Internet cooperation in school networks

Jisc have provided a number of short case studies of effective practice for CPD for teachers in Further Education Colleges which are used as examples in this report.

Example: Hull College, UK

Hull College is supporting teachers who lack e-confidence. An e-learning team demonstrate new techniques in short sessions each week called the ‘Small change, big difference’ programme. The college Principal (school Director) takes the lead on Yammer, which is used as a social space for staff, posting messages of congratulation about the good practice she sees around the college. The e-learning team post messages on Yammer about their training sessions as well. These range from how to integrate social media into teaching to using mobiles for learning

Mobile learning


UNESCO-UNEVOC’s has organised a workshop bringing attention to the approaches and innovations in TVET-oriented practices that have adopted the use of mobile technology to improve the skills and content delivery by teachers and trainers. These initiatives, they say, will illustrate the synergy between mobile technology, teacher-trainers digital skills and pedagogy to be able to transform TVET teaching and learning environments. The workshop will not discuss how important mobile is in teaching and learning but rather concentrate on the need for technology and teacher-trainer preparedness on skills training and vocational education.

Elearning coaches

Example: Reaseheath College UK

Reaseheath College introduced its e-learning team model in September 2015 to ensure that the best combination of technical, specialist and curriculum knowledge was available to enhance the curriculum. Developing the digital literacy skills of staff and learners was key to the strategy in line with FELTAG recommendations.

In the Reaseheath model, e-learning coaches act as a capillary network within the college, supporting and supplying staff with ideas and training and acting as the eyes and ears of their departments. These eight individuals from subject areas across the college, who have a passion and understanding of ILT, have weekly remission from their teaching commitments to support and develop staff digital literacy. For content creation, a digital developer is included in the team to support the coaches.

Overseeing this team is an eLearning coordinator, who is also involved in the teacher training programme at the college, ensuring that the college’s teachers of tomorrow are aware of the benefits of digital, and are equipped with the skills needed to succeed. Other initiatives include drop-in digital literacy sessions for teachers and learners, and a “learner voice” element in quality review weeks.

Since the introduction of the team, the college has seen a substantial increase in the use of the VLE by both learners and teachers (an increase of 165% and 569% respectively), along with a significant increase in the effective use of technology through observations of teaching and learning practise. Innovative practice such as augmented reality, app development and 360 video are all being developed for use within specific curriculum areas with the help and support of the e-learning team.

Gloucester College has a team of three digital learning coaches who support staff to develop their digital capabilities in a variety of ways:

  • New members of staff are supported by digital learning coaches and complete a college-specific digital MOT and the discovery tool during induction. The digital MOT introduces them to the essential systems used by the college and ascertains any additional training needs. After completing the discovery tool, new staff members are encouraged to share the personalised report generated by the tool with their coach who will work with them to build a tailored development plan. In addition to facilitating responsive support, it also serves as a record of the starting point for that member of staff which, together with evidence of achievement, can be used to support the six-month probationary review
  • Existing members of staff are invited to complete the discovery tool on college development days when they also have an opportunity to ask questions and discuss their findings with digital learning coaches. The relationship to learning and teaching is reinforced through other staff development initiatives such as observations and learning walks
  • The library team are engaging with the discovery tool, sharing their results with colleagues and pairing up so that those who are confident in any given area can support those who are less so

Professional development courses in the Internet (E-Learning)

The European Training Foundation (2018) has published a report on Digital Skills and Competence, and Digital and Online Learning. They say Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is “essential to improve the digital competence of teachers and to facilitate a more regular use of new technologies in teaching and learning.”

Distance Online Learning is seen as an opportunity to improve the efficiency of CPD at modest cost in countries where teacher training is unlikely to improve rapidly, (World Bank, 2016, p. 33). Distance Online Learning is seen as offering “easy and affordable, often free, platforms for networking, peer-learning and online collaboration” and of particular value in VET “where CPD needs to target heterogeneous groups of teachers and trainers operating in diverse contexts, including teachers at school, and trainers/workers in the workplace or in training centres.” They go on to say “large-scale CPD programmes through virtual communities and online events that can act as agents for change or transmitters of professional development (Imants, 2003)” providing the Western Balkan and Turkey region there are already a number of virtual platforms associated with professional development for VET as examples.

Open online courses (MOOCs)

Perhaps the most visible development in the Open and Distance Learning landscape in the past three years has been the spread of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) providing free access to education for sometimes thousands of participants. MOOCs have been embraced by Higher Education organisations wishing to extend access to courses and by private organisations seeking to develop new business models for education.

MOOCs have been criticised for their lack of support for learners and for low completion rates; while others point to the large numbers who do complete courses and that learners are free to access those parts of courses that they wish.[4]

Experiments continue with different pedagogical approaches, with the UK, Open University led OpenLearn consortium[5] advocating a social learning approach whereby learners themselves support each other.

Despite their origin in North America and Europe, Kanwar (2016) has drawn attention to the steady growth of MOOCs in Asia. This includes Peking University, who offer Chinese language MOOCs for both students and members of the public and JMOOC in Japan which targets home makers and senior citizens. Malaysian MOOCs supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, are also meant for students and members of the public.

However, Roberto Rey Agudo (2019) considers that while MOOC platforms bring high-quality educational content to learners anywhere, particularly in the developing world, “they do so by catering mostly to a selective sliver of the population.”[6] The major reason for this is the predominance of the English language in MOOC provision.

Coursera has 181 partners in 27 countries; edX has 130 partners worldwide. In spite of their international reach, English is the language of instruction for over 80 percent of their courses.

This trend is more pronounced in MOOC platforms. A search for Java programming courses on edX finds 60 courses from institutions in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Guatemala, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the United States. 56 of those 60 courses are delivered in English with four offered in Mandarin and none in Spanish, Cantonese, German, Dutch or French.

Agudo says: “English creates a barrier of inequality for many. Worldwide, proficiency in English is a marker of socioeconomic privilege — as is access to a stable internet connection or the digital literacy required to navigate online courses.”

Nevertheless, the Nigerian Ambassador to UNESCO, Mariam Y Katagum, draws attention to South Africa as a country embracing MOOCs and points to the opportunity of access, cost-effectiveness and quality education as the most prominent benefits of online courses, while the possibility of massive roll-out and participation is peculiar to MOOCs[7]. She sees as barriers not only issues of connectivity and access to computers but also the privatisation of universities, contributing to the absence of government policy in promoting MOOCs as well as a lack of public funding.

Despite early hype that MOOCs would disrupt education, both public and private MOOC providers have struggled to develop business models to sustain provision. Charging for accreditation has provided only limited income and some private sector providers are now turning towards more traditional closed commercial provision or are charging for access to online courses.  Again MOOCs can be based in public education structures/systems so that business models are not necessary though there may be a charge for certification.

UNESCO has some experience and engagement with MOOCs. In 2014 UNESCO’s Institute of IT in Education (IITE) together with the University of London launched its first Massive Online Open course (MOOC) on ‘ICT in primary education’. More than 7000 participants from 166 countries were registered, with over 3000 participants from emerging economies.

With support from the European Commission, UNESCO has participated in the Globalizing OpenupEd MOOCs’ initiative in Africa working with the Africa Council for Distance Education (ACDE), and in Asia working with the Asian Association for Open Universities (AAOU).

References and Footnotes

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