There’s good news for students in Wales this summer.
According to the revised Strategy for Enhancing Learning and Teaching through Technology (pdf) or ELTT, universities and colleges are making better use of digital technology to interact with students effectively outside the lecture theatre.
We hear, too, that students in Wales are increasingly satisfied with their academic experience: according to the National Student Survey, students’ satisfaction has either increased or stayed the same since last year in all the academic experience categories.
It’s an encouraging picture of a sector that is rising to the challenge of 21st century learning, and one that Jisc has been supporting through a number of different initiatives.
What we're doing
Firstly, at the strategic level, we’ve been working since 2007 with HEFCW, who are also one of our funders, to develop that ELTT strategy, including commissioning a major evaluation of the strategy in 2011. As we work across higher and further education, we are able to share an expert, objective view.
This has allowed us to advise Welsh institutions on how they can make best use of technology, through our front line team of experts and Jisc’s involvement in a number of cross-Wales fora. We are all jointly striving for the same excellence and innovation together.
How do we know what works in Wales?
Input from Welsh providers and higher education institutions is invaluable in influencing the future direction of Jisc through our Welsh funders and stakeholder groups and through UK-wide stakeholder fora. Other stakeholder groups, such as Higher Education Wales, may input through our regular forums or through direct contact with our staff on key issues. For example, there was plenty of participation from Welsh colleagues in our recent event on online learning.
We also helped to shape the Wales Open Education Declaration of Intent, and we provide opportunities for Welsh practitioners to get together and share successes and learning, for example via the Change Agents’ Network.
Responding to challenges
There’s a real Welsh flavour to some of our work, responding to the specific challenges for people in that nation. For example we are:
- Visiting Welsh universities to explore how they are transforming the digital student experience and supporting them in making the most strategically effective use of technology to support learning, teaching and the student experience
- Supporting the commitment to open educational resources in Wales by advising working groups, offering advice, and funding resources - for example, this archive of Welsh experiences from the First World War
- Funding research and development projects to meet needs identified in Wales but applicable across the UK – for example, investigating the potential of a web-based tool for student budgeting to fill a gap identified by NUS Wales
- Exploring how the approaches developed by the digital literacies projects, such as those at Cardiff University and Grŵp Llandrillo Menai, can be taken up by the wider FE and HE sectors as part of our new co-design challenge on building capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency
- Supporting project teams in Wales successful in the summer of student innovation competition – we are currently funding innovative solutions at Cardiff University and University of South Wales
- Creating Welsh-language teaching and learning tools – for instance, we recently translated the live classroom tool, BigBlueButton
- Providing an additional connection in North Wales to the core Janet network to give increased resilience in Wales, and responding to mergers and the changing requirements of further and higher education in Wales.
None of the objectives of the ELTT strategy would be achievable without the underpinning infrastructure. The Public Sector Broadband Aggregation (PSBA) is the platform for Wales’ wider public service ICT strategy and it has positioned Wales for the future delivery of digital, joined-up services to the people of Wales. PSBA, founded by the Welsh government, was one of the first and is now the largest multi-sector service of its type in the UK.
Jisc’s network Janet is the UK’s national research and education network. Janet is a founding member of the PSBA (and represents the growing needs of the research and education community in Wales through the PSBA’s management and programme boards.
Since 2013, Jisc has worked with PSBA to upgrade the Janet network to keep ahead of the growing bandwidth needs of customers in Wales. The procurement is now in its final stages with an announcement on the supplier being made shortly. Customers in Wales benefit from Jisc's specialised advisers and from regular updates on new and changing services.
The role of digital technology
The ELTT strategy shows that technology is playing a substantial role in the student experience in Wales. You can find out more about what is actually being done in the accompanying case studies. We remain committed to making a difference in the future. The revised strategy asks that the Welsh nation continues to enhance learning teaching and assessment, student journey management, the student experience in general, and collaboration and sharing of current and good practice. The role for digital technology, and for Jisc, is clear.