Apr 192016

I had the pleasure of attending JISC’s ‘Investigating students’ expectations of the digital environment’ in Leicester with a focus on ‘the digital expectations and experiences of learners in the skills sector’ (14/04/2016). The scope of the study covers work-based learning (including apprenticeships), adult and community learning and offender learning.’ There was mixed group of attendance with some of us from HE. This event gave us an insight into the issues and opportunities affecting learners in the skills sector in respect of the ‘digital environment’; such learners can easily become learners (students) of HE too. In brief research in this area by JISC involved gathering data and having focus groups using ‘experience cards’ which can be used to ‘support conversations about students digital experience’. These cards are great at starting off conversations which can often be tricky at first and hopefully allows students to think about various areas around technology and related services that impact their experience during their course of study. These cards are multi-purpose and can be tweaked to suit the learning context, they can be easily used as a planning or an evaluation tool. By getting the learners ‘doing’ something hopefully allows for a more rounded response and consider the issues at hand.

Understanding the learner  experience and expectations  of the digital environment is important to channel support and guidance for our diverse cohort of students and inform us about the technology we have invested to use – therefore having an added opportunity for the ‘student voice’ funnel is just as important as in appreciating the lecturer’s  learning and teaching objectives for the course who is having to balance how technology can facilitate and support the curriculum. It’s good to know that we incorporate this in the project work that we do.

Technology can facilitate in so many HE academic practices as we know -assessment, teaching content, communications, research and collaboration, such technology  and service related technology now is very much extended into the modern workplace and digital literacy is regarded as a key skill for graduate/post graduate employability. We recognise that teaching staff value sharing effective practices in the usage of technology e.g. PGCertHE for their professional development and starting from their academic teaching practices is essential to see the wider uses of applied technology. We know what purpose technology can serve in a course of study and that the responsibility lies in how the lecturer chooses to use it. If we can sift through the essential information and digital skills that students  should possess and for this to be more widely available and accessible, this and building digital experiences  through the curriculum – we can hopefully ensure that we are equipping our students with the necessary skills set to engage in the wider digital environment.

Our current student ‘digital’ support can be steered collectively to reach out to all our students informed by both student and staff experiences as notably found when I completed the ‘Teaching Systems Review’ project, students valued the technologies we have invested in and have aired where some improvements can be made – by listening and acting we can make a difference and steps are being made towards this.

JISC highlighted  a ‘Benchmarking tool – the student digital experience – which could be used to evaluate current practices in this area to plan any work that may be needed, it would be good to evaluate!