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Study Zone


Technology is driving change

Joana Sales explains how the institute is embracing digital to improve the learning experience for its trainees

May 2018

Step away from the office and most of us have become fairly fluent with new technology. It’s no stretch to imagine that most of us now have smartphones, that our days are facilitated by numerous apps and that we all communicate in a myriad of different ways across many different platforms.
But, of course, professional life tends to be slower on the uptake. Across the public sector, most of us need to get smarter in terms of harnessing technology. Financial constraints and increasing service demands mean each pound has to work that much harder. And so we should be exploring any opportunities where services might be improved and made more efficient through digital.
Increasingly, CIPFA is exploring these opportunities with its members. The institute’s current president, Andy Burns, has long championed improving digital adoption across the public finance profession. He will be discussing this in more detail at CIPFA’s annual conference in July. It is also important that CIPFA practises what it preaches, by which I mean it innovates and adapts to new technology across its activities.
One example of this is its virtual learning environment, CIPFA Learning.
The world of educational and learning technologies is changing fast and it’s reshaping the way students learn and educators and trainers teach. The learning environment has moved beyond the ‘bricks and mortar’, with learning becoming more interactive and social, and educators becoming more like facilitators.
Existing approaches to education and training tend to rely on face-to-face training, where learning has to happen at a set time and space. This is the traditional learning environment, one that still has an important role to play. But in today’s increasingly global world it is also one with limitations in terms of choice and flexibility.
CIPFA Learning was designed to ensure CIPFA’s education and training programmes meet the changing expectation of accessibility and conversion to e-learning format.
What is CIPFA Learning?
CIPFA Learning is a virtual space, where students have access to tools and resources when they need them and can shape their training around a schedule that suits them. It was developed in-house by CIPFA’s team of learning designers, technologists and experienced trainers. So while it is virtual, and students can choose when and where they learn, at the heart of it are real people, all with expert knowledge in public finance and accountancy.
The platform itself is based on Moodle (or if you want the full jargon, a modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment), which is optimised across multiple devices, so students can use their desktop, tablets or smartphones. This system is underpinned by Bruner’s constructivist pedagogical theory – that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current and past knowledge. For example, we utilised online discussion forums to create opportunities for greater support, interaction and collaborative construction of content between the tutors and students as well as opportunities for students to learn and connect with a wider network of peers from different backgrounds and locations in the UK and abroad.
Number of options
With CIPFA Learning, today’s PQ trainees can choose from a number of different study options. The familiar in-classroom face-to-face sessions are still available and still highly popular. For those who find instructor-led training through live online lessons more practical and convenient, the platform enables a variety of web class courses and timetables to choose from. While students who want the option to study on their own and follow a more self-determined programme can do so, with the wealth of resources provided.
Just with any adoption of technology this is start of a journey, not the final thing. Moving forward, it’s vital that we adapt and improve where we can. This includes user feedback as much as internal testing. It’s been our plan from the outset that we make sure CIPFA Learning, like all CIPFA’s training approaches, is a collaborative undertaking.
• Joana Sales is Head of Learning at CIPFA

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