Vice-chancellors and principals face a challenge: most of them have a well-developed strategy for teaching and learning, and yet, use of technology for learning can vary greatly between lecturers, modules and courses within their organisations.
So when it comes to ensuring that their vision is carried out across campus, it is valuable for vice-chancellors and college principals to get an overview of what’s going on so that they can benchmark their performance and identify gaps.
Last year, Jisc embarked upon ground-breaking work offering tailored support to vice-chancellors to help them meet their strategic aims with technology-supported learning. In further and higher education we think we know things; but there are surprising issues that have come out from the consultancy work, insights which we have now published in a report.
The work was funded by HEFCE and delivered by a partnership of Jisc, the Leadership Foundation, the Association of Learning Technology, the National Union of Students and the Higher Education Academy.
Getting all of these different members of the university in a room together proved fascinating for the vice-chancellors that we consulted for. The three most pressing issues that were echoed across the institutions we visited were consistency; embedding strategy and engaging students as partners.
Firstly, students across the UK are demanding consistency in how they interact with technology for learning. It's clear that students would universally like to have the same kind of experience across lecturers and modules.
But they are also demanding it in the way they interact with their college or university administration - for example, in the way they sign in and in the interfaces they use for different university services. We know that providing mobile services is a good way to engage students; conversely, inconsistent approaches are switching them off.
One way to effect consistency is by standardising your curriculum and its assessment: you can learn about curriculum design in our guide.
Another positive move is to make access to services and resources more transparent to the user, whether this is an institution-registered person, or a visitor from another academic institution. There are several ‘federated’ solutions that have international membership that are sponsored by Jisc for UK based providers; for example, eduroam allows all federation members connectivity at other federation sites.
Once a network connection is made, then access to the e-resources at the person’s host institution can be granted via single-sign-on technologies such as the access and Identity management service.
Providing services for other public visitors requires an audit of their sign in and activity to be recorded in case of abuse, guest accounts and signing an acceptable use policy is the common method. Jisc technologies have an agreement with Sky–Cloud to provide such access.
Issue: embedding strategy
It has long been an issue that there can be a disconnect between strategic rhetoric and the jobbing lecturer. In any large institution, high-level strategy gets carried out to a greater or lesser degree across the organisation.
This inconsistency could be because of patchy skills among staff, so there's an opportunity to roll out training to upskill staff and ensure standardisation across the organisation. Doing this would of course support a more consistent student experience in the process.
Issue: engaging students as partners
As a force for change, students are really powerful. When we met them to ask open-ended questions about their experience of technology, we felt a real sense of, "I've been waiting to tell people this!"
The biggest part of university income is from the students so it makes sense to make them more part of the strategic conversation across the organisation.
There are various ways to involve students in decision-making, whether through engaging them in curriculum design or creating student ambassadors for good technology use. For inspiration, look at Jisc’s research and development projects on the change agents’ network and the digital student experience. Review what’s already taken place and consider participating in the activities.
We’ve published these results in a report to help you benchmark your institution and explore the challenges being faced across the sector. Sarah Davies, our head of change implimentation support at Jisc, shares more in her blog post about how we’re investing to help you respond to those challenges.
To find out more about embedding your technology enhanced strategy, prioritising development and accessing advice and training from our subject specialists, contact us directly through your account manager or at [email protected].