Independent Learning Providers (ILPs) have one of the most interesting and challenging jobs in education. Teaching everything from Yoga to Degree Level Apprenticeships, ILPs have to cater for a diverse and eclectic student base with a range of very different needs. They’re also in the midst of a period of substantial change, as Apprenticeships hit the headlines and public attention is firmly on the power of vocational education.
Organisations which rely on public money must be able to prove their worth and ILPs must offer flexible, scalable solutions which deliver value to learners, to industry and beyond. Cautionary tales like Learndirect, which has faced ongoing difficulties, demonstrates the importance of being both accountable and innovative - capable of providing the best training now and for the future.
So, quality is the watchword for Independent Learning Providers, and we know that our own customers in this space have three main priorities. Firstly to attract students - being able to persuade potential recruits and/or employers that vocational training will meet their needs, and prepare them adequately for employment. Secondly, with student engagement and insight - providers must ensure an engaging, immersive and valuable learning experience; which leads to the third - course completion. Learning providers are often financially incentivised by completion rates, and, of course, their reputation and ability to compete in a fast-moving market depends on the success of their students.
Preparing for the unknown - embracing new delivery methods
To prepare for market changes and to meet unprecedented demands from employers, ILPs must ‘future proof’ as much as possible. We know that up to eighty percent of jobs that will exist in 2025 don’t exist today; and so training providers have to prepare students and graduates for a working world that’s uncertain. Therefore diversification, and the ability to pivot and adapt to the market’s changing needs, is key.
Changes to funding have also prompted providers to reconsider how they deliver training - several providers have gone as far as saying that they will go out of business if they don't adopt blended learning.
So the focus of ILPs is increasingly away from rote learning, towards self-directed and independent study, which prioritises critical thinking skills and readies students for an unpredictable workplace. And no longer will technology be a luxury in vocational education, but an all-important necessity. Technologies like Canvas can help learning providers change teaching and deliver a flexible, progressive and student-centred learning approach which focuses on meeting these demands.
Importantly, technology can power a collaborative, self-directed learning environment where students are able to develop new skills, apply knowledge, get better feedback, establish links with industry - and undertake crucial on the job training while maintaining a focus on their studies.
Introspection for progress
So, to deliver a more valuable education, in the face of dwindling budgets, increased scrutiny and heightened competition, learning providers must first evaluate the type of learning they provide, and the delivery methods they employ, and assess whether they’re fit for purpose now, as well as being fit for an unpredictable future. Introspection needn't mean inertia; instead, a clear view on the tools available to ILPs, and the methods they’ve used to date, allow for informed planning for the future.
Ultimately, an employment market which is changing at an unprecedented pace in the wake of globalisation and automation means that teachers need to provide education and skills for jobs which may not even exist yet. But technology like Canvas allows ILPs to focus and to do what they do best - provide great teaching experiences which create independent and flexible learners, able to cope with an uncertain future.