percentage of colleges

35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Better than 0 1 4 7 3:1 3 11 15 28 4:1 4 21 30 29 5:1 14 26 26 23 6:1 20 19 13 7 7:1 16 9 7 4 8:1 to 12:1 to More 11:1 20:1 than 35 11 5 2 7 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1999 2000 2001 2003

1999 2000 2001 2003

Data = percentage of respondents

The disparity noted in previous surveys between different types of college in terms of level of resource has closed. The median ratio for sixth-form colleges remains at the 2001 level of 4.1:1; the ratio for general FE colleges is now 3.9:1 (4.5:1in 2001); and the median ratio for land-based colleges is now 4.6:1 (5.7:1 in 2001). The dispersion of values, as measured by both standard deviation and interquartile range is relatively low for sixth-form and land-based colleges, indicating a clustering around the average values, which suggests that these are indeed typical values.

Access to internet-enabled computers The improvement in access to internet-enabled computers is significant, as Chart 7 shows. The median ratio of the number of FTE students to the number of computers with internet access is now 4.1:1, and three-quarters of colleges have now achieved the LSC target of 5:1. This compares with a median of 21:1 in 1999, which had fallen to 4.95:1 by last year. Eightyth five per cent of colleges have now achieved 5.7:1 or better. In 1999, by contrast, the 85 percentile was 106:1. This single statistic, perhaps more than any other in this report, reveals the extent to which colleges have transformed the computing facilities available to learners over the period of the NLN initiative.

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Chart 7
40 30 20 10 0

Ratio of FTE students to internet-connected computers

Percentage of colleges

1999 2000 2001 2003

Better than 0 1 4 8

3:1 3 11 15 22

4:1 4 21 30 29

5:1 14 26 26 22

6:1 20 19 13 11

7:1 16 9 7 4

8:1 to 12:1 to More 11:1 20:1 than 35 11 5 3 7 1 0 0 1 0 0 0

1999 2000 2001 2003

Data = percentage of respondents

4.2

Managing demand for student access

Over the years since 1999, the increased number of high-specification computers available for use by learners has transformed the capability of colleges to deal with a level of demand for ILT which they overwhelmingly describe as widespread. Just under half of institutions (47%) reported that they could not cope with the demand for computers in 1999. As Chart 8 shows, this now stands at 29%. This proportion has not changed since 2001. However, the number of colleges reporting that they are able to cope with increased demand has doubled from 5% to 10% of colleges.

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Chart 8
Percentage of colleges
80 60 40 20 0

Meeting student demand for computers

1999 2000 2001 2003

Difficulty meeting demand 47 39 28 29

Sufficient capacity for demand 46 50 61 60

Sufficient capacity for greater demand 4 3 5 10

1999 2000 2001 2003

Data = percentage of respondents

The same general picture applies to meeting demand for internet access. Table 9 indicates that the number of colleges that are unable to meet current demand fell from just over half in 1999 to exactly one-quarter in 2001. This proportion has remained the same since then. The ability to meet demand for the internet and the demand for computers per se have converged steadily since 1999, in line with the increasing proportion of computers connected to the internet, currently 94% of student machines. Table 9 Meeting student demand for internet access 2003 25 63 11 2001 25 58 11 2000 39 45 7 1999 54 25 5

College capability Cannot cope with current demand Can cope with current demand Can cope with greater demand
Data = percentage of respondents

Access to the internet has improved, however. Fifty-three per cent of respondents now describe use of computers for internet access as easy at any time, compared to 44% in 2001, and 44% now report that learners are likely to queue at busy times, down from 56% in 2001. 4.3 Access for staff

The provision of computers for the exclusive use of staff has continued its steady improvement. The NLN target of one internet-connected computer for every permanent member of teaching staff has been achieved or bettered by 26% of colleges, from a level of 15% in 2001. The attainment of this target is proving slower to achieve than the target for student access. This accords with a general preference, expressed in the strategy documents submitted by colleges to Becta during summer 2000, for giving early priority to resources for students rather than staff. This position was reaffirmed by the strategy updates for 2001, and

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its translation into practice is clearly demonstrated by achievement of the student access ratios reported above. The actual achievement of colleges in providing computers for staff is better reflected in the median value of the ratio of permanent teaching staff to internet-connected computers, shown in Table 10, which has fallen from 3:1 in 2000, down to 1.4:1 this year. The figure inferred for 1999 (when the question was not directly asked) is 7:1. Table 10 Median number of teaching staff to internet-connected computers 2003 All staff Permanent staff
** Estimate based on 1999 data

2001 3.5 1.9

2000 4.1 3.0

1999 12.0 ** 7.0

2.4 1.4

Table 10 further shows the improvement in access to internet-enabled computers for all teaching staff, which is of particular significance given the heavy reliance by colleges on sessional staff to deliver programmes of learning. This has fallen from 12 staff for each internet-enabled computer down to 2.4. We have chosen not to separately report the ratios for staff and all computers, including those without internet capability, because they now differ little from the figures given in Table 6. This reflects the increasing connection of staff computers to the college network. Ninety-five per cent of all computers set aside for staff use are now networked, and, combined with staff laptops, some 96% are connected to the internet. 4.4 Mode of access for staff

The improvement in staff access has accompanied a move towards giving staff their own designated machine. Chart 9 shows that teaching staff are those with the lowest level of access. Thirty-one per cent of colleges now report that all or most teaching staff have their own designated computer; however, this has increased considerably since 1999 when only 5% of colleges reported this level of access. Management and administration staff, as might be expected, have by far the highest level of access, ICT being essential to running the college as a business. Around one-quarter of colleges report that remote access to the college system is available to all or most of each type of staff. This may be a greater boon to teaching staff with a lower level of access to college machines and a tradition of developing their teaching materials away from the college.

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Chart 9

Staff access to computers
120

Percentage of colleges

100 80 60 40 20 0 Teaching staff All/most with own designated computer All/most with remote access 31 25 Support staff 46 23 Management/admin staff 98 23

Data = percentage of respondents

As Chart 10 below indicates, however, the characteristic mode of access for teaching staff remains sharing a computer in a staff room. This mode of access has remained at a constant level since 1999. It has acted as a buffer as sharing student machines declined (all or most teaching staff shared with students in 20% of colleges in 1999; by 2001 this had fallen to 6%) and having sole use of computers increased.

Chart 10
Percentage of colleges

Teaching staff access to computers
70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 All/most with own designated computer All/most with shared office computer 1999 5 2000 16 2001 27 2003 31 All/most with own designated computer All/most with shared office computer

59

64

60

60

Data = percentage of respondents

Table 11 reveals college priorities changing in the light of the increase in available resource. The number of teaching staff and learning support staff with sole use of a computer has increased: 11% of colleges now have designated computers for these individuals. At first glance this might seem to sit awkwardly with the reported achievement of a ratio of teaching

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staff to computers of 1:1 by 26% of colleges. However, many colleges may have sufficient computers for all permanent teaching staff, but these machines are not designated for the sole use of a particular individual. The achievement of this goal is now seen as a priority by more colleges (sole use was seen as a priority by only 3% of colleges in 2001). Also, gratifyingly, all colleges with a teaching staff:computer ratio above 5:1 see the achievement of sole use as a priority.

Table 11 Type of staff

Priorities for staff access to own designated computer Achieved A policy priority 53 Not a policy priority 35

All permanent teaching staff have a computer for their sole use All learning support staff have a computer for their sole use
Data = percentage of respondents

11

11

39

50

Sole access to a computer for learning support staff is seen as less of a priority than sole access for teaching staff for colleges, however. Even though the same proportion have achieved this type of access as for teaching staff, half of all colleges do not regard sole access as a priority for this group. Taking the FE sector as a whole, there is a reasonable level of access to ILT for both students and staff. Two questions remain: ‘Is this ILT infrastructure being used effectively in teaching and learning?’ and ‘Is it affordable in the long term?’

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5

Use of ILT for teaching and learning

5.1 Electronic communications Chart 11 indicates that the use of email for staff communication is well embedded in almost all colleges and is common practice in nearly two-thirds of the sector. This mirrors practice across all sectors of the economy where email has become the business communications tool of choice. Electronic communication both with and between students is less extensive and is less likely to be commonly used in any college.

Chart 11

Use of email and other electronic communications
120% 100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Management Staff to staff to staff communicatio 61% 35% 64% 34% Staff to student 16% 61% Student to student 25% 44%

Percentage of colleges
We do this

Common practice

Data = percentage of respondents

All colleges have an acceptable use policy, and acceptable use forms part of the student induction process in 94% of colleges. Over three-quarters (76%) of colleges indicated that they monitored electronic communications, using software, members of staff, or a combination of the two. Table 12 shows the frequency of inappropriate use brought to the notice of colleges. No colleges claim that inappropriate use of electronic communications never happens, though one-third (33%) say that it is extremely rare.

Table 12

Inappropriate use of electronic communications Percentage of colleges 33% 24% 31% 9%

Is extremely rare Has to be dealt with every year Has to be dealt with every term Has to be dealt with every week
Data = percentage of respondents

As might be expected, colleges that monitored electronic communications as a common practice were more likely to report that inappropriate use was a frequent problem. Table 13 shows the level of monitoring for inappropriate use against discovered occurrences. Over 50% of those that described monitoring as common practice (whether using electronic means, staff, or both) reported that inappropriate use had to be dealt with at least every term, whereas only 38% of those where monitoring was less rigorous reported this level of frequency of inappropriate use.

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Table 13

Monitoring inappropriate use Occurs rarely (annually or less often) 25% 17% Occurs frequently (at least termly) 16% 18% Totals 41% 35%

Occasional monitoring of e-communications Monitoring of e-communications is common practice

Data = percentage of respondents

We also asked colleges to rank the different sources of information that brought inappropriate use to their attention. Chart 12 shows that learning resource staff and teaching staff brought up this issue most often; electronic forms of detection were next. Learners themselves were by far the least likely to bring matters to the college’s attention, with over 70% of colleges ranking learners as fourth or fifth in importance.

Chart 12

Sources of information about inappropriate use

Learning resource staff Teaching staff Electronic detection Other staff Learners 0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.5 4.0 4.5

Weighted score (highest = most important)

5.2 Learning platforms Colleges were asked to indicate the types of learning platform in use at their college. These could be the college intranet, a commercially produced VLE, or the general college network, for example using joint drives or public folders. They were also asked to indicate whether this use could be described as frequent, and also, if frequent, whether the particular learning platform could be described as the college’s main platform. Chart 13 shows that colleges continue to make heavier use of their networks than other learning platforms, 93% using the network as a learning platform and as the main platform in 40% of cases. As a more recent technology, VLEs are far less widely used, 59% of colleges having them and only 11% using them as their main platform.

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Chart 13

College learning platforms
100%

Percentage of colleges

80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Main platform In frequent use In use

Intranet 14% 30% 40%

VLE 11% 11% 37%

Network 40% 25% 28%

Data = percentage of respondents

The three types of learning platform are heavily used as repositories for course documents. Chart 14 indicates that colleges use their networks and VLEs to a far lesser extent for learner support and guidance. College intranets, on the other hand, are used for learner support equally as frequently as for course documentation. Chart 14 Use of college learning platforms
100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0% Intranet Course documents Support and guidance
Data = percentage of respondents

Percentage of colleges

VLE 50% 26%

Network 80% 49%

Separate device 5% 4%

69% 70%

The data presented in Table 14 indicates that uploading materials is a relatively easy task for the users of college learning platforms. Tracking learners through any programme of study, and linking to the college’s management information system (MIS) appears more problematic.

Table 14

Ease of use of main college learning platform Upload materials Track learner activity Link to college MIS

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Easily With difficulty Not at all
Data = percentage of respondents

78% 16% 3%

31% 27% 37%

31% 26% 37%

However, when the main platform is identified in each case, some interesting differences emerge. The data presented in Table 15 are derived from the separate responses of those that use each type of platform as their ‘main’ learning platform. The figures given are the percentages of colleges with each type of platform that found these operations easy. We can see that uploading materials is a much easier task for those who use a VLE or the college intranet than those who use the college network. The functionality of a VLE appears to enable the tracking of learner activity far more easily than the other two platforms. Linking to the college’s MIS seems only slightly easier for a VLE than the other platforms, only slightly better than the figure of 31% for all platforms shown in Table 14. Easy linkage to college MIS systems does not seem to be a feature of any particular platform, and any success here may reflect local solutions found by particular skilled members of staff.

Table 15

Tasks considered easy for each college learning platform Upload materials Track learner activity 19% 83% 19% Link to college MIS 28% 33% 29%

College intranet VLE College network
Data = percentage of users of each ‘main platform’

94% 92% 80%

The extent to which colleges use ILT to track student progress is shown in Table 16. It can be seen that this type of activity has yet to be fully embedded within the sector. By far the most common type of tracking is against assignments or assessments, which takes place in only 42% of colleges. Table 16 Use of ILT to track progress Percentage of colleges Scheme of work Whole programme Assignments and assessments Completion of an element of the programme Tutorials
Data = percentage of respondents

12% 21% 42% 27% 18%

The use of electronic information to support teaching and learning is at a similar modest level. Thirty per cent of colleges commonly use electronic information to support personal tutorials, and information from tutorials is recorded electronically in 20% of colleges. Electronic student portfolios or records of achievement are maintained in 22% of colleges.

5.3 ILT in the teaching and learning process Thirty-four per cent of colleges have set formal targets for the use of ILT across all programmes. A further 46% set targets where they feel they are appropriate, and 16% do not set targets for ILT at all. Many colleges have relationships with external organisations in their delivery of technology-oriented learning. Table 17 shows the main organisations with which colleges have IT academy-type status.

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Table 17 Organisation

Formal relationships with commercial organisations Percentage of colleges 37% 23% 6% 5% 5% 9%

Cisco Microsoft Regional academies Oracle Novell Others
Data = percentage of respondents

Remote learning is currently dominated by learndirect, with 72% of colleges delivering learndirect courses. However, a not inconsiderable 55% of colleges conduct some remote learning that is not delivered via learndirect. Display screen technologies have made significant inroads into teaching practice. Ninetyeight per cent of colleges use data projectors, of which 64% describe their use as frequent. Eighty-one per cent of colleges use electronic whiteboards, but only 21% say they are used frequently. However, these figures probably overstate the extent of the use of these technologies. A few machines frequently used in even a modest sized college will not have a widespread impact on embedding ILT in the teaching and learning process.

ILT in student induction Chart 15 shows the extent to which ILT is used in the student induction process in colleges. Two of the three most frequently cited activities, learning resources and IT/ICT skills, are areas that have an intrinsic technology element. The third, initial assessment, is an area where the ‘number-crunching’ ability of IT allows the quick and timely deployment of assessment instruments. The evaluation of learning styles may seem to similarly lend itself to ILT, but may be a less widespread part of the induction process generally, resulting in its lower level of use here.

Chart 15

Use of ILT in student induction
90% 80%

Percentage of colleges

70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0%
Initial Learning IT/ICT skills assesment resources This is common practice We do this 39% 37% 35% 47% 36% 42% Subject induction 9% 47% College induction 15% 36% Evaluate learning styles 9% 32%

Data = percentage of respondents

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ILT in mainstream programmes Colleges were asked to identify the extent to which ILT was used in mainstream college 1 programmes. The model of e-learning developed by Jenny Scribbins and Bob Powell (2002) was used to structure the variety of ways in which electronic media and resources can be used to enable and support effective teaching and learning. The results are shown in Chart 16. By far the most frequent use of ILT is to support learning; this takes place in all or most programmes in 48% of colleges. This type of activity typically takes place outside scheduled learning and complements or supports the main programme. The kind of ILT use envisioned here includes using the internet for research, or using technology-based exercises for revision or practice. ILT is widespread as a traditional classroom tool in 21% of colleges. This category includes the use of display screen technologies, and the level of use indicated here perhaps gives a better picture of the current use of these technologies than the level of frequent use cited above. Using ILT with traditional learning resources to produce blended learning is seen as widespread in some 18% of colleges. Seventeen per cent of colleges also report the use of ILT to enable learners to access some or all of their programme at a time convenient to them. The use of ILT for remote access or to produce an individualised programme of study are the least common uses of e-learning in colleges: 34% of colleges make no use of ILT to enable individualised study, and 28% do not use ILT for remote learning. It is worth noting that this model of e-learning is a descriptive one and does not seek to prescribe a set of activities that all colleges must follow. Each e-learning activity can aid highquality, effective teaching and learning when it is appropriate to the needs of the learner.

1

A fuller exposition of this model can be found in Managing Inspection and ILT, Becta 2002.

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Chart 16

Use of ILT in mainstream college programmes

To support learning Traditional classroom tool Part of blended learning Learners own pace Learners own time Individualised programme Remote access 0%
Remote access Used in no programmes In all or most programmes 28% 8%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

Individual Learners Part of Tradition To Learners ised ow n blended al support ow n time program pace learning classroo learning 34% 4% 9% 17% 3% 10% 5% 18% 2% 21% 1% 48%

Percentage of colleges
Data = percentage of respondents

ILT learning materials Learning materials are most often used at the individual teacher’s discretion. This was the case in 52% of the colleges surveyed. Their use is directed by a college-wide plan in only 17% of colleges and by a plan at department or course level in 28%. Chart 17 shows the main sources of learning materials used with students. The internet is the most frequently used source of learning materials, being used in 94% of colleges and in common use in 43%. Of the 78% of colleges that use NLN materials, only 5% describe their use as common practice. This reflects the early stage in embedding the use of NLN materials, with only the limited range of Round 1 materials available to colleges at the time of the survey. Colleges were also asked to rank these sources of learning materials in order of importance. The ranking followed the level of use, with internet resources ranked as most important and NLN materials ranked fourth. Eighty-seven per cent of colleges offer staff development programmes to support staff who wish to develop or adapt electronic learning materials. Seventy-nine per cent offer support from ILT champions and 75% offer support from technical staff. Of the 30% of colleges that offer other support, around half offer support from other members of staff, often on a one-toone or mentoring basis. Others offer some remission of time, loan of laptops or other equipment, and sometimes project funding.

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Chart 17

Electronic learning materials used with students
100%

Percentage of colleges

80% 60% 40% 20% 0%

NLN materials 5% 73%

Commercial/ Own bought-in college/devel 18% 68% 27% 62%

Internet 43% 51%

This is common practice We do this
Data = percentage of respondents

ILT and online assessment Online assessment, taken in the context of each college’s whole programme, is seen as insignificant or limited to individual enthusiasts in 50% of the colleges surveyed. It is seen as a widespread activity in only 3% of colleges. This low level of use is reflected in the extent to which the assessment activities are seen as common practice in Chart 18 below. The most extensive use of ILT is to store and record outcomes of assessment, which happens to some degree in 68% of colleges, though only 10% describe this as common practice. The use of ILT for assessment activities that lead to formal certification is the least widespread type of activity, with only 46% of colleges doing this at all, and 2% describing this as common practice. Given the early stage of ILT use in colleges generally, it is to be expected that the use of ILT in assessment, and formal assessment especially, will lag behind. The adoption of new and potentially untried techniques in this area may be seen as requiring a period of evaluation against existing methods.

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Chart 18

Online assessment activities
Computer-marked assignments

On-line submission of work To store outcomes Certification activities For student feedback 0% 20% 40%
To store outcomes 10% 58%

60%
On-line submission of w ork 3% 56%

80%
Computermarked assignment 2% 64%

For student Certification feedback activities This is common practice We use this 5% 60% 2% 44%

Percentage of colleges
Data = percentage of respondents

5.4 Staff IT and ILT skills Respondents were asked to estimate the proportion of staff with low, medium or high levels of skill (beginner, competent, advanced), both in their personal use of IT and in their use of ILT with learners. Definitions within these broad classifications were left to the judgement of respondents on grounds of practicality. The research team considered the identification of suitably bounded criteria to be a daunting task, if not impossible within the time-scale. More significant, however, was the belief that while respondents’ assessments of the categories would not be identical, they would share sufficiently similar understandings of competency to enable comparison and for judgements to be drawn from the results. The mean of the values estimated by each college was calculated for every category. However, it is worth noting that the lack of a commonly agreed and well understood set of definitions of ILT competencies, taken together with the uncertainty about what constitutes good practice and effective pedagogy in e-learning, may have led many respondents to overstate the ILT skill level of staff.

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Chart 19

Teaching staff IT and ILT competence
60

Percentage of staff

50 40 30 20 10 0 IT skills ILT skills Beginner 27 44 Competent 53 37 Advanced 20 19

Data = percentage of respondents

The results for teaching staff are shown in Chart 19. Across the sector as a whole, 73% of staff are considered by respondents to be competent or advanced in their personal use of IT, compared with 67% in 2000. However, in the use of ILT with learners, only 56% of college staff are considered competent or advanced (in 2000 this was 42%). This suggests that just under one in three staff who are competent or advanced in their personal use of IT are regarded as low skilled in the application of ILT with learners. However, both sets of skills are improving, and the gap between IT competence and ILT competence is narrowing as shown in Chart 20. Chart 20 Teaching staff: competent and advanced at IT/ILT
80

Percentage of staff

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 IT skills ILT skills 2000 67 42 2001 70 48 2003 73 56

Data = percentage of respondents

Respondents were asked to state the main skills that teaching staff currently need to develop, and any development programmes that would help to address these needs. Twenty-one per cent of colleges cited the integration of ILT into the curriculum and classroom practice. Seventeen per cent cited the technical skills necessary to use particular packages or applications. A further 14% cited the skills needed to use a VLE, 9% cited materialsdevelopment skills, and a further 3% mentioned online tutoring skills. Even though it was only

33

launched in November 2002, the Ferl Practitioners’ Programme (FPP) was the most frequently mentioned development programme, cited by 7% of respondents, and the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) was mentioned by 1%. Chart 21 shows the perceived skill levels for college learning support staff. The definition of ‘learning support staff’ was left to respondents. It does, however, represent a heterogeneous skill set that may not be fairly represented here. Technical staff may be thought to dominate the group, hence the higher level of competence reported in both IT (77% competent or advanced) and ILT skills (65% competent or advanced) compared to teaching staff.

Chart 21

Learning support staff: IT and ILT competence
60

Percentage of staff

50 40 30 20 10 0 IT skills ILT skills Beginner 23 35 Competent 55 43 Advanced 22 22

Data = percentage of respondents

The skills thought necessary for this group of staff to develop tended more towards technicaltype skills. Twenty-five per cent cited the technical skills necessary to use particular packages or applications, and another 11% mentioned use of a VLE. Product knowledge of the different packages and hardware available was thought necessary for support staff by 6% of colleges. The FPP was again the most frequently mentioned development programme, again cited by 7% of respondents. The ECDL was thought to be more appropriate for learning support staff, cited here by 3% of respondents. The use of ILT remains a peripheral activity in much of teaching and learning. Electronic communications are more frequently used with college staff than with students. ILT in induction is often focused on areas that already have inherent IT content. In mainstream programmes, most ILT use remains a bolt-on element, outside scheduled teaching. However, the first signs of embedded ILT practice are beginning to appear. There is some evidence of ILT being used in traditional teaching, and some blended learning is taking place. Staff skills in ILT are improving faster than their general IT skills, and many colleges see the embedding of ILT into teaching practice as a key development need.

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6

Expenditure on ILT

6.1 Identifying funding sources Colleges found the Expenditure Survey difficult. Identifying particular items of expenditure with particular funding streams proved a daunting task. For most colleges, once funding has been received it is subsumed within the overall budget, and unless tracking back is a specific requirement, it can prove to be very difficult. As a result, several colleges identified all expenditure as emanating from college funds. Funding from external sources may, therefore, be slightly understated. Some £20 million of NLN funding was allocated to colleges in the year to July 2002. However, some colleges pointed out that part of the funding became available from April 2001 and was subsequently spent in the previous accounting period. This, taken along with some evidence of colleges possibly misallocating NLN monies to Standards Fund or other sources, will account for the apparent shortfall on this item. The total expenditure of £206 million calculated in Table 18 below compares with £177 million reported in an unpublished study in 1999, therefore representing a 17% increase in ILT expenditure since that time. However, we asked for much more detailed information on staffrelated costs in the current survey compared to 1999. Stripping out the staff-related costs, the 2003 figure for hardware, software and systems is £141 million compared to £171 million in 1999, a 17% decrease in expenditure over the four years. Over three-quarters of ILT expenditure comes out of the general college budget, with money from the NLN and the Standards Fund and funding from external sources accounting for the rest, at around 7–8% each. However, if the different types of expenditure are examined, the targeted nature of this funding, and its importance to particular types of activity, is thrown into relief. The ‘other’ funding, mainly from European Union and National Lottery sources, is often tied to capital projects, therefore accounting for 10% of expenditure on hardware. The NLN funding, being technology oriented, again accounts for 12% of the expenditure on both hardware and software. The Standards Fund, on the other hand, is shown to be an extremely important source of funding for training, accounting for over one-third of expenditure on both technician and staff training in ILT. Staffing costs, being a recurrent expense, are overwhelmingly funded out of the general college budget and, as several respondents found it difficult to disentangle ILT-related staff costs from staff costs generally, the 94% figure stated here is probably an understatement. 6.2 Sustainability of investment Computers, along with much electronic office equipment are usually depreciated to zero over three years. If this is a reasonable estimate of the life of these assets, then our calculation of the total computer stock in the FE sector (see Section 3.2 above) would lead us to assume that the sector as a whole must replace 100,000 computers each year to maintain present levels. This would entail an annual expenditure of £65 million at today’s prices, some 75% of the current hardware budget. This does not take into account expenditure on printers and other peripherals, or on data projectors, electronic whiteboards and other classroom equipment. However, we also estimate that some 50,000 of the computers in current use date from 1999 or perhaps earlier. This represents a little over 30% of the computer stock in use at that time, so it would be sensible to assume that a reasonable proportion of today’s computers will have a life span of four years or maybe more. If this is true, the steady-state annual replacement cost is then less than £50 million. However, a rough estimate of the number of new computers bought in the year in question is 50,000 – at a cost of around £33 million, this is less than half the total hardware spend for the year. A key question then is ‘how useful for teaching and learning is a four- or five-year-old computer?’ The present baseline specification for such a computer remains at 1999 levels for over a third of colleges (see Section 3.1 above), but the present acceleration of market specifications of computers and the development of more highly specified materials and applications would lead us to assume that such a situation will not hold for long. Investment

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decisions will need to take account of what would be considered a reasonable life span for these assets. This series of reports has demonstrated that computer specifications improve and prices fall over time. However it would be unwise to assume that innovation will stop and new, hitherto unimagined technologies will not be clamouring to be used to enhance teaching and learning. Sustainability is not simply a case of planning for replacement; it must also take into account the potential for change and innovation in current practice.

6.3 ILT and staff-related costs As mentioned above, several colleges found the task of extricating ILT-related staff costs from the overall staff budget impossible, and therefore left the field blank. Others argued that as ILT was the responsibility of everyone within the college, it was only a marginal element of the staffing budget anyway. The figure of £51 million for staff with ILT as a key element of their role is therefore the most problematic amount presented here. It is, however, large enough to remind us that staffing is a necessary and not insignificant cost of any investment in ILT. With regard to staff development, the 1999 survey only considered technician training, as this was an area receiving specific funding from the then Further Education Funding Council (FEFC). This item of expenditure was £6 million in 1999, and currently stands at £4.6 million, a decrease of 23%. This figure, taken together with that for more general ILT staff training, represents the smallest item in this budget, at 6% of the total. Well-trained staff are, however, key to the implementation of ILT within colleges. The Standards Fund has been an extremely important source of funding for ILT training, providing over a third of the funding received for this item of expenditure. It should also be noted that the Standards Fund has usually required matched funding, essentially doubling its contribution. There is clearly a danger, now that the Standards Fund monies have been subsumed within the general college budget, that such a small but essential amount may be diverted to other projects. 6.4 Major corporate information systems These systems often involve large-scale projects followed by periods of maintenance. They represent long-term strategic investment by colleges. Student records systems are by far the largest item of current major systems expenditure. This is a reflection not only of the importance of student information for reporting purposes, and the complexity of recording data about an extremely diverse student body, but also of the relatively recent realisation of the importance of this information. Student numbers are a major driver of many other costs: they drive staffing levels, estates and, of course, ILT investment. This investment should therefore provide much-needed information for colleges that have to plan for sustainability and possible future growth.

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Table 18

ILT expenditure for the FE sector 2001-02 (£ million) NLN monies 0.40 0.07 0.04 0.55 1.06 4% College funds 11.40 2.20 4.51 4.06 22.18 88% Standards Fund 0.31 0.20 0.22 0.54 1.27 5% Other sources 0.00 0.06 0.00 0.77 0.82 3% Totals % of total

Source of funding Major information systems Student records Human resources Finance Other Totals for info. systems % of info. systems spend General ILT expenditure Hardware Classroom equipment LRC equipment Other Totals for hardware % of hardware spend Software Externally produced learning materials Internally produced learning materials Leaning management software LRC software and licenses Other software and licenses Totals for software % of software spend ILT Staff Costs Learning resources support Business support ILT champions Management of ILT Other ILT-related staff costs Totals for ILT staffing % of ILT staffing spend Technical support staff training Technician training Externally provided training Training staff costs Totals for TS training % of TS training spend ILT staff training Externally provided training Training staff costs Totals for ILT training % of ILT training spend Total expenditure % of total expenditure

12.11 2.53 4.77 5.92 25.33

12%

5.51 1.32 3.42 10.25 12%

37.95 6.48 16.69 61.11 70%

5.06 0.44 1.82 7.32 8%

5.82 0.98 1.66 8.46 10%

54.34 9.21 23.59 87.13

42%

0.27 1.24 1.32 0.18 0.65 3.67 12%

1.52 2.90 3.44 2.24 11.54 21.65 73%

0.39 0.90 0.41 0.30 0.14 2.13 7%

0.24 1.36 0.22 0.06 0.41 2.28 8%

2.42 6.39 5.39 2.77 12.74 29.72

14%

0.06 0.05 0.21 0.04 0.10 0.46 1%

15.38 11.95 3.17 8.34 9.13 47.97 94%

0.43 0.15 0.88 0.31 0.24 2.01 4%

0.14 0.02 0.02 0.15 0.04 0.37 1%

16.01 12.18 4.27 8.85 9.50 50.82

25%

0.24 0.11 0.07 0.42 9%

0.73 0.90 0.91 2.54 55%

0.61 0.51 0.49 1.61 35%

0.03 0.01 0.04 0.09 2%

1.62 1.53 1.51 4.66

2%

0.03 0.03 0.06 1% 15.91 8%

1.64 3.58 5.22 62% 160.67 78%

1.13 1.98 3.10 37% 17.44 8%

0.02 0.07 0.10 1% 12.12 6%

2.82 5.66 8.48

4%

206.14

100%

37

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