SURVEY INTO INFORMATION AND LEARNING TECHNOLOGY PROVISION, ACCESS AND POLICY IN FE COLLEGES IN ENGLAND

REPORT TO THE FURTHER EDUCATION ILT COMMITTEE

September 2000

CONTENTS
1 Management summary............................................................................................................................ 6
The survey ..................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 6 Numbers of Computers ................................................................................................................................................................................................. 6 College networks ........................................................................................................................................................................................................... 6 Internet access ............................................................................................................................................................................................................. 6 Staff and student access .............................................................................................................................................................................................. 6 Access in the community .............................................................................................................................................................................................. 7 Administrative systems ................................................................................................................................................................................................ 7

2
2.1 2.2

Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 8
Context and purpose of the study ................................................................................................................................................................ 8 Survey methodology and response .............................................................................................................................................................. 8

3
3.1 3.2

Computer equipment and specification .................................................................................................. 9
Numbers of computers ................................................................................................................................................................................. 9 Colleges' PC stock ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 10

4
4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4

Networks, Intranets and the Internet .................................................................................................... 13
Local area networks (LANs) ......................................................................................................................................................................... 13 Network performance .................................................................................................................................................................................. 14 Internet Connectivity.................................................................................................................................................................................... 15 Network applications .................................................................................................................................................................................... 16

5
5.1 5.2

Policy, access and entitlement ............................................................................................................. 20
Ratios of students and staff to computers ................................................................................................................................................ 20 Student access ............................................................................................................................................................................................ 20 Staff access ................................................................................................................................................................................................. 20 Demand for access to ILT ............................................................................................................................................................................ 21 Constraints on Internet use ........................................................................................................................................................................ 22

5.3 5.4 5.5

6

Access in the community ...................................................................................................................... 24

6.1 6.2

Providing access in the community ............................................................................................................................................................ 24 Scale and use of community links .............................................................................................................................................................. 25

7
7.1 7.2

Administrative systems ........................................................................................................................ 26
Tracking Learner Activity ............................................................................................................................................................................ 26 Managed Learning Environments ................................................................................................................................................................ 26

8
8.1 8.2

Staff development ................................................................................................................................. 28
Staff IT and ILT Competence ....................................................................................................................................................................... 28 Staff Development Methods ........................................................................................................................................................................ 28

List of Tables
Table 1 Table 2 Table 3 Table 4 Table 5 Table 6 Table 7 Table 8 Table 9 Table 10 Table 11 Table 12 Table 13 Table 14 Table 15 Table 16 Table 17 Table 18 Table 19 Comparisons of respondents with sector ........................................................................................................................................ 8 Ratios of student FTEs per computer................................................................................................................................................ 9 Ratios of staff per computer ............................................................................................................................................................. 10 Computer specifications .................................................................................................................................................................... 12 Prices for “best buy” computer ....................................................................................................................................................... 12 LAN Technologies ................................................................................................................................................................................. 13 Network performance ........................................................................................................................................................................ 14 Total Planned Bandwidth .................................................................................................................................................................... 15 Internet Service Providers ................................................................................................................................................................ 15 Uses of local area networks by staff ........................................................................................................................................... 16 Uses of local area networks by students .................................................................................................................................... 17 Use of the Internet by staff ................................................................................................................................................................. 18 Use of the Internet by students ......................................................................................................................................................... 18 Student entitlement to ILT ................................................................................................................................................................. 20 Staff access to computers................................................................................................................................................................. 21 Achievements and priorities for staff access ............................................................................................................................... 21 Demand by students for access to Internet .................................................................................................................................. 22 Plans for community ILT access ...................................................................................................................................................... 24 Uses of community links ............................................................................................................................................................... 25

List of charts
Chart 1 Chart 2 Chart 3 Chart 4 Chart 5 Chart 6 Chart 7 Chart 8 Chart 9 Chart 10 Current installed stock of computers ................................................................................................................................................ 11 Links between college sites ................................................................................................................................................................ 13 Network capacity .................................................................................................................................................................................. 15 Ratios of student to Internet-connected computers ...................................................................................................................... 19 Constraints on growth of Internet use ............................................................................................................................................ 23 Partnerships in the community ......................................................................................................................................................... 24 Tracking software: market leaders ................................................................................................................................................. 26 Managed Learning Environments: market leaders ........................................................................................................................ 27 IT and ILT skill levels............................................................................................................................................................................ 28 Preferred staff development methods ....................................................................................................................................... 28

Survey into Information and Learning Technology provision, access and policy in FE colleges in England, September 2000
1 Management summary

The survey
274 Colleges (65% of the Sector) submitted completed questionnaires in time for inclusion in the analysis. 110 colleges (40% of the analysed data set) submitted their replies electronically using the web- based version of the questionnaire. This is a very high response rate and the large sample obtained closely reflects the larger population.

Numbers of Computers
The mean average value of the ratio of students:computers is 5.5:1, compared to last year’s mean average ratio of 8.2:1. The median value is 5:1 compared to 7.6:1 in 1998/9. The mean value for staff:computer is 5.7:1, down from 9.2:1 last year. The median ratio value of 4:1 for all staff:computers may be a more accurate picture of the typical college. The survey reports 67% of computers of a higher standard than Pentium I compared to 37% in 1998/9. Only 5% of machines are now based on a 486-processor or worse, a significant decrease from 25% last year. However, it could be argued that the Pentium I computers that now make up 19% of the total stock (down from 31%) are now themselves obsolete.

College networks
Most computers in most colleges form part of a local area network,with over 84% of the total installed computer base within the sample reported to be networked. 10Mbps Ethernet has ceased to be the dominant technology, with 100Mbps Ethernet now accounting for 56% of college networks and Gigabit Ethernet accounting for 9%. However, the perceived performance of existing local area networks has improved only very slightly, continuing to be slow at busy times (in 56% of cases). Frequent network service problems have declined from 5% to 4% of colleges.

Internet access
All colleges expect to have 2Mbps Internet connection via JANET as part of the National Learning Network (NLN) initiative. Of these, 41% have, or plan to have additional bandwidth. A variety of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide the additional connectivity to colleges, though JANET dominates the market, with three times the share of its nearest rival. There is also a long “tail” of providers with 1% or less of the market. The principal uses of the Internet for both staff and students remain information gathering and e-mail. However, marketing on the Internet is now used by virtually all colleges. Half of colleges now report that they are using the Internet to support distance-learning, twice the proportion of colleges from last year, though it is a common activity in only a few. The mean ratio of FTE students:computers with Internet access is now 12.8 as opposed to 109:1, showing a considerable improvement with regard to Internet access since last year. The median value is now 7:1 compared to 21:1 last year. 36% of colleges have a ratio of 5:1 or better.

Staff and student access
Student access to both computers and Internet is tending to become more general and less restricted. 91% of colleges report that access to the Internet is automatically granted to all students, up from 71% last year, and no colleges report that there is no entitlement to access. Staff access to computers has also become easier, with significant movement away from machines shared with students

towards shared office machines and designated machines. 64% of colleges report most or all staff sharing office machines, and 77% report some or most staff with designated machines. However, 9% of colleges still report some or few staff with no computer access at all Again, the overwhelming majority of respondents report that student demand to use computers is widespread, with only one per cent reporting little demand from students for access to computers and/ or the Internet. The patterns of demand, both for computers and for the Internet have converged significantly, with around two-fifths reporting difficulty meeting widespread demand, and just under half reporting sufficient capacity to meet widespread demand. It is worth noting that these figures are based upon the perception of demand within colleges. One third of respondents report that having sufficient capacity to meet widespread demand for computers is characterised by computers being hard to find at busy times. The same number report that difficulty meeting widespread demand is also characterised by computers being hard to find at busy times. This may indicate that the survey instrument was not subtle enough to pick up any differences, or that different colleges have different expectations of what meeting demand may look like. The most important constraints upon increased Internet use remains the number of access points and speed of access, though their scores are down on last year. Student skills have replaced course design as a strong third place. 85 colleges listed other factors restricting growth. The issue of staff skills and expertise heads the list with 26% citing skills in using the Internet or lack of technical support as a major constraint. Those most commonly cited last year remain important: problems of restricting access to unsuitable sites (17%, down from 21%); bandwidth (13%, up from 11%); costs (12%, up from 8%). Technical control issues also figure highly, with 18% citing security and virus problems.

Access in the community
The scale of community involvement remains at a similar level to last year, with a small number of firm plans having become reality, and the same number of possibilities having become plans. Typically, colleges have one or very few links to each type of partner organisation. The median number of links per college is 6 with businesses, 4 with other colleges and 3 with each of schools and outreach centres, and 1 with the remainder. This does however hide a large degree of variation, one college reporting links to 230 businesses, and others reporting links to 40 outreach centres and libraries. Provision of learning materials remains the prime use of these links, and that each use has grown considerably over the last year. However, it is worth noting that few colleges state that any of these are commonly used.

Administrative systems
44% of colleges use student tracking software of some kind. The main types of student tracking software are Easi-Track (32 respondents), Fretwell Downing EBS (27 respondents), BromCom wNET (22 respondents), and 28 used an in-house system of some type. The Easi-Track and Fretwell Downing systems are mainly used by general FE colleges and BromCom dominates among sixth form colleges. Less than 30% of colleges make use of MLEs to deliver on-line learning. WebCT is the leading MLE used (18 respondents), with Virtual Campus and NetG Skill Vantage also well clear of the field (13 respondents each). 10 respondents use in-house systems and 8 use the North Yorkshire and Humberside colleges’ OnLinM system. A large number of student tracking and MLE systems were mentioned, none of which were used by more than 4 colleges. Learndirect was also mentioned by 4 colleges, this small number reflecting the degree to which Learndirect is seen as a separate entity.

2
2.1

Introduction
Context and purpose of the study

This study was carried out in September 2000 on behalf of the Further Education Information and Learning Technology Committee in order to assess progress in the provision of information and learning technology within the sector. The original study, undertaken in February 1999, provides the base line from which to judge the impact of the provision of £74 million over three-years for the development of ILT infrastructure in the sector.

2.2

Survey methodology and response

The Study took the form of a survey by questionnaire of all 424 FEFC colleges in England, exploring quantitative issues relating to infrastructure and practice. The questionnaire was published and disseminated in both paper-based and web-based formats; 274 Colleges (65% of the Sector) submitted completed questionnaires in time for inclusion in the analysis. 110 colleges (40% of the analysed data set) submitted their replies electronically using the web- based version of the questionnaire. The breakdown by type of college was as follows:
Table 1 Comparisons of respondents with sector

College type ADS Agricultural college DC Further education college Sixth form college Total

Respondents 1% 6% 1% 67% 24% 100%

Sector 2% 6% 3% 64% 25% 100%

Region East Midlands Eastern Region Greater London Northern Region North West South East South West West Midlands Yorkshire & Humberside Total

Respondents 8% 8% 11% 7% 16% 18% 9% 13% 10% 100%

Sector 9% 8% 14% 6% 14% 17% 9% 13% 10% 100%

The response rate for the survey was exceptionally high and the type of colleges that responded to the survey matched the sector closely against a range of criteria, leading to an expectation of high levels of reliability in the data. The survey was very detailed and was conducted within a very 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.

3
3.1

Computer equipment and specification
Numbers of computers

The survey questionnaire (a copy of which is to be found in the appendix to this report) requested an actual count of computers available within the college. Based on this data, calculations were made of the availability of computers for both students and staff within colleges. For the results of the survey to be useful, some standardised basis of comparison between colleges is required, to enable sector staff to relate their own college data to sector norms. This matter is not without difficulty, since there is no single, unambiguous measure of student numbers that can safely be used to calculate access ratios. A case could be made for at least three different approaches, whether the data concern students or staff. These are: standardising on all students (or staff); on full-time equivalent numbers (FTEs); or including only those who are full-time. Each method has its drawbacks and, after due consideration, it was decided to use FTEs as although this approach still contains an element of distortion it was felt to be less distorting than either of the alternatives. Eventually, it will probably be necessary for the sector to begin to consider maximum student occupancy as a basis for resource planning, but it was not possible for this study to be based on such measures at this time.
Table 2 Ratios of student FTEs per computer

Ratio Better than 3:1 3:1 4:1 5:1 6:1 7:1 8:1 to 10:1 10:1 to 12:1 12:1 to 16:1 16:1 to 20:1 20:1 to 50:1 more than 50:1 Total

All computers 2000 1% 11% 21% 26% 19% 9% 10% 1% 1% 0% 0% 0% 100%

Networked computers 2000 1% 8% 23% 21% 18% 11% 13% 2% 3% 0% 0% 0% 100%

All computers 1999
0% 3% 4% 14% 20% 16% 21% 14% 5% 2% 1% 0% 100%

Networked computers 1999
0% 2% 3% 9% 11% 14% 22% 14% 13% 5% 5% 2% 100%

Base = No. of respondents. FTEs derived from 1996/97 and 1997/98 data.

The decision to use FTEs as a basis for calculations reflects a recognition that they do at least make an allowance for total hours of attendance, which a straight count of student numbers does not. This allows us to get closer to the underlying question – the ratio of available machines to potential users at any given time. We have not attempted to distinguish particular groups of students, or to separate out attendance mode, pattern or site, though we recognise that these may have a significant influence in determining access. The calculated mean average value of the ratio using this approach is 5.5:1, compared to last year’s mean average ratio of 8.2:1. The median value ( the ratio of colleges at the middle of the range of values) is 5:1 compared to 7.6:1 in 1998/9. The provision of computers for the exclusive use of staff has improved on last year, but not to such a great extent as that for students. Table 3 shows the distribution of values calculated from colleges' reported staffing levels. The mean value of 5.7:1 reflects to some extent the decrease in the number of colleges with ratios in excess of 20:1. The median ratio value of 4:1 for all staff:computers may be a more accurate picture of the typical college. When all sessional staff are completely excluded from the calculations, the median value rises to 2:1 as opposed to 3.2:1 last year.
Table 3 Ratios of staff per computer

Ratio Better than 1:1 1:1 2:1 3:1 4:1 5:1 6:1 7:1 8:1 to 10:1 10:1 to 12:1 12:1 to 16:1 16:1 to 20:1 20:1 to 50:1 more than 50:1 Total

All computers 2000 1% 8% 13% 21% 13% 11% 6% 4% 8% 4% 5% 3% 2% 0% 100%

Networked computers 2000 1% 7% 14% 19% 11% 11% 5% 5% 9% 3% 7% 2% 6% 0% 100%

All computers 1999
1% 7% 10% 17% 9% 5% 9% 4% 11% 5% 7% 7% 6% 2% 100%

Networked computers 1999
1% 4% 11% 12% 8% 4% 8% 5% 8% 5% 10% 7% 15% 3% 100%

Base = No of respondents

3.2

Colleges' PC stock

As Chart 1 shows, IBM-compatible PCs remain the mainstay of computing in colleges, with stock spanning several generations. The survey reports 67% of computers of a higher standard than Pentium I compared to 37% in 1998/9. Only 5% of machines are now

based on a 486-processor or worse, a significant decrease from 25% last year. However, it could be argued that the Pentium I computers that now make up 19% of the total stock (down from 31%) are now themselves obsolete.
Chart 1 Current installed stock of computers

5% 5%

Baseline spec or better Above Pentium I 44% Pentium I 486 and below

19%

27%

Apple

The age and specification of the existing stock must be taken into account when interpreting the actual and ideal ratios reported by colleges. It effectively reduces access ratios in as much as it restricts the use of certain machines to particular purposes and/ or to older versions of software. The impact of this factor is likely to be greatest when we consider Internet applications. Respondents were asked to describe the minimum “baseline” specification that they would currently consider buying for college purposes, in terms of its speed, RAM and hard disk. They were also asked to describe what they would consider the current “best buy”specification. The three dimensions of speed, RAM and hard disk were weighted to produce seven “bands” representing machines of increasing capability. Table 4 overleaf shows a typical specification for each band along with the results. The minimum specification that would be considered by colleges is spread fairly evenly across the bottom 4 bands, though Band 4 machines are considered “best buy” by 47% of respondents. 65% of respondents mention build quality and reliability as a critical factor to be considered when buying a workstation, and 59% mention after-sales care (warranty, maintenance, service and support). Price is considered critical by 35% of respondents, compatibility and standardisation are each considered critical by 5% of respondents. Only 2% of repondents rate either brand or future-proofing as critical.

Table 4

Computer specifications

Typical band specifications Speed (MHz) Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6 Band 7 Total 200 500 500 650 650 700 750 RAM (Mb) 32 32 64 64 128 128 256 Hard disk (Gb) 2 4 6 10 15 20 20 Baseline specification 29% 25% 23% 20% 2% 0% 0% 100% Best buy specification 0% 9% 30% 47% 8% 3% 3% 100%

Base = No of respondents
The price colleges are willing to pay for their “best buy” computers vary considerably; the highest price within the popular Band 4 being 4.2 times the lowest. Table 5 below shows the range of prices plus the median. On the whole FE colleges account for both the highest and lowest prices, except in the popular Bands 3 and 4 where sixth form colleges account for the lowest prices. On average, sixth form colleges seem to be willing to pay less for their computers than FE colleges, (a median price of £590 as opposed to £650 for a Band 3 machine, and £755 as opposed to £800 for a Band 4 machine). Even though these figures do not indicate the extent to which other factors are taken into consideration, there does seem to be ample scope for negotiation between colleges and their suppliers.
Table 5 Prices for “best buy” computer

Median price Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6 Band 7 £600.00 £600.00 £620.00 £775.00 £750.00 £730.00 £900,00

Lowest price £600.00 £347.00 £350.00 £384.00 £550.00 £520.00 £696.00

Highest price £600.00 £850.00 £1000.00 £1600.00 £1200.00 £1500.00 £1600.00

Base = No of respondents

4
4.1

Networks, Intranets and the Internet
Local area networks (LANs)

Whilst most computers in most colleges form part of a local area network, this is not exclusively the case. However, over 84% of the total installed computer base within the sample was reported to be networked. The principal technologies employed within college local area networks are summarised in Table 6 below.
Table 6 LAN Technologies

LAN Technology 10Mbps Ethernet Mixture of 10/100Mbps Ethernet 100Mbps Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet ATM Token ring Total

% of colleges (2000) 27% 3% 56% 9% 3% <1% 100%

% of colleges (1999)
63% 5% 28% <1% 2% 1% 100%

% change -36% -2% +28% +8% +1% +<1%

Base = No of respondents
10Mbps Ethernet has ceased to be the dominant technology, with 100Mbps Ethernet now accounting for 56% of college networks and Gigabit Ethernet accounting for 9%. However, the perceived performance of existing local area networks has improved only very slightly, continuing to be slow at busy times (in 56% of cases). Frequent network service problems have declined from 5% to 4% of colleges.
Chart 2 Links between college sites

80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

Li ne

N

on e

e

em

av e

IS D

ab l

M od

ro w

as

ed

Le

M ic

O th

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Sixty percent of colleges have more than one major site, 21% with 2 sites, 17% with 3 and the remaining 22% with up to 12. Technologies used to link these multi-site colleges are indicated in Chart 2 . The majority of colleges which have multiple major sites utilise permanent connections (leased line, cable, wireless) to link them, 74% using leased line. The figures in the chart total more than 100%, reflecting the fact that a number of colleges use more than one means of linking sites.

4.2

Network performance

The perceived performance of existing local area networks at current levels of demand has improved only very slightly, so could only still be described as adequate, as indicated in Table 7. However, they continue to be slow at busy times (in 56% of cases) suggesting that staff and students can expect reduced performance at certain times of day. This carries with it the implication that the quality and consistency of learning opportunities may be dependent on the lottery of timetable slots. Frequent network service problems have declined from 5% to 4% of colleges.
Table 7 Network performance

% of colleges (2000) % of colleges (1999) Always smooth without appreciable delay Generally works well but slow at busy times Slowness/unreliability a frequent problem Total 38% 56% 4% 100%
35% 60% 5% 100%

% change +3% -4% -1%

Base = No of respondents
When asked about the capability of the network to deal with large multimedia files, 82% of respondents said their systems could not cope or that use for this purpose was not encouraged. Again, this is only a slight change from last year, indicating that networks continue to be restricted to everyday applications, with limited scope or encouragement for innovative development. 28% of respondents said their networks could cope with increased demand – up from 24% last year. Colleges that cannot adequately deal with current workload is down from 22% last year to 9%, leaving the rest working at full capacity. The perception of college networks’ ability to meet demand has not increased in line with the upgrading of network technology. This could be the result of ever-increasing expectations of what technology can deliver, or may be the result of a growth in demand, eating away at system performance.

Chart 3

Network capacity

9% 28% Over-stretched At capacity Spare capacity 63%

4.3

Internet Connectivity

All colleges expect to have 2Mbps Internet connection via JANET as part of the National Learning Network (NLN) initiative. Of these, 41% have, or plan to have additional bandwidth. Table 8 shows the .internet connections planned by colleges.
Table 8 Total Planned Bandwidth

Bandwidth 2 Mbps 2-3 Mbps 4 Mbps 6 Mbps 8 Mbps 10 Mbps and more Others

% of colleges (2000) 59% 12% 19% 1% 1% 3% 4%

Base = No of respondents
A variety of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) provide the additional connectivity to colleges, as summarised in Table 9 below. As can be seen, JANET dominates the market, with three times the share of its nearest rival. There is also a long “tail” of providers with 1% or less of the market.
Table 9 Internet Service Providers

Internet Service Provider BT Ntl Demon Edex JANET PIPEX RM plc Others Total

Colleges planning more than 2Mbps connection 12% 6% 5% 3% 39% 11% 1% 24% 100%

Base =112 respondents

4.4

Network applications

Virtually all college LANs are used by staff for some degree of Internet access and email. Staff accessing the Internet is described as commonplace in three-quarters of colleges, and staff email use is commonplace in 61 percent of colleges. Staff use of LANs for teaching and administrative purposes has increased markedly on last year, though these are far more of a minority activity within colleges. Videoconferencing as a staff activity has been reported by many more colleges than last year, though no colleges reported its use as commonplace.
Table 10 Uses of local area networks by staff

Low usage Common usage 2000 2000 Email Learning materials Course documents Advice & guidance Internet access Videoconferencing Other 38% 73% 69% 61% 23% 36% 11% 61% 14% 15% 18% 76% 0% 5%

All usage 2000 98% 88% 84% 78% 99% 36% 16%

All usage 1999
91% 66% 60% 43% 89% 19%

% Change +7% +21% +24% +35% +10% +18%

Base = No of respondents
Three quarters of respondents state that over 80% of permanent teaching staff have a personal email address, and more than 80% of sessional teaching staff have such access in over half the colleges surveyed.

Student use of college LANs shows a similar pattern to staff, though with email less commonly used. Internet access remains the dominant use, though the other uses have increased significantly. Two colleges also report videoconferencing being in common use by students.
Table 11 Uses of local area networks by students

Low usage Common usage 2000 2000 Email Learning materials Course documents Advice & guidance Internet access Videoconferencing Other 43% 64% 65% 55% 23% 28% 8% 39% 16% 11% 16% 76% 1% 4%

All usage 2000 82% 80% 75% 71% 99% 28% 12%

All usage 1999
64% 74% 45% 45% 91% 10%

% Change +19% +7% +30% +26% +7% +18%

Base = No of respondents
Nearly 40% of colleges have an internal email system for students, and almost half use Hotmail or some other external service. Most of the rest have some combination of the two, typically an internal system for particular courses, and an external system for general use. In 60% of colleges, more than 80% of full-time students have a personal email address, and 38% of colleges state that over 80% of part-time students have personal email addresses. These figures may be higher, as some respondents felt unable to comment upon the extent of use because student email was entirely given over to the external provider. As indicated in the tables below, the principal uses of the Internet for both staff and students remain information gathering and e-mail. However, marketing on the Internet is now used by virtually all colleges. Half of colleges now report that they are using the Internet to support distance-learning, twice the proportion of colleges from last year, though it is a common activity in only a few.

Table 12

Use of the Internet by staff

Low usage Common usage 2000 2000 College marketing Information resource Support distance learning Admin/management Advice & guidance Email Other 56% 34% 44% 41% 49% 36% 6% 40% 65% 5% 31% 11% 61% 3%

All usage 2000 96% 100% 50% 72% 61% 97% 8%

All usage 1999
83% 100% 26% 45% 25% 89%

% Change +13% 0% +24% +28% +36% +8%

Base = No of respondents
Table 13 Use of the Internet by students

Low usage Common usage 2000 2000 Information resource Support distance learning Advice & guidance Email Other 26% 45% 55% 36% 7% 74% 3% 13% 55% 3%

All usage 2000 100% 49% 68% 91% 9%

All usage 1999
99% 23% 31% 74%

% Change 0% +26% +37% +16%

Base = No of respondents
Chart 4 shows the distribution of ratios of FTE students to computers with access to the Internet. It shows the considerable improvement with regard to Internet access since last year. The mean ratio of FTE students:computers with Internet access is now 12.8 as opposed to 109:1 last year. The median value is now 7:1 compared to 21:1 last year. 36% of colleges having a ratio of 5:1 or better. The survey seems to show a broadening of the uses to which college networks and the Internet are put, by both staff and students. The last year has seen a rapid increase in the number of colleges using this technology for a variety of purposes, indicating a growth in demand that looks set to continue.

Chart 4

Ratios of student to Internet-connected computers

Less than 3 3 4 5 6 7 8 to 10 10 to 12 12 to 16 16 to 20 20 to 50 50 plus 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 2000 1999

Percentage of respondents

5
5.1

Policy, access and entitlement
Ratios of students and staff to computers

Students: Both the mean average and median ideal ratio of students:computers indicated by colleges was 5:1. There was a greater consistency in college aspirations from last year, with only two colleges citing a ratio in double figures. Referring back to Section 3.1, we can see a large increase in the number of colleges achieving this ratio or bettering it, up from 21% to 59%. Staff: The mean average and median ideal staff:computer ratio was 1:1, suggesting that colleges view the computer as a vital tool for their staff. All respondents indicated an ideal staff computer ratio of 7:1 or less. This has been a more difficult target to reach, with 9% achieving a ratio of 1:1 or less, only a 1% increase on last year.

5.2

Student access

Table 14 below shows the extent that student entitlement to computers has changed over the last year. Access is tending to become more general and less restricted. Entitlement to Internet access has also become more generalised. 91% of colleges report that access to the Internet is automatically granted to all students, up from 71% last year, and no colleges report that there is no entitlement to access.
Table 14 Student entitlement to ILT

2000 Access but not entitlement Enough access to complete work Access on any site 8% 53% 58%

1999
16% 63% 48%

Change -8% -10% +10%

Base = No. of respondents
Students have to book or queue for access to computers in three quarters of colleges, and in most of the remaining colleges access is better than this. In 14% of colleges students have unlimited access, though nearly half see unlimited access as a policy priority.

5.3

Staff access

Staff access to computers has become easier, with significant movement away from machines shared with students towards shared office machines and designated machines. 64% of colleges report most or all staff sharing office machines, and 77% report some or most staff with designated machines. However, 9% of colleges still report some or few staff with no computer access at all. The following table shows the figures for this year with the change from last year in brackets.

Table 15

Staff access to computers

All Use their own designated Use shared in Office Only in shared staff/student Do not have access <1% (0) 15% (+1) 5% (+2) 0% (0)

Most 16% (+11) 49% (+4) 5% (-12) 0% (0)

Some 61% (+6) 27% (-4) 12% (+1) 2% (0)

Few 18% (-17) 7% (-6) 35% (+2) 7% (-1)

None 1% (-1) 0% (0) 31% (+5) 80% (-1)

Base = No. of respondents
Table 16 shows the progress in staff access to shared office computers, with 45% of colleges having achieved this. However, there is no change in only four fifths of colleges having achieved access for all staff to a computer of any kind, and very few colleges have achieved access for all staff to a designated machine. On the plus side, 44% of colleges now see sole use for all staff as a priority.
Table 16 Achievements and priorities for staff access

Achieved Access for all staff to a computer Access for all staff to a shared office computer Sole use 79% (0) 46% (+12) 2% (+1)

Priority 21% (+3) 48% (-3) 44% (+32)

Not a priority 0% (-3) 5% (-6) 51% (-28)

Base = No. of respondents

5.4

Demand for access to ILT

Again, the overwhelming majority of respondents report that student demand to use computers is widespread, with only one per cent reporting little demand from students for access to computers and/ or the Internet. The patterns of demand, both for computers and for the Internet have converged significantly, with around two-fifths reporting difficulty meeting widespread demand, and just under half reporting sufficient capacity to meet widespread demand. Table 17 shows the demand pattern for Internet access, which has changed most dramatically, with many more colleges feeling able to meet widespread demand.

Table 17

Demand by students for access to Internet

The college has difficulty meeting The college has sufficient capacity The college has sufficient capacity this level of demand to meet this level of demand to meet greater than this level than this 2000 There is widespread demand to use … Demand is limited to certain courses/ groups There is little demand for access to … 39% 3% 0%

1999
54%

2000 45% 8% <1%

1999
25%

2000 7% 1% 0%

1999
5%

4%

14%

3%

0%

<1%

1%

Base = No. of respondents

It is worth noting that these figures are based upon the perception of demand within colleges. One third of respondents report that having sufficient capacity to meet widespread demand for computers is characterised by computers being hard to find at busy times. The same number report that difficulty meeting widespread demand is also characterised by computers being hard to find at busy times. This may indicate that the survey instrument was not subtle enough to pick up any differences, or that different colleges have different expectations of what meeting demand may look like. It could also be evidence of colleges managing demand, whether overtly or no, by stifling expectation and encouragement. This would suggest a motorway effect in which current congestion drives away potential users, but new provision rapidly becomes oversubscribed when it releases pent-up demand. Only 10% colleges reported that students could find a machine at any time (i.e. that there are always some machines unused), approximately the same number as last year

5.5

Constraints on Internet use

Colleges were asked to rank the issues in the order of their significance as constraints upon actual expansion of Internet use 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. On this basis, the number of access points and speed of access remain the most important constraints upon increased use, though their scores are down on last year. Student skills replacing course design as a strong number 3. 85 colleges listed other factors restricting growth. Those most commonly cited last year remain important: problems of restricting access to unsuitable sites (17%, down from 21%); bandwidth (13%, up from 11%); costs (12%, up from 8%). Technical control issues also figure highly, with 18% citing security and virus problems. However, the issue of staff skills and expertise heads the list with 26% citing skills in using the Internet or lack of technical support as a major constraint. As technical hurdles are surmounted, “softer” issues of staff and student skill in using the Internet are beginning to emerge, along with the question of support services for both these groups.

Chart 5

Constraints on growth of Internet use

Student skills No interest Course design Access points Access speeds 0 1 2 W eight ed score 3 4 2000 1999

6
6.1

Access in the community
Providing access in the community
Plans for community ILT access

Table 18

2000 No plans to engage Future possibility Firm plan Currently engaged 7% 24% 31% 38%

1999
7% 26% 31% 35%

Change 0% -2% 0% +3%

Base = No of respondents
The intention of this question was to determine the extent to which college ILT networks extended into their communities. The scale of involvement remains at a similar level to last year, with a small number of firm plans having become reality, and the same number of possibilities having become plans.

Chart 6 Partnerships in the community

Other Learning Centres Public Libraries Local Authorities HE Centres Schools Businesses Outreach centres 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 SF Colleges FE Colleges All Colleges

Chart 6 indicates the main types of partner organisation and shows the percentage of colleges with formal partnerships with each type of organisation. As might be expected, a far greater proportion of general FE colleges have these partnerships than sixth form colleges. However it does seem surprising that a smaller proportion of sixth form colleges have partnerships with public libraries (3% of SFCs) than with businesses (16% of SFCs). Over 80% of electronic links with schools, libraries and businesses tend to be dial-up rather than permanent, whereas in the case of local authorities, outreach and learning centres the split is more like 50:50. Only in partnerships with HE institutions do permanent links predominate, with about two-thirds connected to a permanent network.

6.2

Scale and use of community links

Typically, colleges have one or very few links to each type of partner organisation. Each type has a mode of 1 with the exception of schools which has a mode of 4. The median number of links per college is 6 with businesses, 4 with other colleges and 3 with each of schools and outreach centres, and 1 with the remainder. This does however hide a large degree of variation, one college reporting links to 230 businesses, and others reporting links to 40 outreach centres and libraries. As Table 19 indicates, provision of learning materials remains the prime use of these links, and that each use has grown considerably over the last year. However, it is worth noting that few colleges state that any of these are commonly used.
Table 19 Uses of community links

Low usage Common usage 2000 2000 Access learning materials Submit assessed work Links to other students Links to tutors Advice and guidance Other 42% 29% 22% 32% 27% 1% 8% 1% 1% 4% 3% <1%

All usage 2000 51% 30% 23% 36% 30% 2%

All usage 1999
38% 12% 9% 17% 11%

% Change +13% +18% +15% +19% +19%

Only 19% of colleges provide access via ICT for home-based learners, though a further 32% have firm plans to do so. Again, general FE colleges are more likely to do this, with 24% of FE colleges already providing this, with 35% having firm plans, whereas only 6% of sixth form colleges provide this, with a further 27% having firm plans.

7
7.1

Administrative systems
Tracking Learner Activity

There has been no change in the number of colleges using systems to track learner activity, 44% of the colleges surveyed making some use of such systems, a slightly lower figure than last year. Of the 146 colleges that replied to this section, 22% used Easi-Track, 18% used Fretwell Downing EBS, 15% used BromCom wNET, and 19% used an in-house system of some type, often based upon spreadsheet or database software. The Easi-Track and Fretwell Downing systems are mainly used by general FE colleges. Half the Fretwell Downing users commonly use the product whereas only one college commonly uses Easi-Track. BromCom wNET dominates the sixth form college market, 30% of all SFCs that responded to the survey. Two thirds of BromCom users commonly use the product.
Chart 7 Tracking software: market leaders

In house system E asi-Track Fretwell Downing E BS BromCom wNE T
0 10 20 30 40

In use In common use

Base = No of respondents
Respondents mentioned 27 other student tracking systems, however, none of this other software is used by more than 2% of colleges.

7.2

Managed Learning Environments

Managed Learning Environments (MLEs) or Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are not as widely used as tracking software. Less than 30% of respondents stated that such systems were used to deliver on-line learning. Of these colleges, a significant minority use more than one type of software (78 colleges 111 instances cited of MLEs/VLEs being used in colleges, there were only 8 instances of common use. Chart 8 below shows the main MLEs/VLEs in use in colleges. WebCT is the clear leader, with Virtual Campus and NetG Skill Vantage also well clear of the field. It is worth noting that the numbers here are small, WebCT being cited by only 18 respondents, and VC and NetG each cited by 13. 10 respondents use in-house systems and 8 use the North Yorkshire and Humberside colleges’ OnLinM system developed by Nathan Boddington from Leeds University. Again 27 other systems were mentioned, none of which were used by more than 4 colleges. Learndirect was also mentioned by 4 colleges, this small number reflecting the degree to which Learndirect is seen as a separate entity.

Chart 8

Managed Learning Environments: market leaders

OnLinM/ Nathan Boddington

In use
In house system NetG Skill Vantage WebCT Virtual Campus Lotus Learning Space Fretwell Downing LE 0 5 10 15 20

In common use

Base = No of respondents

8
8.1

Staff development
Staff IT and ILT Competence

Respondents were asked to estimate the proportion of staff with low, medium or high level of skill (beginner, competent, advanced) in personal use of IT and in the use of ILT with learners. Definitions within these broad classifications were left the 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 timescale. More telling, however was the belief that respondents’ would share sufficiently similar common understandings of competency to enable comparison and judgements to be drawn from the results. An average of the values estimated by each college was calculated for every category. The results are shown in Chart 9.
Chart 9 IT and ILT skill levels

60
Average % (all colleges)

50 40 30 20 10 0 IT ILT Low 33 56 M edium 48 29 High 19 18

Across the sector as a whole, 67% of staff are considered to be competent or advanced in their personal use of IT. This leaves a third of staff whose IT skills may need to be brought to a base level of competence. However, in the use of ILT with learners, less than half of college staff are considered competent or advanced. The results offer grounds for speculation and debate about the relationship between IT and ILT skills and the most effective forms of professional development. Particularly intriguing in this context is the question of why the proportion of teachers who are competent, or better, in IT falls from 67% to 46% competent or better at using ILT in association with their mainstream function of teaching and facilitating learning. This suggests that one in four teachers are currently prevented from transferring their IT skills into the classroom or learning centre by some barrier or barriers blocking such development.

8.2

Staff Development Methods

112 colleges were contacted and asked an additional question on preferred staff development methods via the telephone. Respondents were asked to rate the usefulness of various types of staff development activity, giving a score of 5 for very useful, and 1 for not at al useful. The results are shown in Chart 10 below.
Chart 10 Preferred staff development methods

Informal help from colleagues Work shops within the c ollege Curriculum-related events College projec ts Cross curricular events Web sites Work shop away from c ollege Computer-based material Short courses National or regional c onferenc es Exec utive briefings Telephone information support Print or other publications Cons ultancy

0

1

2

3

4

5

Informal help from colleagues is at the top of the list; this is in line with recent European research that showed half of teachers in further and higher education learned their ILT skills by trial and error. College-organised activities are consistently highly valued, with external courses and events lower down the list. There seem to be two main reasons for this: college-organised activities can be better targeted at college needs; and value for money is a key factor influencing choice in the context of tight college budgets. Over 50% of the respondents to this question made use of other staff development methods. Notably, 12% of respondents made use of college ILT Champions to develop other staff, and 8% made use of one-to-one methods like mentoring or coaching. 7% also mentioned some staff going on longer courses, some of these at HE Institutions. ECDL was mentioned by 5% as a useful development tool, and a significant minority (4%) engaged in collaborative activities with other colleges.

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