At the start of the summer we shared our advice on the questions that further education (FE) leaders need to ask themselves before developing a digital strategy.
Each area of enquiry should map out a journey, from where your organisation is now, the direction in which you’re travelling, and who needs to come with you – with digital being the vehicle that will enable you to get there. So, what should happen next?
We briefly alluded to the ‘who’ in our last blog and it’s something we now want to focus on, as a vital strand in strategy development and delivery. There are a number of stakeholders – individuals as well as groups – who will be impacted, and must be considered and built into your plans.
Listed in this blog are examples of the main stakeholders and their potential needs.
Today’s students are used to interacting in a technology-rich environment, both at home and at school.
Our digital student study into the experiences and expectations of FE students found that they arrive at college with pre-conceived ideas about technology provision and use. Students want to be able to use technology to engage in learning at their convenience, any time and any place, and with minimum boundaries. They also want better lines into employment, and to have acquired the necessary skills for when they move into the world of work or higher education.
Any digital strategy needs to consider what it is students actually want and need, and how you can facilitate this. For example, are there opportunities to increase the availability and quality of formal and informal blended learning opportunities to provide a 24/7, immersive learning experience? Involve them in your conversations and work as partners to get their input.
For teaching staff, organisational strategies must be able to support them in their primary role: to inform, educate and help students develop skills and gain qualifications. The digital strategy is no different.
Teachers strive to deliver outstanding teaching that improves the student experience – and are using technology to do just that. This is not only for interactions within the four walls of their classroom, but also beyond, in further study, assessment and work placements.
The extent to which teachers want to use technology, how, and the particular products and services, must be considered. Preference, as well as capabilities, may vary widely. As such, your digital strategy must also support relevant training and development, to ensure all colleagues are digitally-proficient.
Digital technology is increasingly seen as a valuable partner in the provision of student and programme support services. It hangs on the specific goals of your organisation, which is the next ‘who’ in our line of questioning. What do you, as an organisation, want to achieve, that digital can support?
Do you need to cut costs? Technology services such as the cloud can outsource requirements, free up valuable estate and create efficiencies.
Do you want to provide dispersed online learning to apprentices studying with local employers? Then you might decide to ramp up business intelligence efforts in this area.
Under this header will also be other members of your organisation, such as support staff and managers, and your digital strategy should extend to meet their needs. Your digital strategy must also support those working to ensure college services are inclusive, and meet duties under Prevent.
Finally, consider whether the strategy is it deliverable. For instance, leaders may want to introduce a flipped learning1 model, but if your IT experts haven’t been involved in planning the proper capacity to support this ambition, the desired benefits won’t be delivered.
Awarding and professional bodies
You’ve considered the stakeholders within your organisation. What about external forces, such as awarding bodies and professional associations? If your digital strategy doesn’t align with their requirements, now and in the future, you will likely run into problems.
Let’s take assessment as an example. Everything is pointing towards FE making better use of high-quality, digital assessments: it is part of the FELTAG recommendations in England; assessment guidance and resources have been made available to colleges; and there is a commitment within the sector that all interested parties, including awarding bodies, will work together to fully maximise the benefits.
Although most providers already engage in some form of technology-enhanced assessment and feedback, practice is not uniform, and the onus is on colleges to adapt their digital offer to keep pace with the evolving assessment model.
Government and sector agenda
Looking further outward – but to be ignored at peril – are the broader implications for a college’s digital strategy in terms of government and sector agenda.
There is the new technical and further education bill currently being presented to parliament, will take forward the measures outlined by the post-16 skills plan to streamline and create clearer routes for education; and the government’s report, digital skills for the UK economy, which will input into its own digital strategy, and makes clear the challenges and opportunities of creating a digitally-capable workforce.
FE providers have a clear role to play here, ensuring the next generation have the digital leadership skills they need to be successful and to keep the UK competitive.
We’ve discussed the main stakeholders – but remember that it is essential that all stakeholders are identified and consulted as part of strategy planning and development. This ensures that local barriers, issues and successes are surfaced and can be acknowledged strategically, to support cross-functional collaboration.
It also starts the process of engaging stakeholders in the implementation of strategic impact objectives, building the culture of process ownership necessary for continual improvement.
Find out more
If you’d like to find out more about developing a digital strategy, contact your Jisc account manager, who’ll be able to tell you about Jisc’s consultancy services.
You can also visit us at the Jisc stand at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Annual Conference and Exhibition next week to try a mini-diagnostic tool, to get you started.
- 1 Read flipped learning definition by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/enhancement/starter-tools/flipped-learning-0