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Technology needs – skills deficits, competences or learning opportunities?

March 24th, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Last Friday I attended a seminar on e-learning 3.0at the British Library organised by Bryony Taylor, Senior Policy Advisor for Technology Enhanced Learning at Lifelong Learning UK. The ideas behind it were pretty neat – to bring together researchers, practitioners and policy makers from from higher education, further education, libraries and community learning to debate and identify the needs of the lifelong learning workforce in a rapidly changing world. And, fair play to the organisers, instead of the usual sit and listen policy events, there was opportunity for discussio0n and debate.

The symposium was chaired by David Melville, Chair of LLUK and Chair of the Committee of Inquiry into the Changing Learner Experiences (the report is well worth reading).

There were four short inputs (called ‘think pieces’). Laura Overton spoke on Towards Maturity – the changing nature of work place learning, Damien Kilkenny from Preston College spoke on the changing nature of learning in further education, Phil Bradley talked about the changing nature of learning in libraries and I spoke on the changing nature of learning in higher education.

The major aim of the seminar was to identify the key training needs of the education workforce and this is where things got interesting. The organisers had thought we could do this by identifying competences needed to cope with changing technology and by finding the gaps between the present skills of the workforce and future skill requirements. But, despite the diverse backgrounds of participants, almost all of us rejected this approach. The question was not one of competences or skills deficiencies we said, but rather to identify learning opportunities. And, one of the most important needs, we felt, was for staff to have time for learning.

Anyway here are the official outcomes as documented on the Learning 3.0 Ning web site.

“The group identified that the needs of learning professionals today are a mixture of skills, competencies, attitudes and behaviours. The main workforce needs identified included:

  • A new mind-set – recognition of the need to change and willingness to change
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Resilience
  • Digital life skills
  • Mentoring and coaching skills
  • Facilitation skills
  • Ability to manage online identities/online presence
  • Ability to self-evaluate new technologies for their use in teaching and training
  • Curating online content made by others

What are the recommendations for addressing the workforce needs identified? Some of the recommendations of the group included:

  • Showcase good practice from across the lifelong learning sector which highlights the benefits of using technology.
  • Identify the barriers to effective use of technology and make recommendations as to how these can be overcome.
  • Ensure all staff in the lifelong learning sector are given time to learn and develop as part of their job.
  • Create a network of volunteer mentors and coaches for digital life skills in lifelong learning.
  • Create a digital life skills framework for learning professionals which includes skills in:
    • Managing your organisation’s/department’s online presence
    • Managing online identities
    • E-portfolios
    • Safety and security online
    • Self-evaluation
  • Identify how practitioner”

Short videos of the introductions and so0me of the discussions are also available on the web site. Here are excerpts from my presentation (note – the audio recording level is very low – you will need to turn up the volume).

Find more videos like this on Learning 3.0

Find more videos like this on Learning 3.0

Find more videos like this on Learning 3.0

Find more videos like this on Learning 3.0


  1. Interesting blog posts on the skills requirements of teaching/training staff for the future

  2. he needs of learning professionals today are a mixture of skills, competencies, attitudes and behaviours

  3. One of the most important needs was for staff to have time for learning.

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    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.

    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time

    Postgrad pressure

    Research published this year by Vitae and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) and reported by the Guardian highlights the pressure on post graduate students.

    “They might suffer anxiety about whether they deserve their place at university,” says Sally Wilson, who led IES’s contribution to the research. “Postgraduates can feel as though they are in a vacuum. They don’t know how to structure their time. Many felt they didn’t get support from their supervisor.”

    Taught students tend to fare better than researchers – they enjoy more structure and contact, says Sian Duffin, student support manager at Arden University. But she believes anxiety is on the rise. “The pressure to gain distinction grades is immense,” she says. “Fear of failure can lead to perfectionism, anxiety and depression.”

    Teenagers online in the USA

    According to Pew Internet 95% of teenagers in the USA now report they have a smartphone or access to one. These mobile connections are in turn fueling more-persistent online activities: 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis.

    Roughly half (51%) of 13 to 17 year olds say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

    The survey also finds there is no clear consensus among teens about the effect that social media has on the lives of young people today. Minorities of teens describe that effect as mostly positive (31%) or mostly negative (24%), but the largest share (45%) says that effect has been neither positive nor negative.

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