When it comes to partnership in the Scottish colleges sector, love really is all around

Headshot of Jason Miles-Campbell
Jason Miles-Campbell

This #LoveScotlandsColleges week we’re highlighting the importance of partnerships to achieve colleges’ ambitions.

This Colleges Development Network (CDN) #LoveScotlandsColleges week 2024 I believe it is important to recognise partnership in the Scottish college community as a standout quality that means it is greater than the sum of its parts.

Partnership works at all levels: individual students and staff, cooperation within and between colleges, collaboration with sector bodies such as Jisc, and on to funders and government. Working together allows us to provide an even better experience for learners and to support the economy with the skilled workforce it needs for today and tomorrow.

This year, Jisc has continued its work with Colleges Scotland and CDN to support the sector and get the best out of our colleges through the use of digital. Through the Principals’ Group, we’re exploring how digitally supported transformation can improve the student experience and boost accessibility. With CDN, we’ve worked together to better understand the possibilities (and limits) of generative artificial intelligence (AI), responding to the explosion of interest and its many capabilities.

Championing partnership in digital learning

One of our most effective partnerships is Jisc’s sponsorship of CDN’s digital learning award. It has been an annual highlight to be reminded, as part of the judging panel, of the impressive use of technology across Scotland’s colleges. Deciding who to announce as the winner is always a difficult decision due to the quality of the nominations. All three of last year’s shortlisted colleges demonstrated partnership at its best.

The 2023 winner was West Lothian College, which worked in partnership with CadPeople and future end users to develop high-quality, interactive virtual reality resources to support health and social care courses. The project was designed to help protect students, staff, patients and the wider community by demonstrating how to prevent the spread of infection – a very topical and important issue.

Runner up, and highly commended, was Fife College, for their in-house development of the MyPortfolio app. Having recognised the limitations of ‘off-the-shelf’ systems, they worked in partnership with staff and students to understand individual requirements and used these to build a bespoke platform to meet users’ needs, resulting in a successful pilot and positive evaluation.

A close third was Forth Valley College, with their IDEaS (Innovative Digital Education and Skills) project, designed to equip teachers with the knowledge and skills to raise their digital competencies through collaboration and joint learning.

As director for both Scotland and Northern Ireland at Jisc, I was overjoyed by the transnational partnership between South Eastern Regional College (SERC) and Forth Valley College (in addition to other partners across Europe). The project saw the development of an active online community, and a 30-hour digital teacher training course.

Working as part of a Scottish tertiary education community

At Jisc, we work hard to ensure that what we do as the sector’s digital partner in network, cyber, cloud, data, digital resources, student experience, and trust and identity, fits into the wider puzzle. That involves sharing, coordination and collaboration across Scotland’s tertiary education community.

We use events such as Digifest and Networkshop to strengthen partnerships with our members by sharing their insight and best practice across digital teaching, learning and research. Events such as these also help us showcase new technologies and ideas from innovative spokespeople and exhibitors with our audiences.

We also partner through our own communities of practice in areas such as digital capabilities, artificial intelligence, accessibility and assistive technology and our Change Agents’ Network; as well as supporting member-led communities too.

Finally, we partner across the sector – liaising with government, our funders, and other stakeholders across a number of areas. Through collaborative working we are able to provide the best support for digital transformation, support sector agencies to upskill staff and help improve digital infrastructure, advise on Cyber-security and resilience and of course provide access to the Janet network.

Through all this, we’re proud to be the sector’s digital partner, working hard to help enhance the future of Scotland’s fantastic colleges.

About the author

Headshot of Jason Miles-Campbell
Jason Miles-Campbell
Director of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland

I have responsibility to ensure outstanding service for Jisc members and communities in both Northern Ireland and Scotland. For this dual role I split my time between both our Stirling and Belfast offices.