THE STATE OF ILT IN FE COLLEGES

Report to the National Learning Network Programme Board Of A Survey Into Information And Learning Technology Provision, Access And Policy In FE Colleges In England with additional information drawn from updated college ILT strategies.

by Bob Powell Steve Davies

November 2001

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Acknowledgements
Bob Powell is Associate Director: Lifelong Learning at Becta. Steve Davies is Project Officer with the Ferl team and carried out the bulk of the statistical analysis. Claire Gill and Sarah Swaney of the Ferl team provided cogent analysis of the college ILT strategy updates. The questionnaire was based on one initially developed for the 1999 survey by Alison Page of Becta. This survey, like its predecessors, has benefited from the comments and observations of a range of individuals and agencies, including members of the FE ILT Committee and its successor body, 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 (formerly FEDA), NILTA and the Joint Information Systems Committee. Particular thanks are due to Kevin Donovan of LSDA, who organised a one day seminar on evaluation of the impact of ILT, with particular reference to the National Learning Network, at which the main findings of this report were first aired, and to the members of that group for their feedback. The online survey facility was provided by Infopoll.

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Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................ 2 The State of ILT in FE colleges ..................................................................................... 5 Report of a Survey into Information and Learning Technology provision, access and policy in FE colleges in England, September 2001 ............................................ 5 1. Management Summary .......................................................................................... 5 1.1 Overall summary................................................................................................ 5 1.2 The survey.......................................................................................................... 5 1.3 College computer infrastructure ........................................................................ 5 Computer stock .......................................................................................................... 5 Local Area Networks ................................................................................................. 6 Internet Connectivity ................................................................................................. 6 1.4 Access to Computers.......................................................................................... 6 Managing demand for computer use.......................................................................... 7 Staff access to computers ........................................................................................... 7 1.5 Uses of ILT ........................................................................................................ 7 Access to Email.......................................................................................................... 8 Intranet and Extranet .................................................................................................. 8 Virtual Learning Environments and Student tracking ............................................... 8 1.6 Staff skills .......................................................................................................... 8 1.7 ILT Champions .................................................................................................. 8 1.9 Access in the community ................................................................................... 9 2 The Survey ........................................................................................................... 10 2.1 Context and purpose of the study..................................................................... 10 2.2 Survey methodology and response .................................................................. 10 3. Infrastructure ............................................................................................................ 12 3.1 College computer stock...................................................................................... 12 3.2 Baseline specification ........................................................................................ 13 3.3 Local Area Network ........................................................................................... 16 3.4 LAN Performance .............................................................................................. 17 3.5 Internet Connectivity ....................................................................................... 19 3.6 Constraints on Internet use............................................................................... 20 4. Access to Computers................................................................................................ 22 4.1 Access for learners ............................................................................................. 22 Access to Internet–enabled computers..................................................................... 23 4.2 Managing demand for student access ................................................................ 24 4.3 Location of computers for learners .................................................................... 26 4.4 Access for Staff .................................................................................................. 27 4.5 Mode of access for staff ..................................................................................... 28 5. Uses of ILT .............................................................................................................. 30 5.1 Staff Use of the LAN/ Intranet........................................................................... 30 5.2 Access to Email.................................................................................................. 33 5.3 Intranet and Extranet use ................................................................................... 34 5.4 Virtual Learning Environments and Student tracking ....................................... 35 5.5 Tracking Learner Activity................................................................................ 37 6. Staff skills ............................................................................................................... 39 6.1 Staff IT and ILT Competence ............................................................................ 39 8 Access in the community ..................................................................................... 43 8.1 Providing access in the community ................................................................. 43 8.2 Use of community links ................................................................................... 44

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Appendix : Messages from the Strategy updates ......................................................... 45 Background .............................................................................................................. 45 ILT Vision ................................................................................................................ 45 Managing the Strategy. ............................................................................................ 45 Infrastructure ............................................................................................................ 46 Physical location of computers ................................................................................ 47 ILT in Learning and Teaching ................................................................................. 47 Managed Learning Environments ............................................................................ 47 Staff Development ................................................................................................... 48 ILT Champions ........................................................................................................ 49 Access In The Community....................................................................................... 49

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The State of ILT in FE colleges
Report of a Survey into Information and Learning Technology provision, access and policy in FE colleges in England, September 2001

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Management Summary

1.1 Overall summary
This survey shows that most colleges now have the computer infrastructure that FEFC‟s FEILT Committee in 1999 considered necessary to support effective learning. Robust local area networks link nearly all of the sector‟s estimated 260,000 computers (170,000 new since 1999) to the Internet through 2Mbps JANET connections. The typical English college has achieved or bettered the sector strategy target of one internet enabled computer for every 5 FTE students. 85% of colleges have achieved or bettered last year’s average of 7:1. In 1999, by contrast, the 85th percentile was 106:1. Sector colleges now have one internet enabled computer for every two permanent teaching staff, though progress towards the 1:1 target is slow. Embedding ILT into practice is beginning to grow, with information searching on the internet and email commonplace amongst staff and learners. Other uses of the network for e-learning are in evidence, but on a relatively small scale in most institutions. The use of ILT Champions to lead development is widespread, but there is a clear need for substantial staff development built around a shared understanding of what constitutes good practice and what skills are needed to bring it about.

1.2 The survey
242 Colleges (57% of the Sector) submitted completed questionnaires in time for inclusion in the analysis. 110 colleges (45% of the analysed data set) submitted their replies electronically using the web- based version of the questionnaire. The sample obtained closely reflects the characteristics of the larger population and leads us to a high degree of confidence in the data. The survey findings are supplemented by observations drawn from an examination of the updates to college ILT Strategy documents which were submitted at the same time as the survey.

1.3 College computer infrastructure Computer stock
The typical baseline specification quoted by colleges is 500 Mhz with 64 Mb of RAM and 6Gb hard disk. 63% of the current installed stock of computers in colleges is

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baseline specification or better. A further one-quarter of stock is Pentium II specification or better. Pentium I machines have gone down from 19% of stock in summer 2000 to 6%, while the 486s that made up one quarter of computers in 1999 now account for only1%. A rough estimate of the actual number of computers in the 420 English colleges is around 260,000, up from 160,000 in February 1999. No more than a third of the current stock has survived since 1999, which suggests that a minimum of 170,000 new computers have gone into colleges since that date for use in teaching and learning. The average price paid for a middle range specification computer is £700. Prices paid have fallen since last year by around £100 for lower specification machines and £200 for higher specification.

Local Area Networks
95% of computers are networked; 60% of colleges have all student machines networked, whilst 69% report that all staff computers are attached to the network. Local area networks are more extensive, robust and can support greater traffic than in 1999. Two-thirds of colleges now have a 100 Mbps Ethernet backbone and 14% have a gigabit LAN, up from 1% in 1999, when 10Mbps was the most common bandwidth. Leased line accounts for 44% of links between different sites in multi-site colleges, while wire-less technologies make up a further 20%. 54% of LANs are at full capacity, whilst the number unable to cope with current demand has fallen to 5%. 80% of colleges, however, restrict network traffic in bandwidth hungry applications. Only 3% of colleges now experience frequent problems of network performance. 47% describe their network as working without appreciable delay, though about half report the network to be slow at busy times.

Internet Connectivity
All colleges have a 2Mbps Internet connection via JANET. 36% have or plan additional bandwidth (41% in 2000). Although there is no overall relationship between planned bandwidth and college size, 85% of those seeking greater bandwidth are larger than average in terms of student numbers. JANET is ISP for 54% of the additional bandwidth. Technical constraints remain the most pressing barrier to increased use of the Internet, but have declined in relative importance, while pedagogical issues of course design and student skills have grown in significance. Issues of inappropriate use of the Internet continue to concern colleges.

1.4 Access to Computers
The mean number of f.t.e students per computer has fallen from 5.5:1 in 2000 to 4.7: 1 in 2001 (1999 = 8.2:1). The median value (the ratio of colleges at the middle of the range of values) is 4.5:1 (7.6:1). Only 4% of colleges have 8:1 or greater, (43% in 1999). Sixth Form colleges have a median ratio of 4.1: 1, compared with 4.5:1 for General Further Education colleges and 5.7: 1 for land-based colleges.

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The median number of f.t.e. students to computers with Internet access is now 4.95:1 (21:1 in 1999) indicating that the typical college has now achieved the FEFC target of 1: 5. 85% of colleges have now achieved or bettered last year’s average of 7:1. In 1999, by contrast, the 85th percentile was 106:1.

Managing demand for computer use
Demand for ILT by students is widespread, with consequent strain on college stocks. Demand continues to rise to swallow up new machines. Only 5% of colleges say that they could satisfy any increase in demand, while 57% are operating at full capacity. 28% cannot meet current demand (47% in 1999) . 80% of respondents say that students may find it difficult to get on a machine at busy times. 75% of colleges can meet current demand for Internet access. 20% of college stock is described as open access, (25% in 2000). 3% managing all computers this way (4.5% in 2000). The volume of new equipment, means that whilst the proportion of stock, has fallen, the actual number of open access machines has risen. 74% of colleges now make some part of their computing facility available at the weekend (60% in 2000).

Staff access to computers
The median value of the ratio of permanent staff to internet-connected computers is 1.9:1, down from 3 staff for every machine in 2000 and an estimated 7:1 in 1999. The NLN target of 1 internet-connected computer for every permanent member of teaching and learning support staff has been achieved or bettered by 15% of colleges and a further 15% has achieved a ratio below 1.5:1. The ratio of all staff to internetconnected computers is 3.5:1, compared with 12:1 in 1999. 95% of staff computers are networked and 98% of these are internet-connected. 60% of colleges say that most staff shared a computer in a staff room, though 27% report that most permanent staff have their own designated computer, (5% in 1999).

1.5 Uses of ILT
Email and Internet access are common practice in most colleges (82% and 90%respectively) Staff use of the LAN for advice and guidance has doubled since 1999, from 43% to 86%. 94% of colleges now use the LAN for both learning materials and course document storage and access (1999 = 60% ). Staff in nearly 20% of colleges engage in online delivery and support of learning as a regular part of professional practice. .Student use of college LANs follows a similar pattern to staff use, though typically tracking behind staff in the extent of use Internet access remains the principal use, though the other activities have increased significantly The main Internet activities remain information gathering and e-mail. Two-thirds of the sample use the Internet to support distance-learning, almost three times as many as in 1999, though it is common practice in only 5%.

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Access to Email
There is a robust infrastructure in place for electronic communications with staff as widespread subscription to college email supplements well-developed intranets. 74% of full time and 57% of part time students have a college email address. This may understate the extent of access to email, given a reliance in some institutions on Hotmail for students. 95% of permanent staff have a personal email address, whilst only 3% have no access to email. The split between provision of an internal service (40%) and an external service (48%) or both (11%) is almost unchanged from last year.

Intranet and Extranet
88% of colleges have an Intranet which is local to the institution, whilst a further 8% have developed a shared facility. The growth by 9% since 2000 in the number of colleges using an Intranet is offset by a reduction of 4% in the number sharing an Extranet.

Virtual Learning Environments and Student tracking
51 % of respondents stated that they currently use a VLE, up from 30% last year, though only 13 colleges describe their use as common practice. 61% of general F.E. colleges reported using VLEs compared with only 27% of Sixth form colleges. In house systems accounted for largest share (17%) of the total reported. 57% of colleges use systems to track learner activity, compared with 44% last year. Sixth form colleges are the bigger users of student tracking systems , 77% reporting them compared with 52% of general F.E. colleges.

1.6 Staff skills
70% 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 48% college staff are considered competent or advanced. (2000 = 42%). 15 colleges considered a greater proportion of staff to be competent of ILT in the classroom than in their personal use of IT, evidence of some staff development strategies that take learning applications, rather than office applications, as a starting point for staff competence. College strategy updates suggest that these results may overstate the actual levels of ILT skills amongst staff.

1.7 ILT Champions
1.8 92% of sector colleges have ILT Champions. 48% of colleges also have a Senior Management ILT Champion. The average number of Champions in a college is 3. Key functions include support of staff, development of materials, identification of resources and training of staff. The average remission from teaching responsibilities is 3 hours per week, but 32% get no remission.

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1.9 Access in the community
1.10 48% of colleges provide community ILT access, up from 38%. Around 30% of colleges offer learning programmes that include remote submission of assessed work, online advice and guidance, together with contact with tutors and peers, typically small in scale. It is described as common practice by only 2% of colleges. 25% of college now provide access via ILT for home-based learners, compared with 19% in 2000. The results suggest an increasing commitment within the sector to develop and extend online modes of learning.

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2.1

The Survey
Context and purpose of the study

This study was carried out in September 2001 on behalf of the Learning and Skills Council in order to assess progress in the provision of information and learning technology within the sector. Two previous studies, undertaken in February 1999 and September 2000, provide comparative data 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 426 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; 242 Colleges (57% of the Sector) submitted completed questionnaires in time for inclusion in the analysis. 110 colleges (45% of the analysed data set) submitted their replies electronically using the web- based version of the questionnaire. Table 1 shows the breakdown by type of college.

Table 1

Respondents by college type
Respondents 1% 7% 2% 68% 23% 100% Sector 2% 6% 3% 65% 25% 100%

College type Art and Design college Agricultural college Designated college Further education college Sixth form college Total

The breakdown by college type reveals that the sample is sufficiently close to the distribution of colleges in the population to ensure a high level of confidence in any inferences drawn from the data. The actual number of Art and Design colleges (2) and specialist Designated colleges (5) 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 is shown in Table 2.

Table 2

Respondents by regional location
Respondents 9% Sector 8%

Region East Midlands

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

9% 12% 5% 15% 18% 8% 13% 11% 100%

8% 14% 6% 15% 17% 9% 13% 10% 100%

Tables 1 and 2 taken together demonstrate that the colleges that responded to the survey closely match the sector in regional spread and college type. This, taken with the high response rate for the survey, leads us to a high degree of confidence in the data. The survey was detailed and was 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. Infrastructure
3.1 College computer stock
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 baseline specification for an acceptable level of performance and to delineate stock against this benchmark. This is more robust as a basis of comparison over time, since it matches the continual changes in technology of computers with changes in user expectations and increased technical demands of current software. It will tend to understate the proportion of machines capable of delivering an acceptable level of service for users if the baseline is set against the rapid escalation of marketplace specifications, rather than a more humble, but serviceable, notion of user requirements and expectations. For reasons of comparison, we again asked respondents to count the numbers of computers built on 486 and Pentium 1 processors.

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1 4

26 63

Baseline spec or better Above Pentium I Pentium I 486 and below Apple

Chart 1: College computer stock (% of total)

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. A

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further one-quarter of stock is as good or better than the Pentium II specification we set as benchmark in February 1999, whilst the Pentium I machines that made up 19% of stock in summer 2000 had fallen to 6% by summer 2001. Chart 2 maps the change in computer stock over the period of the National Learning Network initiative. A significant transformation has seen the 486 machines that made up one quarter of computers in 1999 and 5% in 2000 fall to a mere 1%.

Chart 2: Change in computer stock 1999-2001

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Baseline spec or better Above Pentium I Pentium I 486 and below Apple 1999 2000 2001

These relative changes are all the more dramatic when set against 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 420 English colleges is around 260,000, compared with around 160,000 in February 1999. An equally rough calculation suggests that no more than a third of the current stock has survived since 1999, giving a conservative estimate of the total number of new computers bought since that date for use in teaching and learning of around 170,000, yielding a net increase of 100,000 above the replacement investment of 70,000 machines. A more meaningful measure of the impact of new investment is to be found on the improvement in the ratios of access to Internet-enabled computers for both students and staff (see 4.1 below).

3.2 Baseline specification
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 and memory were then

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weighted to produce eight bands representing machines of increasing capability. Table 3 below shows a typical specification for each band. 43% of colleges have set as their baseline a 500 MHz, or slower, computer with 32 Mb of RAM. The median baseline specification is 500 Mhz with 64 Mb of RAM and 6Gb hard disk. One in four colleges this year regard 128 Mb of RAM as the benchmark, with concomitant faster speeds and hugely expanded hard disk capacity. In general, however, the results suggest a concern for user expectation and experience rather than technical innovation as the driver for setting a baseline.

Table 3

Computer specifications
Typical band specifications 2001
2000 values

Speed (MHz) RAM (Mb) Band 1 Band 2 Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6 Band 7 Band 8

Hard disk (Gb)

Baseline Best buy specification specification
29 25 23 20 2 0 0 0

200 500 500 650 650 700 750 1000

32 32 64 64 128 128 256 256

2 18 4 25 6 15 10 15 15 8 20 13 20 2 20 3

0 0 4 15 23 34 6 16

0 9 30 47 8 3 3 0

Data = % of respondents The best buy, by contrast, is typically a significantly higher specification than the baseline. Although 29% of respondents cite the same specification for both baseline and best buy, the average best buy is two bands higher than the quoted baseline specification. This could simply reflect the continual upward movement of technical offer 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 has moves rapidly on. Colleges were also asked if there were any other factors that they considered critical when purchasing a computer. The key issues remain the same as last year: robustness, support and price. 57% of respondents (2000 = 65%) identify build quality and reliability as a critical factor to be considered when buying a workstation. An almost unchanged 55% cite after-sales care (warranty, maintenance, service and support). Price is the only other significant factor, considered critical by 43%, compared with 31% a year ago. This rise may indicate a market in which bargains are available for the buyer who is willing to search, or simply the need to maximise the number of 14

machines for any given budget. Both views are supported by the data, which indicate large volumes of computers being acquired at lower prices, on average, than in 2000. We observed last year that the market for computers in FE seems to be fairly sophisticated, with buyers clearly able to articulate their needs and well armoured against hype. This continues to be the case, with only 2% of respondents rating a named brand as critical. Only 1% now consider future-proofing to be important. This may reflect the common view that the effective life of college computers is only three years, future-proofed or not. Recent experience is that change has been characterised by different technology rather than the model of the same technology plus more memory and add-ons that future proofing often assumes. A more practical consideration may be that the physical battering taken by heavily used college stock puts it beyond resuscitation.

Table 4

Prices for “best buy” computer
Median price £ Lowest price £ Highest price £

Band 3 Band 4 Band 5 Band 6 Band 7 Band 8

650 650 700 650 755 750

485 440 380 400 500 500

850 850 900 1000 1200 1200

Table 4 shows the prices colleges report as their best buy for machines in each band. The spread between highest and lowest price is again notable. The spread of the prices paid within bands by different colleges is more extreme than the spread of median prices between bands. The average prices paid for all 5 of the popular bands is covered by a £105 difference, from £650 to £755. The mean average prices are pulled upwards by the extremes, but differ by no more than £30 at most from the median value. A comparison with the prices quoted by colleges last year reveals a significant fall in the average price paid of around £100 for bands 4 and 5 (£138 and £102 less than the respective 2000 price) and around £200 for bands 6 and 7 (£191 and £213 less). The prices reported by Sixth Form colleges in the last survey were systematically lower than those paid by F.E. colleges. This is no longer the case. The midpoint and range of prices reported by both groups are now essentially the same.

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3.3 Local Area Network
The specification of college Local Area Networks (LAN) has risen in line with the specification and volume of the computers that they support. 95% of all computers are networked; 60% of colleges report that all machines for student use are networked, whilst 69% report that all staff computers are attached to the network. Ethernet technology dominates college networks. Chart 3 shows the dramatic increase in LAN bandwidth since 1999, when 10 mbps Ethernet accounted for 63% of networks. Two out of every three colleges now has a 100 mbps Ethernet backbone, with 14% having a gigabit LAN (up from 1% in 1999 and 9% last year).

Chart 3: Local Area Network- Backbone
70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1999 2000 2001 10M Ethernet 100M Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet

38% of colleges have only one site. The remainder face the problem of extending their LAN to connect different sites. 23% of respondents have four or more sites, including 5 very large colleges with more than 10 major sites each.

Table 5

Connecting sites
2001

Leased line Modem ISDN

44 4 14

2000 44 12 17

1999 43 12 31

16

Wire-less technologies

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15 11

11 16

16 Cable Data = % of connections between sites

Table 5 shows the percentage of connections that are accounted for by each technology. Whilst leased line continues to dominate, wire-less connections have increased substantially. Wire-less technologies, which is used to include all such media, including radio, microwave and laser, have nearly doubled in use, despite the constraints that restrict the use of variants requiring clear line-of-sight to operate. 38% of the multi-site colleges utilise multiple technologies to connect their sites, including one college which employs 5 separate technologies.

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 2001, 38% 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, is still an appropriate description of 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 100,000 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 standalone. The burden is further increased, moreover, by the increasing use of networked applications.

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Chart 4 : Network capability to meet demand

Percentage of respondents

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 Over-stretched At capacity Spare capacity 1999 22 54 24 2000 9 62 27 2001 5 57 38 Over-stretched At capacity Spare capacity

Colleges continue to restrict network traffic in bandwidth hungry applications. Four out of every five colleges identify large files as an actual or potential source of problems on the network, and hence look to control their use. This is only 4% fewer than the 84% who cited large files as a problem in 1999.

Table 6

Network performance
2001

Always smooth without appreciable delay Generally works well but slow at busy times Slowness/unreliability a frequent problem Data = % of colleges

47 49 3

2000 38 56 4

1999 35 60 5

The rate of improvement in network performance continues to lag behind other indicators. The number who experience frequent problems has fallen to 3% of sector colleges. More dramatic has been the rise to 47% in the proportion of colleges who describe their network as always smooth, without appreciable delay and the decline to just 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

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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.

3.5

Internet Connectivity

All colleges now have a free 2Mbps Internet connection via JANET as part of the National Learning Network (NLN) initiative. Table 7 shows that just over one-third of these (36%) have, or plan to have additional bandwidth. This has fallen from 41% of colleges who stated an intention in 2000 to go beyond 2Mbps. The most significant fall has been the reduction by a half of those colleges planning to have between 2 and 3 Mbps. The fall in this group by 6% of colleges almost exactly matches the increase in those planning to stick with the free 2Mbps. 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.

Table 7
Bandwidth 2 Mbps 2-3 Mbps 4 Mbps 6 Mbps 8 Mbps

Total Planned Bandwidth
2001

64 6 18 0 3 5

2000 59 12 19 1 1 4

10 Mbps and more Data = % of respondents

It might be expected, a priori, that there would be a relationship between planned bandwidth and college size. We tested this using FTE student enrolment as a proxy for size. The correlation coefficient, r, of 0.28 indicates that this year, as last, there is no relationship to be detected between large student numbers and large bandwidth. The profile of colleges planning bandwidth of 3Mbps and above is significantly different from last year, however, with a much clearer tendency for those seeking larger bandwidth to be larger colleges. 85% are larger than the sector median value of FTE student numbers, whilst half of the largest 10% intend to take on greater bandwidth. Clearly this means that the other half are content with 2Mbps for the near future, as are many of the largest colleges in the sector and many 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, only JANET, which has reinforced its dominance with 54%, and BT with 10% of colleges reach double figures.

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3.6

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

Access points Access speeds

Constraint

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

1999 2000 2001

On this basis, the technical constraints remain the most significant barrier to increased use of the Internet. The number of access points continues to be seen as a key constraint, despite the large influx of Internet-capable machines into colleges. We must interpret this against the concomitant rise in demand for Internet access, which other data in the survey and the following observation from a college confirm: “The only real constraint is the ever increasing level of demand. As fast as we provide new computers/ access points, demand grows faster” (Sixth Form college, Manchester). An immediate return on the investment in high specification computers and LAN capability to support the now universal JANET connections comes in the continuing decline in access speeds as a constraint. 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 have edged up the rankings, together with the student skills needed to engage effectively with the Internet as a tool.

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Colleges were invited to list other factors restricting growth. The only major factor was that of inappropriate use, including restriction of access to unsuitable sites, cited by 11% of all respondents, the same proportion as last year. A new element was the problem of access for remote sites, noted by 8 colleges. References to other issues commonly cited in previous years have fallen in number. Staffing issues and bandwidth concerns have both halved in number of mentions, each being cited by 4% of respondents, whilst the cost issues which concerned 4% of colleges in 2000 are referred to by only 2 colleges.

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4. Access to Computers
4.1 Access for learners
The survey 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. 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 1999 and 2000 studies and allow comparisons to be drawn. They are also the format used by the Further Education Funding Council 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 full time equivalent (f.t.e.) 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 f.t.e student data available from LSC, which covers student numbers for academic year 1999/00. If student numbers have changed dramatically over the period, then comparing them with computers in 2001 will distort the apparent ratio. Information about changes in enrolments in the intervening period suggests that any such effect is likely to be minimal, i.e. that the calculated ratios are a true reflection of the actual situation in colleges in September 2001. We have examined two key statistics: - f.t.e. students to all computers within the college - f.t.e. students to internet-enabled computers The improvement since 1999 in the availability of computers for students is shown in Chart 6. The mean average number of f.t.e students per computer has fallen from 5.5:1 in 2000 to 4.7: 1 in 2001 (1999 = 8.2:1). The median value (the ratio of colleges at the middle of the range of values) is 4.5:1 (7.6:1). The dispersion of values is far less than in 1999, with fewer colleges having very high ratios. The highest value calculated for 2001 was 11:1 at a single college, whilst only 10 colleges (4% 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: Ratio of f.t.e. students to all computers

More than 20:1 12:1 to 20:1 8:1 to 12:1 7:1 6:1 5:1 4:1 3:1 Better than 3:1 0 Better than 3:1 2001 2000 1999 5 1 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 2001 2000 1999

3:1 15 11 3

4:1 29 21 4

5:1 26 26 14

7:1 7 9 16

More 8:1 to 12:1 to than 12:1 20:1 20:1 4 11 33 0 1 7 3

% of colleges

A difference emerges between the types of colleges in level of resource. Sixth Form colleges have a median ratio of 4.1: 1, compared with 4.5:1 (identical to the overall median) for General Further Education colleges and 5.7: 1 for land-based colleges. The dispersion of values, as measured by both standard deviation and inter-quartile 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. An unpublished Becta study in August 1999 found a similar disparity between sixthform and general F.E. colleges, which seems to have persisted over time.

Access to Internet–enabled computers
The improvement in access to internet-enabled computers is significant, as Chart 8 below shows. The median number of f.t.e. students to computers with Internet access is now 4.95:1 indicating that the typical college has now achieved the FEFC target of 1: 5. This compares with a median of 21:1 in 1999, which had fallen to 7:1 by last year. 85% of colleges have now achieved 7:1 or better. In 1999, by contrast, the 85th 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 facility available to learners over the period of the NLN initiative.

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20 + 13 to 20 8 to 12 7 6 5 4 3 or better 0 3 or better 2001 2000 1999 17 5 0 10 4 26 16 1 20 5 21 13 2 6 14 15 4 30 7 10 11 5 40 8 to 12 9 18 21 50 13 to 20 2 7 14 20 + 1 14 51 60 2001 2000 1999

% of colleges

Chart 7: Ratio of f.t.e. students to Internet-enabled computers

4.2 Managing demand for student access
The improvement in the 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 fell to 39% last year and now stands at 28%, or just over a quarter of colleges.

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Chart 8: meeting student demand for computers

70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0
Unable to cope 1999 2000 2001 47 39 28 Able to cope 46 50 61 Cope with more demand 4 3 5 1999 2000 2001

% of colleges

Despite the scale of new investment, only one in twenty say that they could cope with more demand for computers, reinforcing the notion that the motorway effect is still in evidence. The same general picture applies to meeting demand for Internet access. Table 8 indicates that the number of colleges who are unable to meet current demand has fallen from just over a half in 1999 to exactly one-quarter. 11% report that they can cope with greater demand, twice as many as report themselves able to cope with greater demand for computers per se.

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Table 8
College capability

Meeting student demand for Internet access
2001

Cannot cope with current demand Can cope with current demand Can cope with greater demand Base = % of colleges

25 58 11

2000 39 45 7

1999 54 25 5

An important distinction separates colleges' ability to meet demand from the conditions of access. Queuing remains a feature of learners‟ access to computing facilities. Four out of every five colleges say that students may find it difficult to get on a machine at busy times. Half of these (44% of respondents) see unrestricted access for learners as a priority, though the continuing encroachment of the motorway effect into new stock may make this more difficult to sustain than to achieve. Access to the internet is relatively easier, assuming that a student has found a place at a computer. 44% of respondents now describe use of computers for internet access as easy at any time, whilst over a half (56%) report that learners are likely to queue at busy times.

Table 9
Bandwidth Easy at any time

Ease of internet use
2001

44 56 0 0

2000 34 62 1 3

Wait or queue at busy times Difficult outside lessons Limited access

4.3 Location of computers for learners
There has been a fall in the share of total stock made available to learners as open access. On average, 20% of college stock is described as open access, compared with 25% in 2000. The interquartile range suggests that from 12% to 33% of stock is made accessible this way in the middle 50% of colleges. Only 3% of colleges manage all the stock as open access, a figure which has fallen from 4.5% in 2000, while a mere 2% of colleges report no open access facility. This reduction in the proportion of stock managed as open access could be a matter of pragmatism rather than policy. This report has estimated that 100,000 new computers have been acquired by the sector in the past two years. Given the relative inflexibility of accommodation in most colleges, it was unlikely that it would be possible to house

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them all in open learning centres, even if college ILT managers believe open access to be more pedagogically effective or more efficient in terms of resource allocation. Managing open access to classroom-based computers is more problematical and less efficient than managing large open plan areas The sheer scale of new equipment, however, suggests that whilst the proportion of total stock made available on open access has fallen, the actual number of open access machines has risen. If this is true, then a preference for open access is still in evidence, but further moves in this direction are currently frustrated by the expense of knocking down brick walls. There is evidence of greater accessibility for learners to stock throughout the week. Almost three-quarters of all colleges (74%) now make some part of their computing facility available at the weekend, a substantial increase on 2000, when the figure was 60%. About one in four of the weekend colleges offer open access facilities only, whilst roughly the same number offer classroom access (and by implication, tutordirected activity) only. Those whose offer of computer access is restricted to daytime has fallen, from 4.5% last year to less than 2% of institutions in 2001. The survey explored conditions of access to stock, rather than computer use. The data suggest that at times when only part of the stock is in use, as may be the case at lunchtime, twilight sessions and at the weekend, the restricted access, classroombased stock that is used disproportionately less. College policy almost certainly supports this to the extent that a small number of large open access areas are more efficient to staff and administer than a larger number of relatively small classrooms. It may be inferred from this that whilst a typical college may have one machine in five as open access, the proportion of demand falling upon open access machines is greater than 20%. This may offer an explanation for the preponderance of colleges who cite queues at busy times, yet declare themselves more than able to meet demand: if only 20% of total stock is available on open access, a large number of the new machines are locked away behind classroom doors when learners want to use them. This clearly is not a simple problem to resolve. Accommodation is one of the more intractable elements of change within the ILT equation.

4.4 Access for Staff
The provision of computers for the exclusive use of staff has continued its steady improvement. The NLN target of 1 internet-connected computer for every permanent member of teaching and learning support staff has been achieved or bettered by only 15% of colleges, though a further 15% has achieved a ratio below 1.5:1. 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 is reaffirmed by the strategy updates for 2001 and 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 internet-connected computers to permanent staff,

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which has fallen from 3 staff for every machine in 2000, down to 1.9 in 2001. The figure imputed for 1999 (when the question was not directly asked) is 7:1.

Table 10: Median ratio of staff to Internet-connected computers
Bandwidth All staff 2001

3.5

2000 4.1 3.0

1999 12.0 7.0 **

1.9 Permanent staff ** Estimate based on 1999 data

Table 10 further shows the improvement in access to Internet enabled computers for all 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 3.5. We have chosen not to separately report the ratios between staff and all computers, including those without Internet capability, because they now differ little from the figures given in Table 6. This has come about from the increasing connection of staff computers to the college network. 95% of all computers set aside for staff use are now networked, and 98% of these are internet-connected.

4.5 Mode of access for staff
The improvement in staff access has accompanied a move towards giving staff their own designated machine. 27% of colleges now report that all or most staff have their own designated computer, compared with only 5% in 1999. One in five in 1999 relied upon most staff sharing computers with students. This has fallen through 10% in 2000 to only 6% now, though 40% still rely upon this mode of access for at least some staff. As Table 11 indicates, however, the characteristic mode of access for staff remains sharing a computer in a staff room.

Table 11: Staff access to computers
All/most Own designated computer Shared office computer Shared staff/student No access Some/few None

27
(16,5)**

68
(79,90)

1
(1,2)

60
(64,59)

35
(34,44)

1
(0,0)

6
(10,20)

40
(47,44)

37
(31,26)

5
(9,10)

75
(80,81)

Data = % of colleges. Figures in italics are values for (2000, 1999)

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Table 12 reveals college priorities changing in the light of the increase in available resource. Sole use of a computer for all staff remains low on the priorities of colleges (3%), whilst the achievement of a shared office computer is reported as a priority by 29%, a figure that has fallen from just over half of institutions in 1999.

Table 12:
Priority

Priorities for staff access
2001 15 29 2000 20 46 1999 18 51

To a computer Shared office computer Sole use Data = % of respondents

3

1

1

The relatively low number of responses to the choices presented in the survey should not be interpreted as indifference to the importance of providing suitable access to staff. A consistent theme emerging from the ILT strategy updates was a recognition by managers that staff confidence and skill with ILT will not develop without adequate access to computers in an environment in which they feel able to learn and to innovate.

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5. Uses of ILT
5.1 Staff Use of the LAN/ Intranet
The survey asked respondents to distinguish whether particular applications were in use (intermittent, occasional, small in scale) or whether they could be described as common practice within the institution. This distinction was not made in 1999, so limits direct comparability. Use by staff of the college LAN for email and Internet access is now virtually universal, both being reported by 99% of sector colleges. Both have become extensively embedded into organisational culture: staff accessing the Internet is described as common practice in 90% of colleges, a rise from 75% in 2000, whilst staff use of email is common in 82% of colleges (2000 =61% ). Equally significant, though smaller in scale, are increases reported in the use being made of networked applications to directly support learning and teaching, through storage and delivery of learning materials, advice and guidance and as a repository of course documentation.

Chart 9: Teaching and Learning uses of LAN

Advice & guidance Advice (common use) Course documents Documents (common use) Learning materials Materials (common use) 0 20 40 60 80 100 2001 2000 1999

% of colleges

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Chart 9 shows the dramatic increase in use of the LAN for these three areas of activity since 1999. The number of colleges in which staff make use of the LAN for advice and guidance has exactly doubled over the period, going from 43% to 86%. A total of 94% of colleges now make some use of the LAN for both learning materials and course document storage and access (1999 = 66%, 60% respectively). The extent of common use is less, but the data suggest that staff in nearly 20% of colleges are engaging in online delivery and support of learning as a regular part of professional practice. If it is truly the case that one in five colleges have achieved some degree of embedding of these activities into common practice, then this represents a significant step forward in the application of ILT with learners. This assertion must be interpreted in the light of considerable ambiguity in college strategies about what constitutes effective practice in ILT. This accompanies a continuing confusion in many colleges between IT/ ICT as both technology and learning outcome per se, and ILT as the application of IT/ICT to the achievement of learning outcomes in any and all subject areas. Few college strategies that were submitted for evaluation in Summer 2000 demonstrated a clear vision of ILT in this sense. The Strategy update process yielded even fewer who had refined their vision of the place of ILT within the overall teaching and learning strategy. These observations however should not detract from the fact that the data indicate a significant shift in practice since 1999 towards embedding ILT into staff practice in the vanguard of sector colleges

Table 13

Uses of the LAN/ Intranet by Staff
2001
Used Common Used

2000
Common Used

1999
Common

Email Learning materials Course documents Advice & guidance Internet access Videoconferencing

99 94 94 86 99 33

82 18 20 17 90 1

98 88 84 78 99 36

61 14 15 18 76 0

91 66 60 43 89 19

Videoconferencing is in evidence in one-third of colleges (19% in 1999), a slight fall on last year, but has only been taken into common practice by 1%. College strategy documents suggest that where videoconferencing is used, it is typically to facilitate meetings between staff rather than to support learners.

Table 14 shows student use of college LANs following a similar pattern to staff use, though typically tracking behind staff in the extent of use, most notably in the use of the LAN for email traffic. Internet access remains the principal use, though the other 31

activities have increased significantly. The data suggest that whilst the number of colleges using the LAN for the listed activities has increased over the past year, the extent of common use by students has not risen in train. The most intriguing aspect is use of the LAN to access course documents. Whilst the number of colleges in which staff both use and make common use of the LAN for storage of documents have risen, only 9% of colleges believe that students commonly access them at present,. The figures for staff and student participation in the other activities are more in accordance with expectations.

Table 14

Uses of the LAN/ Intranet by Students
2001
Used Common Used

2000
Common Used

1999
Common

Email Learning materials Course documents Advice & guidance Internet access Videoconferencing

88 87 82 78 97 23

50 16 9 15 85 0

82 80 75 71 99 28

39 16 11 15 76 1

64 74 45 45 91 10

Tables 15 and 16 show the uses made of the Internet by staff and students. The main common activities of both staff and students remain information gathering and e-mail. The marketing potential of the Internet is now exploited by virtually all colleges, typically through the medium of the college website. Two-thirds of the sample report using the Internet to support distance-learning, almost three times as many as in 1999, whilst 74% use the medium to offer advice and guidance. The number who use the web as common practice to support distance learning remains constant at 5%, suggesting that those newly engaged in the field are yet to convert small scale activity in distance learning into mainstream practice. This may be as much an issue of market perceptions as of technical capability and competence.

Table 15

Uses of the Internet by Staff
2001
Used Common Used

2000
Common Used

1999
Common

College marketing Information resource Support distance learning Admin/management Advice & guidance

94 99 67 83 74

45 78 5 35 13
32

96 100 50 72 61

40 65 5 31 11

83 100 26 45 25

Email

98

78

97

61

89

Table 16 again shows a similar picture of use by students, to that of staff. The twothirds of colleges that deliver distance learning on the Internet have students actively learning and one in twenty describe it as common practice. This may be an early indicator of the development of an active community of online tutors and students engaging remotely in learning throughout the sector‟s colleges.

Table 16

Uses of the Internet by Students
2001
Used Common Used

2000
Common Used

1999
Common

Information resource Support distance learning Advice & guidance Email

100 65 76 96

79 5 13 65

100 49 68 91

74 3 13 55

99 23 31 74

5.2 Access to Email

Chart 10: Email access

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Part time students

Full time students

Sessional staff

Personal address Shared address No access

Permanent staff

0

20

40
Sessional staff 20 4 76

60

80

100
Part time students 39 4 57

Permanent staff No access Shared address Personal address 3 2 95

Full time students 24 2 74

Data = % of colleges

Chart 10 shows the condition of access to email of different user groups within colleges. 95% of permanent staff now have a personal email address, whilst only 3% have no access to email. Over three-quarters of sessional staff have a personal address and a further 4% share one, leaving one in five sessional staff without a college email address. This may overstate the actual degree of engagement of sessional staff with email within college if it simply reflects automatic allocation of an address as part of the contract process for sessional staff. This notwithstanding, there is clearly in place a robust infrastructure for colleges who wish to rely upon electronic communications with staff; widespread subscription to college email now supplements well-developed intranets. 74% of colleges have all permanent staff on the email system, with 49% reporting full coverage of sessional staff. The respective values for full-time and part-time students are 54% and 37%. Almost one in four full-time students and two-fifths of part-time students have no access to college email services. This may be a measure of the degree to which colleges rely upon some types of external service to meet these needs and therefore understate the true extent of access to email for students. The split between provision of an internal service (40%) and an external service (48%) or both (11%) is almost unchanged from last year. The survey does not specifically identify reliance upon Hotmail or similar email provision. Only two colleges explicitly report that they offer no email service to learners.

5.3 Intranet and Extranet use
An Intranet is essentially a website that is internal to the institution. It has all of the capability of the Internet for storage of information in a variety of forms and for access and dissemination throughout the network. The sharing of such a facility, or

34

part of it, with external partners, such as other colleges or local businesses, may be termed an Extranet. As Chart 11 shows, Intranet skills and technology are widespread in the sector. 88% of colleges have an Intranet which is local to the institution, whilst a further 8% have developed a shared facility. The growth by 9% since 2000 in the number of colleges using an Intranet is offset by a reduction of 4% in the number sharing an Extranet.

Chart 11 : Intranet & Extranet

90 80 70 60 50 % of colleges 40 30 20 10 0 2000 2001 Intranet 79 88 Extranet 12 8 Platform None 9 4 2000 2001

5.4 Virtual Learning Environments and Student tracking
The survey used the term Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) as the sector‟s preferred term for software packages that constitute an environment in which to deliver online learning. 51 % of respondents stated that they currently use a VLE, a substantial increase on the 30% who were using them last year, though only 13 colleges describe their use as common practice. Colleges that use a VLE often have more than one: last year 78 colleges accounted for 111 VLEs. In 2001, 121 colleges shared 180 between them.

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A striking difference emerged between different types of college in their adoption of VLEs. Land-based colleges matched the overall take-up at 50% exactly. 61% of General F.E. colleges reported using VLEs, however, compared with only 27% of Sixth form colleges. This lends support to the anecdotal evidence of a view emerging from sixth form colleges that they do not see VLEs as a current priority and to the evidence arising from the sixth form colleges strategic updates. Many sixth form colleges are strategically committed to further development of the college intranet as platform for online learning and to whole class display technologies, such as electronic whiteboards and data projectors. The view is by no means unanimous, with several enthusiastic advocates of VLEs amongst the sixth form community, including those who are developing their own. Chart 12 below lists the most commonly cited VLEs in use in colleges. The listing is not complete. 14 other products were named, including learndirect, but in smaller numbers than those in the chart.. The most commonly cited commercial systems were Blackboard with 14% and Learnwise with 11% of the systems in use, both building from relatively small market share in 2000. WebCT , Virtual Campus and NetG Skill Vantage continued to be well used in 2001, each accounting for between 8% and 10% of the systems in use. The development and use of in house systems has ballooned, with 32 colleges accounting for just over 17% of the total systems reported, compared with only 10 in house developments noted in 2000. 16% of the in-house developments were reported to be in common use, with Blackboard accounting for the same percentage. The OnLinM community, based around Nathan Boddington‟s system developed at Leeds University , boasts the highest proportion of common usage at 25%, with 2 of the reported 8 systems so described by their colleges.

Chart 12: Most commonly cited VLEs in use

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In-house system

Learnwise

Blackboard

OnLinm
VLE Product

NetG Skill Vantage

2001 Common 2001 Used 2000 Common 2000 Used

WebCT

Virtual Campus

Lotus Learning Space

Fretwell Downing LE

0

10

20

30

number of colleges

5.5

Tracking Learner Activity

The number of colleges using systems to track learner activity has increased from 44% colleges in 2000 to 57% this year. As with VLEs , those colleges who use such software seem to be trialling or mixing and matching more than one product. The 132 colleges who identified themselves as users shared 236 systems, an average of 1.8 each. Fretwell Downing EBS was the most widely cited commercial product, with 12% of systems, while Easi-Track and BromCom wNET each accounted for approximately 10%. As in the case of VLEs, in-house bespoke system of some type, often based upon spreadsheet or database software are the most commonly used, making up 23%

37

or nearly twice as many as the commercial leader. A clear division emerges in the preferences (or needs) of different segments of the sector, with Easi-Track and Fretwell Downing systems mainly used by general FE colleges, whilst BromCom wNET is prominent in the sixth form college market.

Chart 13: Tracking Learner Activity

VLE

Tokairo

Dolphin 2001 Common 2001 Used 2000 Common 2000 Used
Product

In house

Easi-Track Fretwell Downing EBS BromCom wNET 0 10 20 30 40 50

% of systems

The data identify a further separation between general F.E. colleges and sixth form colleges. We noted the significant difference in take-up of VLEs. A possible reason might have been that sixth form colleges are more sceptical about ICT solutions, or more technophobic. Any such suggestion is readily dispelled by the observation that only 52% of general F.E. colleges use software to track learner activity compared with 77% of sixth form colleges.

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6. Staff skills
6.1 Staff IT and ILT Competence
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 timescale. More telling, however, was the belief that while respondents‟ assessments of the categories would not be identical, they 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 14.

Chart 14 IT and ILT skill levels

60 50 40

% of staff

30 20 10 0 IT ILT

IT ILT

Low 30 52

Medium 52 32

High 18 16

Across the sector as a whole, 70% 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 48% college staff are considered competent or advanced. (2000 = 42%). This suggests that one in three staff who are competent or advanced in their personal use of IT are regarded as low-skilled in the

39

application of ILT with learners. The results are the same in nature and similar to those found in Becta surveys of ILT in Wales and Scotland. As in both of those countries, a small number of colleges, 15 in this survey, considered a greater proportion of staff to be competent or advanced in their use of ILT in the classroom than in their personal use of IT. In four cases this difference was quite marked, in the others more marginal. It is evidence, nonetheless, of some staff development strategies that take learning applications, rather than office applications, as a starting point for staff competence. A further 35 colleges considered the proportion of combined competent and advanced groups to be the same in both skill sets, albeit typically with fewer advanced skills in ILT.

College strategy updates reaffirm a strong commitment to staff development, particularly to IT/ICT programmes such as ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence). Many explicitly recognise the need to take this further into development of pedagogical skills to underpin effective use of ILT. . The outcomes of the FENTO standards work, which LSDA is leading, are eagerly awaited as a guide to colleges and a stimulus to training providers and in-house support and many documents mention the staff development toolkit that NILTA is producing as part of its contribution to FENTO developments. The lack of an 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. The message that emerges from the updating of Strategy documents is that colleges feel ever more urgently that a major staff development effort is necessary if the investment in infrastructure is to be converted into better student learning experiences and outcomes.

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7. ILT Champions
ILT Champions are now to be found in 92% of sector colleges. 48% of colleges also have a Senior Management ILT Champion. The median number of Champions in a college is 3, with the Interquartile range (the middle 50% of colleges) stretching from 2 to 7, whilst the top 10% have more than 12, with 40 the maximum number recorded. There is no significant correlation, however, between numbers of Champions and staff numbers or student numbers, even amongst those colleges who only have a single Champion. Table 17 shows the reporting arrangements and organisational boundaries of Champions.

Table 17: Management of Champions
Report to Principal Vice Principal Department Heads IT/ ILT Manager Staff Development Other 4 27 20 27 6 16 Operate Within departments Cross college Both Other 30 14 53 3

Data = % of colleges with Champions

The 4% of colleges in which the Champion reports directly to the Principal include some very large colleges, for whom such an arrangement must be seen as a measure of top-level support for the Champion and for ILT within the college. In general the wide range of reporting arrangements reflects the variety of organisational structure within the sector. Over half of the colleges look to their Champions to have a brief which extends beyond their own Department, with only 1 in 7 making it an explicitly cross-college function without Departmental ties. Chart 15 shows the major functions that Champions perform. Again, there was considerable variation in the nature and number of functions undertaken by Champions. No single function is common to all Champions, nor even close to being common. The most frequently cited functions are support of staff, development of materials and identification of resources. Support of staff is reported as part of the Champions role by two out of three colleges. Materials production (58%) and discovery (44%) emerge as significant roles. 32 colleges have Champions whose sole function is one or other of these learning content development roles. Contributing to the training of staff is the other key function, carried out by Champions in 41% of colleges. The most common bundlings of key tasks see the Champions combine either materials development or materials discovery with training and other support

41

for staff (20% of colleges ) or both materials development and discovery with staff support (23%). It seems reasonable to infer that the most pressing current issue for Champions in the majority of colleges is helping to find suitable content and to support staff in its use. It seems equally plausible to suggest a causal connection between this focus of Champion activity and the NLN funding for in-house materials development.

Chart 15 : The key tasks of ILT Champions

Supporting staff Developing materials Identifying resources Training staff Managing Intranet 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

% of colleges Managing Intranet Series1 14 Training staff 41 Identifying resources 44 Developing materials 58 Supporting staff 68

The remission from teaching responsibilities that Champions receive varies from none at all in one-third of colleges, up to more than 10 hours per week in one in twelve. Half of colleges allow between one hour and five hours per week for Champions to carry out their duties, with an average of 3 hours. Additional support and resourcing typically takes the form of a computer and/or training opportunities, both reported by 63% of colleges. 17% make a dedicated workspace available to the Champions. Only 3 colleges reported that they offer salary enhancement to their Champions. Nine colleges reported no additional support to their Champions; seven of these also give no remission. Intriguingly, however, they include a number of colleges who have a good track record of ILT development.

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8
8.1

Access in the community
Providing access in the community Plans for community ILT access
2001 No plans to engage Future possibility Firm plan Currently engaged

Table 18

9 21 24 48

2000 7 24 31 38

1999 7 26 31 35

% of colleges Table 18 shows a substantial increase since 2000 in the percentage of colleges actively providing community ILT access, with nearly half of all colleges engaged, and a consequent fall in the number still at the planning stage. The survey was not framed in a way that allows us to separate the influence of initiatives such as UKonline on the raised level of activity.

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Other Learning Centres Public Libraries Local Authorities HE Centres Schools Businesses Outreach centres 0 10 20 30 40 50 Partnership Permanent Dial-up

% of colleges

Chart 16 indicates the main types of partner organisation and shows the percentage of colleges with formal partnerships with each type of organisation. The distribution of partnerships shows little change from 2000, with links to H.E., learning and outreach centres numerically the greatest. Over 80% of electronic links with schools, libraries and businesses tend to be dial-up rather than permanent, whilst for links with local authorities and outreach centres the split is more like 50:50. Only in partnerships with HE institutions and learning centres do permanent links predominate.

8.2

Use of community links

There has been little change in the scale of use made of community links for teaching and learning over the last year. Delivery of learning materials remains the prime use of these links, with just under half of all colleges in the sample reporting some activity in this area. One college in twelve reports that community access to learning materials is common practice. Around 30% of colleges offer learning programmes that include remote submission of assessed work, online advice and guidance, together with contact with tutors and peers. This practice is typically small in scale. It is described as common practice by only 2% of colleges, which has changed little since last year. 25% of college now provide access via ILT for home-based learners, compared with 19% in 2000. A further 29% report firm plans to do so. The survey did not seek to measure the scale of these ventures, but rather the extent to which colleges are using the potential of ILT to reach out into the community. The results suggest an increasing commitment within the sector to develop and extend online modes of learning.

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Appendix : Messages from the Strategy updates
Background
Colleges within the sector were asked to submit an update of their ILT strategy, noting any significant changes over the intervening period and identifying any particular achievements or problems. The documents received from colleges are free form text statements built around the same framework as the original strategy documents. Colleges were encouraged to submit their own reports, using a proforma as a checklist, or to complete and submit the proforma as a free-standing document. The responses do not lend themselves readily to quantitative analysis. This section looks to use the themes and messages that emerge from the whole body of strategy update information as qualitative data to supplement and illuminate the quantitative responses to the survey.

ILT Vision
Few colleges revisited their vision statements. A small minority of colleges in the original tranche of strategies articulated a clear vision of the impact of ILT on the student experience and learning outcomes. While the updates give some indication of this group increasing in size, it is clear that there is no commonly shared sense of what successful ILT might look like in colleges. There is continuing confusion, moreover, about the concepts of IT, ICT and ILT and the differences between these. The notion that ILT must be embedded into a whole college teaching and learning strategy is, however, beginning to have an impact on colleges, particularly those with active Champions working to a clear brief from senior management. Many colleges see ILT as a tool for improving retention and achievement, but lack a coherent model of how this might be brought about. An increasing number recognise that ILT can contribute to the achievement of some mission-critical goals, such as widening participation. Recognition of the potential for ILT to be integral to the achievement of key strategic goals and fundamentally intertwined and entangled in other strategies emerges as a thread running through some of the updates. This is in contrast to the first versions, which were largely silent or lacked detail on the contribution of ILT to broader outcomes. There is, however, little evidence of systematic evaluation of the impact of ILT on learning, or indeed on any other college outputs or processes.

Managing the Strategy.
Nearly all colleges have a cross-college management / steering group for ILT, which meets on a regular basis and reviews action plans and developments, typically chaired by a Vice Principal or Assistant Principal and on which ILT Champions or identified practitioners are present. Regardless of hierarchy and reporting arrangements, ILT Champions are mentioned as central to the management of the ILT strategy and in the majority of colleges have an input into the strategic process, which is seen as a strength. The potential of this for building a more sophisticated vision of learning and teaching with ILT is promising, insofar as it gives those who are closest to learners a voice in ILT strategic planning.

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An increasing number of colleges mention the role of Governors and Corporation involvement in ILT and managing the strategy; this however is often limited to finance and/or policy issues.

Infrastructure
There was considerable uniformity in the area of infrastructure, fully supporting the findings of the survey. The strategy updates confirm the quantitative evidence that colleges have prioritised infrastructure targets in the first phase of the NLN, with particular focus on computers for learners and on local area network infrastructure, in line with their original action plans. The connection to Janet is universally regarded as having a positive impact and is explicitly identified by some as a stimulus to upgrading the LAN and inter-site links. A number of colleges felt that they were behind in terms of infrastructure and technical developments. A copy of the previous Becta survey report was enclosed with the published guidance for colleges on completing a strategy update and it is clear that this has been used to benchmark infrastructure developments against sector norms. Three elements arise from the strategies that are not directly addressed by the survey. There is increasing mention of wireless solutions for connectivity and laptops, compared with the original strategies, particularly for use in remote locations or inaccessible areas of campus sites. The logistical and cost benefits of extending the reach of the LAN without the expense and disruption of installing physical cable are typically reported as driving these developments, rather than the pedagogical advantages of freeing learning from fixed locations. A second element of planned infrastructure development sees increasing investment in whole class teaching equipment such as electronic whiteboards and data projectors, together with presentation software such as Powerpoint and peripherals such as scanners and digital cameras. The purpose of such specialised equipment and software can only be the creation or adaptation of materials and their use for learning and teaching, which is pleasing evidence of investment driven by educational outcomes. “There is now an increased demand by staff for access to PCs, and to electronic whiteboards, data projectors, PowerPoint and scanners.” ( F.E.College, North West) The question of sustainability of the IT infrastructure is high on colleges‟ lists of concern, particularly in view of the massive investments made in the last two years and the prospect of repeating these at the end of computers‟ active lives, which are generally believed to coincide with the standard three year depreciation period. Implicitly, many colleges anticipate that machines will eke out a brief life beyond the three year horizon, but the rapid clear out of the 486s and Pentium I‟s must cause many to question this assumption. Sustainability of technical staffing infrastructure is also an issue. Common themes are the difficulty of recruiting suitable staff and the problems of keeping them when trained. “ Whilst we are large for a 6th form college, with relatively small teams of IT specialists we are vulnerable to the effects of staff turnover and recruitment difficulties, although we have tackled this with some success by growing our own.” (Sixth Form College, London)

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Physical location of computers
An interesting trend to emerge from the strategy revisions is the establishment of specialist curriculum based or learner needs based learning centres. These supplement, or in some cases may even replace, general open access to computing with an approach to resources which gathers together similar curriculum materials, including but often not solely, computer-based content. This is designed to engage teaching staff with resources relevant to their particular subject specialism and to marshal support for learners working towards specific qualifications or learning outcomes. A variant is to be found in the development of subject or curriculum area portals into the college intranet. “The establishment of learning gateways for curriculum areas enables and supports the integration of ILT into the curriculum” ( FE College, South West)

ILT in Learning and Teaching
“ Changing the culture of teaching and learning is now ongoing as staff increase IT skills and their confidence with new technology. This has resulted in recognition and enthusiasm in accepting the opportunities that ILT brings to learners and staff…. [There are] problems in providing sufficient good ILT materials to meet demand due to the lengthy process of producing home grown materials and the lack of good affordable off the shelf materials” (FE College, South West) The development of the college Intranet as a tool to assist learners is noted as central to learning and teaching in college strategies. There is, moreover, as we have noted a growing interest in specific hardware and software to support whole class teaching modes. IT Key skills are widely viewed as an achievable and effective application of ILT. There is increasing evidence of the use of on-line initial assessment of key skills, particularly during induction, and a learner-centred approach to key skills managed through open access learning centres by learning support staff. This is facilitated by the ready availability of high quality online learning materials for not only IT key skills, but also the other key skill elements. The lack of suitable materials for other curriculum areas and limited staff skills to produce or adapt them is a theme that runs though many strategies. This explains why the core duty of so many Champions was found by the survey to be materials search and development, together with assistance for staff who wish to build them into learning experiences and activities. Several colleges explicitly recognise the NLN materials and other centrally funded sources including the JISC DNER as an essential foundation for future development of effective learning and teaching with ILT.

Managed Learning Environments
The influence of the debate around ensuring full integration of information systems rang out in this section of the update. Planned developments fell into three distinct categories. Those colleges which already have a VLE are concerned to address the issue of full integration of systems towards a MLE and of ensuring interoperability between the VLE and other systems, particularly MIS. For the second group, those 47

who were yet to make a decision, the issue of interoperability dominates the choice mechanism. The third group have, or are developing, an in-house system, often built around their existing Intranet for delivery of learning materials, with a view to ensuring interoperability, a view summed up well by the quote below: “Last year we spent a considerable amount of time investigating commercial VLEs on the market and as a consequence have come to the conclusion that none seem to be able to offer what we require. The final decision was to develop our own VLE with the intention of integrating it with our MIS system to create a MLE” ( FE College, London) Colleges‟ concerns about VLEs, as expressed in the strategy updates, are with interoperability rather than learning (though the structure of the checklist that framed responses may well have invited such an answer). Colleges accept the broad concept of a Managed Learning Environment as a fully integrated whole college information system, built upon learner information used and generated by the learning platform. Strategic debate is around selection of a VLE rather than its implementation and the key determinant of choice is seamless data exchange with other information systems. This focus leads many colleges to the position that easy interoperability with the current MIS is an essential determinant of the choice of VLE. This might reflect a view amongst colleges that the teaching and learning functionality of most VLEs differ so little, one from another, that such differences are not critical to the choice process. It might equally reflect a greater understanding of information systems within colleges than of the pedagogy of online learning platforms. There is widespread commitment to the continued use and further development of existing intranets as the principal platform for college-wide online learning, even in many colleges that have bought and are developing VLEs. This view is particularly common amongst Sixth form colleges, supporting the findings of the survey, but is also to be found in General FE and land-based colleges. Underlying this is an unwillingness to shift away from successful practice, hard won experience and commitment from staff.

Staff Development
The survey identifies a critical gap between skills in personal use of IT and ILT skills, defined as the use of ICT with learners. The strategy updates reinforce the message that the majority of colleges have made little progress towards closing that gap, at least partly because of uncertainty about what constitutes an appropriate ILT skillset for staff and, by implication, the differing skillsets that may be required by different staff roles and functions. Staff Development proposals in the strategy updates range from sketchy outlines of global intentions to detailed whole organisation staff development plans. For the majority of colleges, staff development centres on IT skills, with ECDL the most popular vehicle. Some have moved on to consider other qualifications, but the focus is very much on the personal use of IT. Often this is addressed in house through staff training centres and in a few cases the appointment of a permanent full time IT staff trainer. A relatively small number of colleges feel that they have conducted detailed staff development for ILT, some through staff involvement in programmes such as Lettol (Learning to teach online), whilst others have developed in house provision.

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The ILT standards are eagerly awaited from FENTO and some colleges explicitly note the proposed NILTA staff development toolkit. Not all colleges are looking for a route to certificated training for staff. “The original ILT Strategy underestimated the amount of time and effort required to achieve the targets concerning staff qualification in ILT…. It was also found that many staff were not enthusiastic about the acquisition of actual qualifications. The strategy will now encourage staff to accrue ILT skills but not necessarily qualifications.” (Sixth Form College, London)

ILT Champions
The significance of ILT Champions within colleges is indicated by the number of times they have already been mentioned in this report. The quote below is typical : … “ a core of well trained ILT champions are now in place in each curriculum area to drive the strategy forward. Use of the standards fund initiative will allow ILT Champions time to work together as a group and to work towards targets and ensure that the required outcomes are met.” (FE College, South East) The broad impact of Champions on curriculum development has been noted, as has their role in developing and managing the strategy. Champions are used for a variety of purposes, including staff development, materials development, communication of the strategy and assisting in the selection of a VLE. The survey‟s identification of materials search and development as a major focus of current activity is confirmed by the strategies.

Access In The Community
Outreach into the community is recognised by managers as one of the more obvious ways in which ILT can contribute to the overarching mission and strategic goals of the organisation. Most colleges have established IT Learning Centres as outreach beyond their main campuses, often in popular locations including town centres, social centres and pubs This provision is being targeted at basic skills and widening participation by increasing accessibility. The UK Online initiative and associated funding are widely welcomed, both as a source of funding and as potential partners in delivery and in bringing access to nontraditional learners.

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