Collaborative approaches in the Welsh post-16 sector
Jisc is working in partnership with Welsh Government to drive forward Digital 2030, which aims to see learning providers in Wales harness the potential of digital technology underpinned by principles of innovation, collaboration, co-production and social partnership.
To support this, Jisc has sourced and developed six examples of successful collaborative initiatives using digital tools and technology in post-16 learning and teaching in Wales. We outlined the key success factors for these case studies and showed where each collaborative approach could be scaled up or was beneficial to address particular issues or subjects.
As a whole, these case studies offer an insight into the exciting possibilities opened up by collaboration within and across sectors, enabled by digital technology, when partners in a collaboration share a common vision and sustainable approach.
Key themes supporting Wales’ digital ambitions
The case studies can be seen as exemplars of the four key national priorities outlined in the Welsh Government’s call to action for FE institutions in December 2022:
- Work collaboratively to widen access to learning opportunities
- Develop learners’ and staff digital capabilities and confidence for learning, life and work
- Maximise the potential of technology to empower, enthuse and inspire learners
- Embed agile, resilient and sustainable approaches to delivery
The case studies
The six case studies encompass colleges across Wales and collaborations across FE and with sixth forms, HE, work-based learning and community learning (see Appendix 1). The digital tools and technology in use range from virtual classrooms and virtual reality technology to apps and collaboration platforms such as Microsoft Teams. In brief, the case studies cover:
Digital Diamonds: an active Welsh community of practice helping practitioners and managers deliver Essential Skills Wales (ESW) Digital Literacy across post-16 education and training.
- Download the Digital Diamonds case study in English (pdf)
- Download the Digital Diamonds case study in Welsh (pdf)
Educ8 and CEMET (University of South Wales): developing virtual reality resources for work-based learning through a collaborative approach with HE and employers.
- Download the Educ8 and CEMET case study in English (pdf)
- Download the Educ8 and CEMET case study in Welsh (pdf)
Growing Comms: installing connected active learning spaces in HE and FE through cross-sector collaboration, with strongly positive impacts on learners.
- Download the Growing Comms case study in English (pdf)
- Download the Growing Comms case study in Welsh (pdf)
St David’s WeConnect: collaboration between sixth forms to provide a wider curriculum through virtual classrooms.
- Download the St David's WeConnect case study in English (pdf)
- Download the St David's WeConnect case study in Welsh (pdf)
Target Tracker: colleges working collaboratively to develop digital tools to support learners with additional needs.
- Download the Target Tracker case study in English (pdf)
- Download the Target Tracker case study in Welsh (pdf)
Urdd Gobaith Cymru and the Gwreiddio Scheme (Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol): developing Welsh language skills through collaborative learning for apprentices and teaching staff.
Keys to success
Each project has its own individual success factors but the following common keys to success were evident across the examples:
- A clear shared vision enabling all partners to work towards the same goal
- Time invested upfront in engaging with partners to build trust and establish relationships
- Strong project management to drive the collaboration and ensure momentum
- Adaptability and flexibility to accommodate changes, both internal (personnel, funding) and external (digital developments, pandemics)
- Embed impact evaluation using measurable outcomes to assess the benefits to learners and staff at the very start
- Developing a community to share knowledge, expertise and ideas across and between partners
- Use of a central community space for communication and access to shared material (eg Hwb)
- Trusted relationships built with technology partners to ensure continuity and the best outcomes
- Creating demonstrable models of collaborative delivery which can be scaled up or replicated elsewhere
The case studies demonstrate that collaboration works best when partners are not in competition, either because the focus is a specialist area, individual partners are each bringing unique expertise to the table, or everyone is learning together.
In terms of opportunities to scale up collaborative activities, community of practice networks, as shown in the Digital Diamonds case study, offer straightforward scaling-up opportunities for sharing knowledge and expertise, while collaborations such as Growing Comms and St David’s WeConnect provide an insight into how wider access to learning opportunities can be achieved at greater scale.
Looking ahead, we have identified growth areas where collaborative approaches could help to maximise opportunities and impact. Future areas we would recommend for collaborative projects include:
- Collaborative learning opportunities across providers
- Exploring concerns and opportunities around AI in further education
- Rethinking models of delivery and assessment
- Enhancing digital skills for employability
- Embedding and using data to improve learner engagement, performance and wellbeing
- Continuing to develop cross-sector communities for digital innovators and enablers, connected to wider UK networks
Based on the practical lessons learned by the case studies it is possible to draw wider recommendations for sector leaders around the use of central facilitation to encourage and support collaboration in FE in Wales.
- Lengthen timescales for effective planning: successful collaborations take time to put in place and develop. Funding and planning schedules need to reflect this and allow adequate set up time for projects to plan and recruit.
- Provide collaboration infrastructure: closer collaboration between funders and providers to help projects run smoothly would be beneficial, from more general advice on bid writing to practical steps such as a checklist for establishing new partnerships or draft templates for collaboration agreements between partners.
- Enable collaboration opportunities: it can be difficult for potential project partners’ paths to cross, especially across sectors. Consider holding networking events to bring all interested parties together before funding calls open, to help projects identify possible partners and synergies. Existing practice communities can also provide a vehicle for this.
- Factor in sustainability: key people driving a collaborative initiative often move on so ensure that knowledge is cascaded and well documented to help with continuity and embedding.
PDF version of report and appendix
Jisc would like to thank all the contributors to the case studies for their time and participation in interviews:
- Deborah Birkett, staff and curriculum development manager, Educ8
- Alaw Dafydd, development officer, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol
- Catherine Evans, subject specialist (Digital Capability and Skills) Jisc
- Haf Everiss, further education and apprenticeship officer, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol
- Lisa Fflur Waters, essential skills hub manager, Urdd Gobaith Cymru
- Professor Paul M Holland, associate dean international, University of Swansea
- Clayton Jones, CEMET programme manager, University of South Wales
- Dr Ruth Jones, vice principal, St David’s Catholic College
- Liam Millinship, lecturer, Gower College Swansea
- Kate Pearce, digital solutions manager, Gower College Swansea
- Dan Poulter, senior product manager, Jisc
- Mary Richards, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol
- Lisa Charnock, research manager, Jisc
- Marianne Sheppard, research manager, Jisc