The new Becta report "Digital Britain" makes a powerful case for universal access to broadband to give people more access to online learning and technology in education, the workplace and government employment initiatives.
Universal broadband essential for learning by Stephen Crowne (Chief Executive of Becta) focuses on the report to further highlight Britain's serious concern for the increasing unemployment rates, upskilling and re-tooling in a down-market.
Crowne, a big online learning advocate, firmly believes technology helps schools, colleges and universities to "run themselves more efficiently; to make more effective use of data to monitor progress and tailor the curriculum to individual needs; to motivate learners to achieve and continue in education; and to communicate effectively and interactively with learners, parents and carers."
I couldn't have said it better. After all, the purpose of technology is to use scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. Online learning allows those in employment to upskill at a price and time that works for them, and for the unemployed Crowne believes 'ready access to online advice, guidance and learning opportunities will be critical to their future success in finding work'.
Becta has found that the use of technology in further education programmes has increased learner satisfaction from 50% to 99%, which is a very impressive statistic. I see it as a winning formula on two counts:
- People learn to be more comfortable with the technology that is available
- They are learning material relevant to the chosen course of study
One of Becta's key priorities for children of school age is to enable all families to use technology to promote and support learning in the home. He predicts much more widespread use of video materials and continued innovation from education and training providers, and their partners in the IT industry who will continue to work to drive down cost.
Crowne believes that "connecting the last 40 per cent of the population to our digital society gives a huge opportunity to raise education standards and provide powerful incentives to continue learning throughout life, across the population."
It's a powerful statement to make, but I believe in his vision. Harnessing the ability to spark a person's lust for learning holds some very big, long-term rewards for the community they belong to and the individuals themselves.