Brutal PODs for bods! 10% of funded FE+Skills learning to be online – what what really is online?

This has been a good year for the profile of technology supported learning in FE and Skills.

The FELTAG report has did a great job in sharpening thinking about how best to adopt good use of technology for learning.  It has even managed to stir up the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to  write-in a requirement for 10% of all courses to be online. This % is affectionately known as the Percentage of Online Delivery or the POD.  The devil, of course, comes in the detail of the POD and what can be accepted as ‘fundable’ online learning.  The answers lie in the SFAs ILR Provider Support Manual where there is a bold but rather brutal attempt to say what is good enough to fund.

It is worth looking at the examples of fundable and unfundable learning given way inside at page 44. The provider Manual has the following to say.

The following are examples of online learning [ie fundable by SFA]:

  • Learning materials that the learner accesses on a college virtual learning environment such as Moodle
  • Video demonstrations or Powerpoint presentations accessed outside the classroom
  • Structured learning packages that are not facilitated by a lecturer.

The following are examples of activities that do not constitute online learning and should not be included in calculation of the Percentage of online delivery [ie NOT fundable by SFA]:

  • A video of a practical demonstration that is shown in the classroom with the lecturer present
  • Work undertaken on a computer with a lecturer present
  • An online webinar delivered by a lecturer
  •  Homework assessments that are undertaken on-line
  •  Email/telephone or online tutorials or feedback discussions.

ILR 2014 Provider Manual SFA

Did SFA get it right? – see next post for my perspective.


One Response to “Brutal PODs for bods! 10% of funded FE+Skills learning to be online – what what really is online?”

  1. Terry Loane Says:

    The devil is indeed in the detail, Alastair. It also states on page 44 of the SFA Provider Support Manual for 2014 to 2015 that:

    “The percentage of online delivery recorded in this field is the proportion of the SFA curriculum design (scheme of work) delivered by computer mediated activity rather than by a lecturer.”

    But how on earth can one compare numerically the proportion of ‘curriculum design… delivered’ by a face-to-face activity with the proportion ‘delivered’ on a VLE? How can one compare time designed to be spent in a classroom/workshop/laboratory with the amount of written/multimedia material designed to be accessed online? It’s a mathematical absurdity, a classic example of trying to compare apples with oranges. But next academic year auditors will, we must assume, be expected to arbitrate on whether a particular programme has 9% or 11% ‘online delivery’.

    However, what is really interesting on page 44 are the examples they provide (which you quote) of what does and does not allegedly constitute ‘online learning’. At first I was surprised to see what has been excluded (e.g. webinars and online support – both of which have a track-record of success). But then I re-read the sentence I quoted at the start of this comment and the penny dropped. They are not talking about online learning as such, they are talking about activities that involve NO contact between teacher and learner.

    So now we know the real agenda, to limit the contact time between teacher and learner and reduce staffing costs. It’s the educational equivalent of driver-less trains on the London Underground.

    How dare the government and its funding agency bring in a funding regime designed to reward institutions for limiting contact between teacher and learner?

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