What does the college of the future really need to look like in order to meet the challenges faced by society over the next few decades? That’s the weighty question at the heart of the final report from the Independent Commission on the College of the Future.
There’s little doubt that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for a cohesive response from governments and the FE sector to the huge challenges faced in modern times – climate change, the acceleration of technological developments, demographic changes, poor productivity and rising social inequality to name a few.
The report sees ‘strong, collaborative and inclusive colleges that empower people’ as being firmly at the centre of the response to this challenge. So what practical steps can be taken now to begin the journey? The report picks out some key areas for development:
- Upskilling the UK population by embracing a statutory right to lifelong learning
- Colleges helping to drive innovation, working proactively with business and addressing skills gaps
- Creating a post-16 skills system that is impactful and cohesive
From data visualisation to support stronger relationships with employers, to clever communications tools to help safeguard student wellbeing, the right tech should help to make these aims easier and less time consuming for all in the post-16 landscape.
Creating an inclusive educational experience gets much easier with the right tools. Whether that is helping the rising numbers of SEN students in the sector to realise their full potential, or even making a simple change like using gender inclusive pronouns in your student information system.
Its clear that the ambition of the report is for colleges to take on an expanded role as hubs of life-long working and employer allies in the heart of their local communities. They state that “the college of the future will have to deliver a more flexible, personalised service…a more modular offer.” All of this is possible with tools such as an app which can help you point students to appropriate support services and connect them with other students and staff remotely – as South Devon College knows well.
Equally, employer engagement functions such as streamlining enquiries, managing opportunities in recruitment, tracking business potential, and integrating with NAS and other jobs boards can be made easy with tools such as Tribal Dynamics.
While its clear from the report that the challenges facing society as a whole are steep, colleges have a clear and expanded role to play in guiding the next generations towards a brighter future – one that is a lot easier with the benefit of digital tools.