What role should employers play in skills and education? And what role will e-learning possibly play?

As we have noted in the previous blog post, the UK government is giving increasing prominence to employer led training with now two rounds of “Employer Owned Pilots” – meaning large employers or groups of employers are developing courses to skill up their workforce.

The work is being piloted with employers by UK CES and we are seeing an impressive raft of projects emerge, you can see the range of projects here

Some of the highlights are offered in summary, but it is a change from a Push model of training to a Pull model of training.

A Policy synopsis of sorts!

In short employers directly are taking responsibility for delivering training with funding being directly allocated to them, and not to colleges or training providers.

Government thinking is quite straightforward, employers have complained for too long that newly recruited workers (students and others) are ill equipped when entering the workplace and the courses pushed at them by colleges and other funded training providers do not meet their specific needs.

Consequently the government’s attitude is to turn the problem round on the employer in a very direct way, bypassing Colleges and Sector Skills from the “Push” factor of courses and curriculum. In effect saying OK employer…..you decide; you put the “Pull” on the provider.  These are still pilots but likely to develop beyond the second round it appears.

Joint funding

The employer is also responsible for funding a significant proportion of the training costs, giving additional incentive to ensure alignment of the training provision to their operational needs. This is designed to move beyond qualification collection to actual impact upon business performance. This is a good thing, and an area where many e-learning providers have worked to evidence impact and return on investment with private sector clients for many years.

This pull factor will allow for employers to influence the learning provision at an operational level, with courses closely aligned to the needs of the workplace.

A new interface and relationship    

This new “employer – training provider interface” is without doubt interesting and exciting….and a little bit threatening to colleges and training providers. It really is changing the dynamic of delivery.

The change is obviously the pull, but how the pull is positioned on the provider and the impact on the organisation evaluated will be important.

In short employers are going to be required to do a lot more than previously when they were the all too passive recipients of training from providers as colleges and training providers sought to meet their delivery targets.

What role for e-learning and edtech?

So, naturally our question is what role will e-learning and learning technologies (edtech) play?

The vignettes provided by UK CES for the round one projects offer little information to if or how e-learning and edtech tools are being used in the pilots to date, and one must suspect it is not being used to any great level.

A role is likely

However, it is important to note (as we did in our previous posting) that in the UK Governments recently published International Education Strategy there is a significant clue that government is minded to stimulate and support technology usage in the skills sector in the context of Employer Ownership led training.

One would hope that with employers leading the learning development they will also be minded to use e-learning and learning technology effectively to ensure their investments can scale, be replicated year after year and deliver efficiency savings by reducing time away from work for apprentices for example.

In fact we believe e-learning and edtech can offer the employer (and the partner college/provider) many of the tools to deliver engaging and effective programmes of learning.  

There is no doubt in our mind that e-learning and edtech can offer significant long term savings and long term benefits  to these employer led projects, and it would be disappointing if the UK’s enviable capability in developing  e-learning and associated innovation is not put to good use in these imaginative employer led learning projects.

So in what areas should e-learning and learning technology be playing a role?

The LMS configured for skills development

The LMS obviously has a role to play, and the college LMS or the (larger) employers LMS would,  one hope play a role in tracking and reporting learning progress, and with the right LMS supporting the competences required, capability matrix and e-portfolios this LMS could be of huge benefit in delivering these skills initiatives. Ideally the configured LMS will have or integrate with a range of tools and technologies to support this employer led learning provision in the most effective way:

Smart Assessment tools working on Smart devices

Assessment technologies will also have a major role to play, and the ability to assess learners meaningfully in the workplace beyond the paper based portfolio (too often completed by the assessor and not the learner – don’t tell anybody we said that) will be an area of significant potential for usage – Smart assessment designed to capture the actual learning in the workplace digitally and dynamically. Assessment needs to become live and on devices in use every day – smartphones and tablets etc…

Analytics (predictive)

While big data maybe a big thing, reporting real time learning progression will be very important at quite a granular level, with learner performance being carefully monitored on a wide range of metrics. Predictive analytics will grow in importance.

Content curation and evaluation tools

Learning content aligned to the employers needs will be an issue, not every project will be able to commission e-learning content to meet the specific needs of every competence, but the tools to evaluate and configure existing materials down to digital assets (from in house documentation to Youtube videos and existing learning materials) curated and assigned to competences – neat and sweet ways of doing this are going to be in demand.

Very Rapid content development tools

Light touch intuitive tools with the ability to create quick and simple learning materials, tag and publish within minutes will fill the gaps in the process.

Learning planning tools

Creating the curriculum – an academic term I know, but a means of quickly developing schemas or a matrix to identify the learning requirements to be delivered and their alignment to the organisational strategy.

Previous example of the role e-learning can play in employer led learning requirements  

e-learning  offers a powerful means to contextualise the learning to the workplace. One very successful (but unconnected to the employer pilots)  project developed at the behest of employers in the waste management and recycling industry was the creation of the UK’s only course and qualification addressing the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive).

This course was developed to address the challenge of the directive in the workplace, and was an example of taking a very dry EU directive and contextualising it into the workplace by e-learning and providing it as a qualification.

We believe this was a first for the recycling industry – a regulation taken and contextualised as a qualification by e-learning, and it was certainly an employer led initiative that was delivered by Learning Light.