Investment and capital infrastructure

Summary: Investment and capital infrastructure workstream
This workstream identified how Investment and capital infrastructure might enable all providers within the FE system to use Learning Technology (LT) more effectively and support learners. Key themes include:
– Ensuring that each FEI has sufficient bandwidth for its needs and a robust, backed-up connection;
– Exploiting opportunities for low-cost collective licence, shareable online content;
– Standardising IP agreements for FE & Skills sector to develop innovation.

Draft recommendations:

  1. Common principles for a common purpose: Government, Agencies and FE providers should agree principles for investment in learning technology and ensure that investment is aligned to the wider development of the sector. Investment should only occur where these agreed principles are met
  2. A case for investment: ICT-related FE projects requesting public funds must set out how the investment will enhance teaching capability and how the investment will be implemented (milestones, personal accountability etc); ICT investment must also require that teachers and support staff understand how to get the best out of the new equipment and software
  3. Fast and robust: Each FEI should have enough bandwidth for its needs and a robust connection. Dependancy on the Internet for education and all aspects of business use is increasing, as is demand for greater bandwidth. Both aspects underpin the sector’s ICT
  4. SMT and Board of Governors members must be personally accountable for the high-quality delivery of all aspects of their institution’s learning technology. ICT must be recognised as an essential part of all aspects of each FE institution, not simply as a ‘bolt-on’ but is an integral part of all developments
  5. Past their shelf life: ensure regulatory rules for capital investment keep pace with technology. Rules on the use of capital funds are outdated and do not reflect technological developments. For example, cloud computing and online software (such as Office 365) are not being fully exploited due to current rules, irrespective of value for money
  6. Licence to Thrill: exploit opportunities for low-cost collective licence, shareable online content
  7. Standardise IP agreements for the FE and Skills sector to enhance innovation. IPR is complex and legal advice is costly. Developing standard sets of agreements and advice could de-mystify IPR and make significant savings and lead to greater commercialisation of ed tech (increased exports and/or inward investment)
  8. Avoiding derailment: TSB/JISC to collaboratively deliver greater support to ed tech innovation to address the poor track record in the UK of commercialising ed tech. Focus on the ‘valley of death’ stage between innovation and monetisation. Get FEIs to drive ed tech innovation by asking ed tech businesses to identify tailored solutions to their specific problems
  9. Snow Days: FEIs and other providers to allow sufficient time for key staff to think creatively about using LT. Increasing ICT use imposes demands on ICT support staff and may limit their ability to keep abreast of new technologies or to think strategically. Could JISC’s RSCs coordinate interested organisations and discuss ideas with providers setting aside term days to address this

Your views:

  • Building on these proposals, what specific changes to investment and capital infrastructure are needed to make the biggest difference to you?
  • Can you suggest any good mechanisms for achieving these recommendations?
  • Are there other issues relating to investment and capital infrastructure that should be considered?

Rate the investment workstream:
In your opinion, how useful are these draft recommendations on investment ( 5 = very, 1 = not at all).

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Investment and capital infrastructure, 3.0 out of 5 based on 2 ratings

6 thoughts on “Investment and capital infrastructure

  1. Ian Lynch

    There are already opportunities for development and transfer and innovation through the EU Lifelong Learning programme, now Erasmus+, There needs to be some joined up thinking here. What has already been done in these projects? What can we learn from them about what not to do as well as what to do. We still have government agencies and the DfE collecting data in word processing documents in an age of web forms. We have publicly funded organisations using obsolete web browsers. While this is the case, how likely is it that on-line applications such as Google Hangouts and Google drive will be used routinely? These applications are well-established outside schools and colleges. Central government departments have a key role to play in providing the leadership by doing it themselves first.

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  2. Crispin Weston

    The general approach outlined here is for more top-down bureaucracy – the main source of all the problems in the past. I do not share Ian’s optimism for Erasmus – I do not see that any of the European-funded projects have achieved any practical or sustainable improvements in TEL/ed-tech. But I do agree that government departments should tend their own back yards, in terms of improving their methods of data collection etc.

    The emphasis on free software and aggregated procurement will continue to place the emphasis on buying low-quality technology and repressing genuine innovation. The main expense in all education systems is staffing, often managed inefficiently. If you want to save money overall, you should be encouraging innovation in high-value education-specific technologies. Almost everything you are proposing here will block such developments.

    One point that I agree with is the desirability of standardising IP and other legals. But this should not be done by clumsy bureaucratic imposition – rather, you should create a competitive environment which incentivises suppliers to do it themselves.

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    1. Ian Lynch

      I expressed no optimism for Erasmus just that there has been a lot of money spent on it so it makes some sense not to just keep blindly spending more ignoring what has been achieved in the past.

      Since the whole internet is built on free software its rather laughable to assume it represses genuine innovation. Instead of constantly chasing rainbows, maybe we should actually achieve some results from what is already available.

      Better to support new business models that can sustain innovation without needing constant grant inputs rather than assuming throwing money at education specific technologies will work when it never has been sustainable in the past.

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  3. Lee Bryant

    It would be great if there was more partnership working with HE in terms of infrastructure and resources. We share the same network could we share same suppliers etc? Perhaps Purchasing Partnerships or Groups could be formed.
    Another key consideration is renewal, how often have we seen in the sector that money for a project is awarded and then is no future opportunity to renew or update because that additiional funding isn’t there.

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  4. David Phillips

    We fully support these recommendations, and believe that they will enable providers to use Learning Technology more effectively and support learners.

    Public funds for investment will inevitably be limited and so Recommendation 2 (the need to make a clear case for the benefits of new technology when requesting public funding) is critical. The case for investment should not only refer to the evidence that exists already to demonstrate the value of the proposed project, but should clearly set out the evidence that will be collected from the outcomes. It is essential that there are mechanisms in place to evaluate the efficacy of each project to ensure that investment is made only in those areas where it will have a demonstrable positive impact.

    Investment will also be made by suppliers and developers as well, and so Recommendation 8 also makes complete sense – products and services must start with FE identifying their needs. This might be at the level of individual institutions, but there should be no barriers to formal or informal groupings of FEIs identifying those needs. There is a tension between local innovation and duplication or fragmentation of solutions that will need to be considered and managed. However the tie-in with Recommendation 2 remains critical, and both the supplier and users must have auditable systems and processes in place to measure and report on the extent to which the solution addresses the specific problem identified.

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  5. Helen Milner

    As you start to invest in new technologies there is a need to ensure that the people working with them are up to speed with them and know how to get the best out of them. Infrastructure is also about learning platforms as well as equipment and bandwidth. At Tinder Foundation we are currently in the process of launching a Rapid Course Development Tool – it will be called Course Builder – which will enable tutors, volunteers and learners to create their own courses about any subject they want. Because it is integrated with Learn My Way – the learner and learning data is also all integrated, so tracking learning is simple, as well as creating overall ‘provider’ management information. Course Builder is free to all UK online centres and has been developed in Open Source.
    We make Learn My Way – the courses and learning platform – available to others via an affordable license. We have the ability to embed Learn My Way individual courses into any other website, complete with learner tracking.

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