Archive for the ‘Competence Development’ Category

Subscriptions to streaming learning provision

January 19th, 2021 by Graham Attwell

Soon after MOOCs had burst onto the scene, I was talking to a senior manager at a UK university. He was charged with leading their development of MOOCs. But despite his enthusiasm,he thought he would only be given two or three years to get things right. And the big thing he had to get right was making money.

And so it has been for the last ten years. There have been a whole number of attempts to make money out of MOOCs. One popular measure has been to charge for certification. The problem with that is that many who enroll on a MOOC really are not that concerned about the certificate. And others may wonder just how much traction a MOOC certificate has on the labour market, even if from a renowned university or university alliance. Another way of raising funds is to allow access to a MOOC for a period after it has finished for a fee. Of course the early MOOC providers generally just turned themselves into commercial online course providers, with a pivot towards continuing professional development,especially towards technical knowledge and skills.

Europe’s largest MOOC provider FutureLearn, an alliance of organisations led by the UK open University,has tried quite a few of these ideas. And now they are enhancing their paid for provision, albeit with an interesting spin.

“You’ve probably heard of music, TV, fitness, and even snack subscriptions,” they say, “but what about a subscription to learning?”

Whilst the world was already well on its way to being filled with subscription-loving societies, the COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged our desire for easy, affordable access to the things we love without setting foot outside the front door.

Our way of achieving this at FutureLearn is by offering flexible, career-focused, and fun learning experiences online.

Our brand-new learning subscription model,, offers you the chance to build expert knowledge and workplace skills entirely on your own terms.

In an explanation of Learning Subscriptions which they, describe as “the learning of 2020, they say:

Learning on demand refers to the kind of learning where you have access to educational content at any time or in any place. The learner, therefore, has control over their learning and gets to plan and create their own educational journey. A model like this differs from a typical in-person learning model due to its flexibility and because it requires less of a financial and personal commitment.

So is this really something new and does it require less commitment?

ExpertTracks -the FutureLearn implementation of Learning Subscriptions

are carefully curated series of online courses that focus on specific areas of learning. They’re designed to help you fast-track your studies across various topics, subject areas, and industries.

You’ll find ExpertTracks on a diverse range of topics, including ones such as blended learning, getting started with SEO, and fintech innovations. From the basics of psychology to the teaching of practical science, you can develop your skills to match your career aspirations. …..

with each ExpertTrack, you’ll complete at least 20 hours of learning time, often from a top educational or business institution.

The ExpertTracks look to me like a series of repackaged MOOCs, designed for continuing professional development. But of course one of the things about MOOCs is they were free and have played a big role in opening up education. The cost per month per ExpertTrack is 36 British pounds.

I am sure many of these online courses (because that is what they are) will be very good. But all in all I can’t help thinking this is yet another go at marketising MOOCs. And I am not sure that people are going to ought up 36 pounds a month to Open Learn for professional development which if we are serious about promoting and supporting skills development should be for free.

 

Basic digital skills

January 5th, 2021 by Graham Attwell
student, typing, keyboard

StartupStockPhotos (CC0), Pixabay

Happy new year  to you all and the first post of the year comes from the Marchmont Employment and Skills Observatory monthly mailing.

A new survey has found that many people are still lacking basic digital skills during lockdown. Most people have had no recent help to improve their digital skills, despite the pandemic moving personal and professional life online. Some 83% of UK adults said they had not received any support to improve their tech skills over the last six months, the poll by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT found.

Most offers of help with digital skills came from employers (57%), over a quarter (28%) from family and friends and 13% from organisations like government and training providers. Asked about specific software, nearly a third (31%) of people are not confident with basic data management using an Excel spreadsheet, the professional body for IT reported

. The research follows an issue with the NHS track and trace system where people testing positive for COVID-19 were not recorded once an Excel spreadsheet reached its maximum capacity.

 

Workshop on Ai and Vocational Education as part of European Vocational Skills Week

November 9th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

This week is European Vocational Skills Week.

And as a partner of the European Vocational Skills Week the Taccle AI project, is organising an online workshop on “Artificial Intelligence for and in VET” on Tuesday 10 November 15:00 – 16:30 CET. Our Taccle AI project partners from five European countries will welcome you.

About the Workshop:

AI is particularly important for vocational education and training (VET) as it promises profound changes in employment and work tasks. Not only are some jobs vulnerable and new jobs likely to be created but there will be changing tasks and roles within jobs, requiring changes in initial and continuing training, for those in work as well as those seeking employment. This will require changes in existing VET content, new programmes such as the design of AI systems in different sectors, and adaptation to new ways of cooperative work with AI.

For VET teachers and trainers there are many possible uses of AI including new opportunities for adapting learning content based on student’s needs, new processes for assessment, analysing possible bottlenecks in learners’ domain understanding and improvement in guidance for learners

In our workshop we will explore these issues with short inputs and breakout sessions for discussion by participants around key issues.

Register now (here)!

Digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Occupations and Skills

July 27th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

The Taccle AI project on Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Education and Training, has published a preprint  version of a paper which has been submitted of publication to the VET network of the European Research Association.

The paper, entitled  Digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence and Vocational Occupations and Skills: What are the needs for training Teachers and Trainers, seeks to explore the impact AI and automation have on vocational occupations and skills and to examine what that means for teachers and trainers in VET. It looks at how AI can be used to shape learning and teaching processes, through for example, digital assistants which support teachers. It also focuses on the transformative power of AI that promises profound changes in employment and work tasks. The paper is based on research being undertaken through the EU Erasmus+ Taccle AI project. It presents the results of an extensive literature review and of interviews with VET managers, teachers and AI experts in five countries. It asks whether machines will complement or replace humans in the workplace before going to look at developments in using AI for teaching and learning in VET. Finally, it proposes extensions to the EU DigiCompEdu Framework for training teachers and trainers in using technology.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Artificial Intelligence for and in Vocational Education and Training

June 30th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

Last week the Taccle AI project organised a workshop at the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) Annual Conference. The conference, which had been scheduled to be held in Romania, was moved online due to the Covid 19 pandemic.There were four short presentations followed by an online discussion.

Graham Attwell introduced the workshop and explained the aims of the Taccle AI project. In the next years, he said “AI will change learning, teaching, and education. The speed of technological change will be very fast, and it will create high pressure to transform educational practices, institutions, and policies.” He was followed by Vidmantas Tulys who focused on AI and human work. He put forward five scenarios for the future of work in the light of AI and the fourth industrial revolution. Ludger Deitmer looked at the changes in the mechatronics occupation due to the impact of AI. He examine dhow training was being redesigned to meet new curriculum and occupational needs and how AI was being introduced in the curriculum. Finally, Sofia Roppertz focused on AI for VET, exploring how AI can support access to education, collaborative environments and intelligent tutoring systems to support teachers and trainers.

AI cloud computing to support formative assessment in vocational education and training

June 30th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

geralt (CC0), Pixabay

I have written before abut the the great work being done around AI by Bolton College in the UK and particularly their ADA Chatbot.

One of my main interests about the use of AI in vocational education and training is the potential for freeing  up teachers for more personalized learning support for both those students who are struggling and also for the advanced students. At the moment too many teachers are forced by workloads to teaxh to the middle.

My second big hope is around assessment. Vocational students need, I think, regular feedback and that can come form formative assessment. However, at present teacher do not have the time to prepare and provide feedback on regular formative assessments. But with AI this become possible.

Bolton College previously received VocTech seed funding to prove the concept of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyse short and long form answers and to demonstrate that real-time feedback can be offered to vocational learners as they respond to online open-ended formative assessment tasks.

Their FirstPass tool provided an initial introduction to AI cloud computing technologies which are able to support vocational students and their teachers with open-ended formative assessment tasks.

Now according to Ufi who provide Voctech fundiing, a new project :will provide further development of FirstPass to ensure that it is effective and robust in use and can demonstrably improve the teaching, learning and assessment experience of vocational learners. It will provide teachers with a richer medium for assessing students due to its ability to pose open-ended questions that can be automatically analysed and assessed by a computer, giving students real-time feedback and the opportunity to qualify and clarify their responses.”

How are HR professionals coping?

June 12th, 2020 by Graham Attwell
elearning, hand, laptop

mohamed_hassan (CC0), Pixabay

As I expected there the flurry of reports on technology and learning in the lockdown is beginning to appear.

Fosway is a company operating in the corporate learning market.

In their report of a survey of HR professionals, among other things they find among other things:

  • Traditional eLearning shows signs of waning both in terms of adoption but also significantly in terms of perceived success. Video content is the highest rated in supporting organisations throughout the COVID-19 crisis so far, closely followed by curated content. Bespoke eLearning, off-the-shelf courses, and blended learning are all reported to be less successful.
  • Meanwhile, as people get used to working remotely and in virtual teams, collaboration is becoming a key priority. Eighty-four percent of L&D leaders think it is more important to integrate digital learning into other corporate platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Trello.
  • So-called learning experience platforms, as well as collaborative learning specialist platforms, are rated as the most successful systems after – predictably – virtual classrooms.

For what it is worth my not at all representative survey is finding that rapid (overnight) digitization has provided an immense challenge for many organisations. A particularly steep learning curve has been how to organise and manage distributed teams of employees. More on this to follow.

 

 

Case study. The Ada chatbot: personalised, AI-driven assistant for each student.

March 31st, 2020 by Graham Attwell

As part of the AI and vocational education and training project funded through the EU Erasmus plus project we are producing a series of case studies of the use of AI in VET in five European countries. Here is my first case study – the Ada chatbot developed at Bolton College.

About Bolton College

Bolton College is one of the leading vocational education and training providers in the North West of England, specialising in delivering training – locally, regionally and nationally – to school leavers, adults and employers. The college employs over 550 staff members who teach over 14,500 full and part time students across a range of centres around Bolton. The college’s Learning Technology Team has a proven reputation for the use of learning analytics, machine learning and adaptive learning to support students as they progress with their studies.

The Ada Chatbot

The Learning Technology Team has developed a digital assistant called Ada which went live in April 2017. Ada, which uses the IBM Watson AI engine, can respond to a wide range of student inquiries across multiple domains. The college’s Learning Technology Lead, Aftab Hussain, says “It transforms the way students get information and insights that support them with their studies.” He explains: “It can be hard to find information on the campus. We have an information overload. We have lots of data but it is hard to manage. We don’t have the tools to manage it – this includes teachers, managers and students.” Ada was first developed to overcome the complexity of accessing information and data.

Student questions

Ada is able to respond to student questions including:

  1. General inquiries from students about the college (for example: semester dates, library opening hours, exam office locations, campus activities, deadline for applying for university and more);
  2. Specific questions from students about their studies (for example: What lessons do I have today/this afternoon/tomorrow? Who are my teachers? What’s my attendance like? When is my next exam? When and where is my work placement? What qualifications do I have? What courses am I enrolled in? etc.)
  3. Subject specific inquiries from students. Bolton College is teaching Ada to respond to questions relating to GCSE Maths, GCSE English and the employability curriculum.

Personalised and contextualised learning

Aftab Hussein explains: “We are connecting all campus data sets. Ada can reply to questions contextually. She recognises who you are and is personalised according to who you are and where you are in the student life cycle. The home page uses Natural Language Processing and the Watson AI engine. It can reply to 25000 questions around issues such as mental health or library opening times etc. It also includes subject specific enquiries including around English, Mathematics and business and employability. All teachers have been invited to submit the top 20 queries they receive. Machine learning can recognise the questions. The technical process is easy.” However, he acknowledges that inputting data into the system can be time consuming and they are looking at ways of automatically reading course documentation and presentations.

All the technical development has been undertaken in house. As well as being accessible through the web, Ada, has both IOS and Android apps and can also be queried though smart speakers.

The system also links to the college Moodle installation and can provide access to assignments, college information services and curriculum materials. The system is increasingly being used in online tutorials providing both questions for participants and access to learning materials for instance videos including for health and social care.

It is personalised for individuals and contextualised according to what they are doing or want to find out. Aftab says: “We are looking at the transactional distance – the system provides immediate feedback reducing the transactional distance. “

Digital assessment

Work is also being undertaken in developing the use of the bot for assessment. This is initially being used for the evaluation of work experience, where students need to provide short examples of how they are meeting objectives – for example in collaboration or problem solving. Answers can uploaded, evaluated by the AI and feedback returned instantly.

Nudging

Since March 2019, the Ada service has provided nudges to students with timely and contextualised information, advice and guidance (IAG) to support their studies. The service nudges students about forthcoming exams, their work placement feedback and more. In the following example, a student receives feedback regarding his work placement from his career coach and employer.

The College is currently implementing ProMonitor, a service which will offer teachers and tutors with a scalable solution for managing and supporting the progress made by their students. Once ProMonitor is in place, Ada will be in a position to nudge students about forthcoming assignments and the grades awarded for those assignments. She will also offer students advice and guidance about staying on track with their studies. Likewise, Ada will nudge teachers and student support teams to inform them about student progress; allowing for timely support to be put in place for students across the College.

A personal lifelong learning companion

For Aftab Hussein the persona of the digital agent is important.

For Aftab Hussein the persona of the digital agent is important. He  thinks that in the future that chatbot will morph into a personal cognitive assistant that supports students throughout their entire educational life, from nursery school to university and beyond.

“The personal assistant will learn from each student throughout their life and adapt according to what they like, while guiding them through studies. It could remind when homework is due, book appointments with tutors, and point towards services and events that might support studies, for example.”

 

 

 

Discussion: Learning and Training anywhere

March 30th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

The International Labour Organization (ILO) have launched a E-Discussion on Continuing online learning and skills development in times of the COVID-19 crisis. The discussion started on 27 March and runs to 9 April.

The ILO say “the virtual discussion provides an opportunity to explore the concept of “learning and training anywhere, anytime”, an idea central to the concept of lifelong learning. This, in turn, requires examination of a range of issues such as how technically prepared we are to support new ways of working in the face of disruptors like a pandemic, and how quickly we can organize digital education and training and mobilize teachers and trainers to maintain services to learners.”

You can join the discussion at the following addresses

 

AI, automation, the future of work and vocational education and training

February 17th, 2020 by Graham Attwell

Regular readers will know I am working on a project on AI and Vocational Education and Training (VET). We are looking both at the impact of AI and automation on work and occupations and the use of AI for teaching and learning. Later in the year we will be organizing a MOOC around this: at the moment we are undertaking interviews with teachers, trainers , managers and developers (among others) in Italy, Greece, Lithuania, Germany and the UK.

The interviews are loosely structured around five questions:

  • What influence do you think AI and automation is going to have on occupations that you or your institution provide training for?
  • Do you think AI is going to effect approaches to teaching and learning? If so could you tell us how?
  • Have you or your institution any projects based around AI. If so could you tell us about them?
  • How can curricula be updated quickly enough to respond to the introduction of AI?
  • Do you think AI and automation will result in less jobs in the future or will it generate new jobs? If so what do you think the content of those jobs will be?

Of course it depends on the work role and interests of the interviewee as to which questions are most discussed. And rather than an interview, with the people I have talked with it tends to be more of a discussion.

while the outcomes of this work will be published in a report later this spring, I will publish here some of the issues which have been come up.

Last week I talked with Chris Percy, who describes himself as a Business strategy consultant and economist.

Chris sees AI and technology as driving an increasing pace of change in how work is done. He says the model for vocational education is to attend college to get skills and enter a trade for ten or twenty years – albeit with refreshers and licenses to update knowledge. This, he says, has been the model for the last 50 years but it may not hold if knowledge is so fast changing. He is not an AI evangelist and thinks changes feed through more slowly. With this change new models for vocational education and training are needed, although what that model might be is open. It could be e to spend one year learning in every seven years or one day a week for three months every year.

The main issue for VET is not how to apply AI but how we structure jobs, Lifelong Learning and pedagogy.

One problem, at least in the UK. has been a reduction in the provision of Life Long Learning has gone down in the UK. In this he sees a disconnect between policy and the needs of the economy.  But it may also be that if change is slower than in the discourse it just has just not impacted yet. Tasks within a job are changing rather than jobs as a whole. We need to update knowledge  for practices we do not yet have. A third possible explanation is that although there are benefits from new technologies and work processes the benefits from learning are not important enough for providing new skills.

New ways of learning are needed – a responsive learning based on AI could help here – but there is not enough demand to overcome inertia. The underpinning technologies are there but have not yet translated into schools to benefit retraining.

Relatively few jobs will disappear in their entirety – but a lot of logistics, front of store jobs, restaurants etc. will be transformed. It could be there will be a lower tier of services based on AI and automation and a higher tier with human provision. Regulators can inhibit the pace of change – which is uneven in different countries and cities e.g. Self driving cars.

In most of the rest of the economy people will change as tasks change. For example the use of digital search in the legal industry  has been done by students, interns and paralegals because someone has to do it – now with AI supporting due diligence students can progress faster to more interesting parts of the work. Due diligence is now AI enabled.

Chris thinks that although AI and automation will impact on jobs, global economic developments will still be a bigger influence on the future of work.

More from the interviews later this week. In the meantime if you would like to contribute to the research – or just would like to contribute your ideas – please et in touch.

 

 

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