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AoC NILTA is a membership services organisation which leads and lobbies for the development and use of ICT and e-learning across the post-16 education sector. The membership consists of full members (further education colleges), affiliate members (other not-for-profit educational bodies) and commercial members (corporate companies with a remit for educational technologies and systems).

As part of its remit, AoC NILTA works to support Adult Community Learning (ACL) as well as further education colleges and institutions.

AoC NILTA works with and on behalf of post-16 learning and skills development in order to:

  • Drive forward the sustainable use of technologies to extend the opportunities available to learners
  • Support excellence in the quality of educational provision
  • Support innovation in the development and delivery of the learning experience for all

AoC NILTA works to advocate and develop the use of ICT and e-learning in the post-16 education curriculum. AoC NILTA also has a focus on the use of appropriate Management Information Systems (MIS) and networking within post-16 institutions to facilitate and enhance the learning experience.

AoC NILTA works closely with other advisory bodies in the sector and associated sectors, such as NIACE, e-skills UK, Becta, DfES, LSN, LSC, TechDis, ALT, Jisc and LLUK.

History of AoC NILTA[edit]

The National Information Learning Technology Association (NILTA) merged with the Association of Colleges (AoC) to form AoC NILTA in 2004.

The concept of a national body to advise further education colleges about the use of information technology arose from an educational visit to Germany and France in September 1988. The visit was organised by members of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate and the group consisted of senior representatives from colleges and polytechnics. After the visit, the college members organised a residential weekend seminar to consider the implications of the visit for the UK further education sector. It was agreed to establish a voluntary organisation to encourage college staff to share examples of good practice.

There was a founders meeting in London in April 1989 and the first national event was a conference in October at the Grand Hotel, Bristol. For the first year, the title of Standing Committee for Information Technology in Further Education (SCITFE) was adopted but was not endorsed by the colleges. It was renamed the National Association for Information Technology in Further Education (NAITFE) after one year.

It was during the first year that regional committees of the Association started to be formed and A National Council was established to determine policy and direction. Very close links were maintained with the Department of Education and Science (DES) and the Inspectorate (HMI) and colleges were invited to join the Association for a modest annual fee. The Association did not have its own office but used member colleges’ premises for meetings of the Council and the Chairman (Peter Shuker), Vice-Chairman (John Gray) and Treasurer (Chris West) performed all of the administration. The national conferences provided a focus for innovation in ILT in FE throughout the period and fielded leading edge speakers from industry and government ministers. The Association was a pioneer of the use of video technology in its conferences (at a time when this was unknown in educational conferences) i.e. the pre–recorded interview with minister Tim Eggar at the second conference in Nottingham 1990 and the live dual video links with the minister Tim Boswell in 1991.

The Association provided support to develop information and learning technologies in FE through voluntary professional contributions in an era, which preceded government-funded bodies such as the JISC Regional Support Units, BECTA, FERL, LSDA and LSN.

In June 1991, the DES convened a meeting at its headquarters in Elizabeth House and invited key industrialists from the IT sector to meet with the Association to discuss actions that could bring mutual benefits. This meeting led to sponsorship for the Association and the inclusion of companies at the Annual Conference. Prior to the incorporation of colleges in 1992, the Council decided to appoint its first Chief Executive, Malcolm Himsworth on a part-time basis and Leeds College of Building became the host organisation for the Association. The Association became a limited company with charitable status and a wholly owned subsidiary company was formed to become the business arm. A curriculum sub-group and management information sub-group were established, the latter with strong support from the Further Education Funding Council.

In 1995, the Association decide to change its name to National Information and Learning Technologies Associations partly to reflect the core business of supporting student learning and as part of the merger agreement with the CMIS Group. The FEFC's Higginson Report, completed during 1995 and published in 1996 after some FEFC delay, had coined the term ILT and NAITFE adopted the term soon after. Higginson had made a number of recommendations that would need NILTA's support to achieve. NILTA was invited to chair the three national consultative conferences in early 1996. Also in 1996, the Association organised its first international initiative with a visit to the American Association of Community Colleges Annual Convention in Atlanta. The Chairman gave a presentation to one of the option groups, with a video-conferencing link back to the UK.

In December 1996, Malcolm Himsworth retired as Chief Executive to be replaced by Ernie Haiden. Ernie served until 1998 when Mary Barker was appointed as the first full-time Chief Executive. Later that year Peter Shuker stood down as national Chairman after serving for 10 years and Fred McCrindle took over the chairmanship.