I did a quick survey of a hundred Further Educational Colleges (FE colleges) in the UK to see how many had external IT access for students. Given that more and more students are connected at home to the internet, the ability to log in and study is of great importance. I clicked on 100 colleges in no particular order from the TES FE Focus links directory on 8th April 2004. Here are the results:
|External Access for Students||
No External Access for Students
|Website unavailable or under construction|
The external access was varied. In some cases it was restricted to email access and in others there was a system to log in to view publicly accessible pages from the internet. In most, however, there was access to VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments, like WebCT and Blackboard) and extranet facilities.
With about a third of colleges not having external access, I would advise prospective students to check when visiting sites, as, without this access, a huge amount of time that could be spent working on a specific course is effectively downtime, including weekends. With the drive towards lifelong learning, which aims to broaden the appeal of education and training to include those who are working or who have other commitments, the ability to study from the home, library, etc, would be a huge asset in many cases.
There appear to be quite considerable differences in the ILT standards being reached by FE colleges in the UK at the moment, which leaves many students stranded outside the physical environment of their college.
(1) Two of the sites with external access had set the login as a pop-up window, which might cause a few problems unless students are warned to switch off their pop-up blockers.
(2)The unavailable column includes one whose Flash intro seemed to go on for ever, and the Skip intro button was broken.