Over the last few weeks we’ve been immersed in our Connect More programme of regional events and it has been as rewarding as ever to meet with Jisc members. At each event, I’ve been searching out practitioners in FE and skills to talk about the ideas and insights we shared in the various sessions and to find out where we can help people to do things better.
One of this year’s Connect More themes explores ways to improve the learning experience using digital technologies and we know that FE members have a good understanding of the ways that Jisc products and services support their organisations to develop richer and more personalised learning experiences.
From the superfast Janet Network and its inbuilt cyber security measures through to ‘sharp end’ learning resources such as e-books for FE, which offers unlimited downloads of curriculum-mapped e-books for A-level, BTEC and vocational programmes as well as GCSE English and maths, these services are recognised as our core offering to member colleges.
But it’s been really useful to talk to individual teachers, librarians and learning technologists about what helps them in their own daily practice. This comment, made to me by a director of learning technology, has now been echoed by several people:
“The things I value most about working with Jisc are the specialist expertise that I can tap into, the opportunities to work on shared priorities with colleagues in other colleges and the chance to be part of a community of practice.”
There’s no doubt that being part of a group of people working towards a shared vision brings many advantages. It allows you to avoid mistakes that other people have already made; it also enables you to find out who is doing things well and to pick up tips to make your own journey smoother and faster.
So, as well as facilitating these groups, we’re developing more case studies that highlight best practice. The advice and guidance in our report "The evolution of FELTAG" is being refreshed to include new member stories, including one from Grimsby Institute that demonstrates a well thought-out, strategic approach to learning technologies.
From gamification that boosts engagement and use of augmented reality and virtual reality to teach practical skills, to the Jisc-supported implementation of Microsoft 365 to familiarise learners with systems they’re likely to need when they get a job, the institute’s approach has improved learner experience and attainment. It has also boosted the institute’s Ofsted rating from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’.
Making the most of the resources you have
Look out for these resources and the innovative case studies. They offer inspiration to help you make sure your own college is on the right track. You’ll see how colleges are making imaginative use of technology to create simulations and immerse learners in virtual reality worlds, enabling them to offer really high quality vocational training that prepares learners for working life.
The case studies also highlight how colleges are extracting maximum value from the technology they already have, by committing time and resources to developing staff and student digital capabilities. This last point is important - while I’ve been talking to members I’ve found once again that many of you want our help to make sure that your college has the culture, policies and infrastructure to ensure that digital practices are enabled and supported. Our guide to developing organisational approaches to digital capability shares some models and approaches that might help.
You also want us to help you to develop a strategic vision for digital, and to understand how the student voice is informing that.
We have been working with 48 colleges, skills and adult and community learning providers to pilot and assist with the development of our new digital experience insights service (formerly known as the student digital experience tracker), which launches in September. Building on Jisc’s digital student work, it provides survey questions that allow students and staff to share what they think works well in terms of their digital experience and what they think could be done better.
Throughout the development phase colleges have taken part in a pilot of the service, tailoring some of the questions to align with their own strategic priorities. The findings can inform future strategy direction and help set priorities, measure progress and benchmark against peer organisations. When the full service launches it will be a paid-for optional extra but, over time, it will enable users to save money, make progress more efficiently and demonstrate the impact that their digital strategy is having on learning and teaching.
Look out for the latest tracker report, "digital experience survey 2018: insights from students in UK higher and further education". We will publish it on 11 September and it gives a national perspective on FE and HE students’ experiences of technology.
We’ve been working with colleges on a number of other initiatives and I’ll have more news to share on these in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about the digital experiences insights service, do please get in touch with your account manager or fill in the form to register your interest and we’ll keep you updated.