No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

E-learning and national adult skills delivery – interview


Keith Duckitt, Head of ICT at the Learning and Skills Council, talks to TrainingZONE about the place of e-learning in national adult skills delivery.

TrainingZONE How difficult is it to hold together a strategy for e-learning in an organization with such a broad remit?

Keith Duckitt We are part of the policy and development directorate, looking at e-learning and e-skills in the whole of the post-16 sector. We started by working on this area for FE and sixth forms, and the National Learning Network. It embraces content, learning materials and staff development. We are now extending that, this year to community learning initiatives and specialist colleges. So it's quite a project but we are moving forward in stages.

TrainingZONE How much can the LSC do to affect the e-learning market for adult training?

Keith Duckitt We concentrate on particular areas within workforce development. We are working with the Sector Skills Councils. There are a number of sector pilots using e-learning, testing in particular areas like health. As you'd expect we are doing a lot of work on all e-skills. 50% of all jobs now have some kind of ICT component, when you include the huge range of electronic equipment in use – there are micro-computers everywhere. To drive up the standards of ICT skills we are working with qualification bodies, currently to develop an NVQ Level 2 qualification which will be well-regarded by employers and individuals alike.

And we have an important project underway with the QCA to get full credit for prior learning. This is a major issue, as so many people have diverse levels of experience in different areas of ICT, so to get a standard accepted and used, we have to create one which won't have the same length of programme for everyone. There are other initiatives working too. We have someone seconded from the BBC and we are looking at new and innovative means of delivery.

TrainingZONE Is the e-learning market developing in the right direction as far as the LSC is concerned?

Keith Duckitt We were disappointed around three years ago that commercial publishers weren't producing the kind of materials really needed for our purposes. So we decided to do a little market intervention and got educationalists to identify the most necessary areas. Now we have gone out to tender for products, and this has brought new players into the market, including media companies.

That won't be enough though, so we are looking at new development models for working with providers so they can make a profit and carry through the important changes for delivery of skills improvements nationally. Learndirect is a major player in the e-learning market, and we are alive to worries about competition, and we are looking to bring more providers in where they can contribute something.

TrainingZONE What developments would you like to see?

Keith Duckitt The biggest challenge now is to get affordable learning materials into each skills sector. If you look at the situation with something like mainstream A-levels, so the high development costs can be widely spread. But within a sector of vocational skills training you are dealing with much smaller numbers, so initial costs can look formidable. So we need to explore more cost-effective materials. And of course this isn't always popular with the academics. But we have to face these issues and work through them, there are no easy answers.

TrainingZONE The E-learning strategy task force said last year that more people need basic computer skills to get access to e-learning and all it has to offer. Is this a priority for the LSC?

Keith Duckitt Yes, definitely. We are engaged in joint implementation on this with the DfES, moving towards seeing computer skills as a fourth basic skill. There are of course funding restrictions on such a major shift: we can't immediately make it an entitlement, but we hope to persuade ministers to phase this in.

TrainingZONE Do you think that the early problems of e-learning have been resolved?

Keith Duckitt Well, in the case of the LSC, if we think about the main components, hardware and infrastructure are much more reliable, and networking and facilities are being improved. But that alone isn't enough. We had to persuade staff to accept new teaching methods. And that's largely been successful. The good thing about much e-learning content is that it can be repurposed, and we are teaching staff to repurpose and to develop new programmes at a lower cost.

TrainingZONE What's your next big challenge?

Keith Duckitt Within the established education marketplace it's doing it better and cheaper. Getting into the workplace, we need to persuade employers to make substantial investments. Of course, they already do, but we need to persuade them to rechannel more of that to e-learning. We also need more good examples to share, and to be able to persuade them to avoid the traps.

We have a cohesive strategy in the distributed and e-learning group, which produced a report last September. It covers the whole remit. It has been approved by the LSC, and we are now working on the implementation plan. We firmly believe in the role of well-supported e-learning. We are a target-driven organization and we see e-learning as helping that.

We have carried out longitudinal evaluation and are seeing some encouraging signs, including improvement in retention. And the 17-19 age group is so used to technology, they respond particularly well to engaging material, within a blended plan.


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!