New research finds resilient and reliable IT infrastructure remains key to the future of EdTech in FE colleges

A new study published by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has found that, despite considerable advancements in EdTech, the key to fuller implementation of digital technology in Further Education still lies in ensuring the fundamentals, such as a reliable IT infrastructure and appropriate classroom design, are in place, alongside a clear, digital strategy at the institutional level.

In March 2018 the ETF commissioned Sero Consulting to conduct interviews and focus groups in in FE colleges with senior managers, eLearning coordinators, curriculum managers and mainstream lecturers to identify the main barriers and enablers to the embedding of learning technology in their practice. This coincided with the publication of the ETF’s Training Needs Analysis1. which identified digital skills as a key development area for the FE profession in order to confidently meet the current set of reforms.

The main barriers identified by staff at the three colleges interviewed in March for the study in March were:

  • Restrictions caused by classroom design, including access to wifi / hardware
  • Lack of staff confidence in their digital skills
  • Difficulties in accessing digital resources and lack of opportunities to share good practice
  • Lack of time for digital content creation
  • Unreliable IT infrastructure.

Some of the staff interviewed said they felt insufficiently equipped to opportune from successive new technologies that were being introduced.

In areas of successful usage of digital in their colleges, the main enablers identified by staff were:

  • Reliable IT – infrastructure and wifi; digital content creation (with time allowing)
  • Availability of Just In Time (JIT) training at appropriate times
  • Reward and recognition systems for staff
  • Use of tools and materials from external organisations
  • Staff-student partnerships
  • Specific examples of software and hardware.

The study concludes that college senior leaders have a critical role to play in embedding learning technology in their organisations through developing and managing a digital strategy. It recommended that senior leadership establish clearer lines of communication, which value bottom-up suggestions for improving use of technology, and enable wider dissemination of effective learning technology materials.  The researchers also recommended colleges identify and support an elearning manager, and that the leadership team should take overall responsibility for ensuring that the IT infrastructure is robust, reliable and resilient.

Vikki Liogier, Head of Learning Technologies at the Education and Training Foundation said:

“Best practice in new technologies and enhanced teaching, learning and assessment are often well publicised and celebrated. Such achievements and innovative approaches are effective and inspirational but they are not always representative of standardised practices across an organisation. They may give a distorted view, concealing the extent of the challenges the Further Education sector is facing in digital transformation.


“The Education and Training Foundation’s remit is to support the sector’s workforce development inclusively and encourage every member of staff to take a step, no matter how small, on their digital developmental journey. It’s important to keep in mind that EdTech must serve a pedagogic outcome rather than to be an end in itself.”


Read the full report


1 The ETF’s TNA report found that 40 % of advanced practitioners and 38% of lecturers, teachers and tutors expressed a need for further training in digital technology to comfortably meet the reforms in technical education.



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