Today's FE and skills practitioners need to embed digital skills in their teaching, but many lack the confidence, capabilities, and often the support, to do so. Here’s how to get your staff started on the right path.
Involve different voices in strategic planning
Colleges need to engage staff, learners and employers in a constructive dialogue to define expectations of technology use, involving as many different voices as possible in a variety of different ways.
Listen to your students, but bear in mind that employers are also important to hear
Listen to your students, but bear in mind that employers are also important to hear – working closely with them will pay dividends as they are on the sharp end of the use of technology, in markets your students are potentially hoping to enter.
They also have practical experience of using technology to achieve business aims and objectives.
Start a group to develop and assess your digital strategy, making sure it includes staff and students at the very least, and any decisions made are based on tangible evidence. Learners will enjoy contributing meaningfully to making decisions and can help you to champion the technology you decide to use, while developing their own digital skills.
Where to start?
Our guide to developing digital literacies will help you to support your staff to develop your strategy. Our guide to developing employability shows you how to identify opportunities for learners to gain the digital skills they need for employment.
Try to make technology the norm for your learners and staff, and encourage creativity and innovation in this environment. Staff need to know what’s expected of them – how they need to integrate technology into their classrooms and what their responsibility is (and isn’t) for developing their own digital literacy, and that of their learners.
They need to be given adequate time, resources and incentives – such as training, rewards and clear career paths – to do this.
Where to start?
Understanding learners’ expectations and experiences of technology is key. Look at our work on enhancing the digital student experience as a starting point.
Don’t stand still: keep checking; keep developing
As a rule learners expect a lot from technology but they can be less confident at using it than you might assume. Look at what individual learners need in terms of access, skills and practices on entry against confidence levels and use this information to track how they are progressing and tailor your support.
It’s important to keep asking what learners want and keep assessing their digital capabilities
It’s important to keep asking what learners want and keep assessing their digital capabilities as confidence in use grows.
It’s also worthwhile undertaking an audit to understand how your current services meet the needs of learners, regardless of their confidence with technology. Again, this should be an ongoing process, regularly evaluating how staff and students use the technologies you have in places.
Staff can also do their own evaluations in the classroom – you just set them on the right path to do so.
Where to start?
Our advice about engaging learners is a good first port of call. We also have a benchmarking tool, developed collaboratively with the National Union of Students (NUS) and The Student Engagement Partnership, which offers institutions a checklist of key actions to work through to identify how well they’re meeting their learners’ needs in terms of digital.
A common theme
The key strand running through all of our digital student in FE work is the importance of partnership between staff and students.
There’s growing evidence that establishing partnerships can do a lot more than just engage students
There’s growing evidence that establishing partnerships can do a lot more than just engage students – it works the other way round, too. Happily, a genuine partnership in a learning environment prompts and supports teaching staff to develop their own digital capabilities, too: so everybody gains.
You may also want to look into the change agents’ network, which brings staff and students together to work collaboratively on developing a digital environment.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on our top tips. Share your experiences and insight with other professionals and join the conversations being held at the ALT conference this week. Follow #altc and #digitalstudent on Twitter and get involved.