The quality of what the college offers by way of its services and products is the primary core business on which it is judged. Learner satisfaction and success can guarantee a more secure future as can return business from individuals, employers and other sponsors. The changing nature of employment and the ever accelerating knowledge/skill base coupled with the significant impact of the Information and Communications Technologies on the learning products and processes present particular challenges to the college in order for it to develop and deliver a high quality relevant and appropriate range of services and products to its learners/customers/stakeholders.
The Sigmoid curve represents a useful and dynamic construct when analysing the effectiveness of the life cycle of services and products offered by the college.
Life cycles are becoming more compressed as knowledge, skills and competencies levels accelerate exponentially. The college must continually monitor the performance and the appropriateness of these services and products. Each service and product will reach a critical point on the curve when it should be replaced or significantly refined .
Constant research and development must occur in this process and be informed and influenced by a wide range of performance indices and other evidential sources, particularly LMI/LLMI and the associated issues around supply/demand and adequacy/sufficiency. In addition, but equally important, are issues around the nature, value and purpose of qualifications/awards and knowledge, skills in the future. Whatever is offered it must recognise and match the learners/ customers/stakeholders needs and expectations. The college must have an effective and established culture to manage change and the systems to research and plan for the future. It must have an effective and efficient marketing strategy.
One of the real challenges that the college has to confront is what the shape and purpose of the services and products in the future will be. The traditional system for course and programme accreditation and the associated long approval procedures are out of synch with the needs of its learners/customers. Keeping the programmes of study ‘refreshed’ and/or developing new ones requires fundamental changes in approval methods and the way programmes are configured. Existing approaches in education and training decision-making systems and processes are now being challenged, arising from these ever-accelerating knowledge/skill bases. Accrediting and validating bodies need to fundamentally change their systems and procedures to be more responsive and flexible in giving recognition to new programmes of study.
Challenges not only confront awarding bodies but also the college must identify and plan for major content changes. Awarding bodies and the college must differentiate between:
- fundamental skills – where the demand changes relatively slowly, for example in such areas as literacy, numeracy, languages and the more academic and professional disciplines.
- vocational skills – where the curriculum may need to be refreshed or significantly changed in twelve to eighteen months.
This could arise from a change in the demand for new mixes associated with technology, business and language skills. The increasing move to multidisciplinary and team working in industry requires multi-cross-skilling of its work force. Traditional demarcations are vanishing and increasingly craft people and technicians need to be reskilled/crossskilled and as a result cross traditional discipline boundaries
* Technology or product skills – these are an ever growing activity where programmes of study may need to be developed, researched and implemented within two to six months. Examples here would be the introduction of new operating systems for computers- Windows 98, NT, Office, etc.
When the college is reviewing the health of its services and products with an intention of renewing its range of provision it is aspect that in the future presents the greatest challenges. Key questions must be asked and answered – which areas match and will satisfy learner/customer need and expectation?
Vocational and technology/product skills provision are expensive options and a degree of confidence is required in terms of there validity and business activity in order to merit the investment at the research and development stages i.e. the early aspects associated with the Sigmoid curve. Will the return be worth it? The college needs to know what our major competitors will commit themselves to. The college has a long and credible history in the area of vocationalism but it needs to adapt the modes of delivery of these capitalising on the new learning technologies.
Whatever aspects it commits itself too across the fundamental/vocational/technology/product skills it must be of the highest quality matching the needs of the learner/customer/ stakeholder.
In addition the following characteristics will be essential in whatever services and products the college offers in the future:
- possess elements that differentiate it from our competitors namely, adds more value in terms of the leaming/leamer experience, be niche market and be flexible and responsive reflecting the leamer/customer needs in terms of pace, shape, delivery mode, location and at the right time.
- All the services and products must be under constant review as the changes will become rapid if the college is to survive and be a major player in education and training in the future.