We've curated a collection of tips that we will be adding to fortnightly to answer your questions, and make sure you have the information you need to succeed.
Our research shows that there are huge differences across the sector in the use of digital technologies to support learning.
Some teachers hardly use technology at all, others create a few resources for the virtual learning environment (VLE), while innovators integrate educational technology (edtech) as part of a richer approach that we call "blended learning".
Under this approach, traditional face-to-face methods are combined with online, often interactive, activities and content for study, feedback and assessment.
Blended learning enables learners to access a wealth of resources, take more control of how, when and where they study and develop the digital capabilities that they will need in the workplace. Integrating edtech in the curriculum also helps clear obstacles to education for people who have previously found themselves excluded, including those with disabilities or caring responsibilities.
Get the basics right
First, colleges need to have a clear idea of what students want and what sort of infrastructure, equipment and resources are appropriate.
One of the best ways of tailoring digital change is to involve learners in discussions about how best to design opportunities for using technology in learning. Take a look at our guide on empowering and engaging learners.
Against that background, a digital strategy and robust digital infrastructure are vital and we can help with that if you need it.
Making changes to accommodate technology is often a big organisational and financial commitment, but it’s not something to rush or skimp on. You need to make sure that any change is going to work both for the college and your learners. If you need help, our consultants will be able to advise you.
Are staff and learners digitally capable?
Digitally-confident teaching staff hold the key to an effective learning experience. Our building digital capability service provides guidance, tools and resources to help equip staff in a variety of roles with digital skills. We also provide a variety of events and training; for example, a digital leadership course supports senior leaders to become digitally-informed and respond more effectively to technology-driven change.
For comprehensive information about integrating digital practice throughout a college, see our guide on developing organisational approaches to digital capability.
Choosing digital resources
We’re here to support you with curriculum development. Through Jisc, your college has access to free and heavily discounted digital resources via Jisc Collections. This includes free, curriculum relevant e-books for FE (covering A-level and BTEC courses plus GCSE English and maths), and diverse teaching and learning multimedia content.
To view the full range of services available for FE, visit the catalogue of services.
Want to know more? We've got a comprehensive guide on embedding blended learning in further education and skills, or take inspiration from colleges which are taking the lead in the use of edtech. Alternatively, contact your account manager.
More tips and guidance
To provide the best service to students, colleges need to provide up to date textbooks across a range of subjects, which could present a big challenge for financially squeezed further education (FE) budgets.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of FREE help at hand, thanks to Jisc’s wide-ranging collection of curriculum-mapped e-books.
Accessed through the ProQuest Ebook Central platform, and available to colleges as part of their membership, the collection covers BTEC, A-level, NVQ/SVQ and Cache courses, but also GCSE (including English and maths), WJEC and Highers English and maths.
One Somerset college that uses 166 e-book titles saves more than £46,000 compared to the cost of buying hard copies or e-books on the open market.
The chances of a college being able to afford to buy a book for every student who needs it is slim, and using e-books also takes away a potential financial burden for less well off students and their families, who would otherwise struggle to buy textbooks.
Because students can access books on their laptop, tablet or smartphone, it avoids the strain on backs and shoulders of lugging a bunch of heavy books around all day.
Once you’re signed up, which is quick and easy, you also have unlimited access: staff and students can download and view any book an endless number of times.
Using e-books save times and allows for more flexible learning – there’s no dash to the library to find hard copies, and e-books can be accessed from anywhere at any time via your usual institutional login on Ebook Central.
Finally, the online platform means students and teachers can support learning by linking to e-books directly from their virtual learning environment (VLE).
Still undecided? Find out what Havering College thinks of the e-book experience.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started with free e-books for FE.
Colleges are in the front line of the government’s plans to produce a technically-savvy workforce that can help plug the UK’s well-publicised skills gap and boost the economy.
T-levels and Institutes of Technology are on the horizon, but work to embed tech into the FE curriculum is patchy…which is where Jisc comes in.
Are you ready?
We think that this process should start at the top of an organisation and filter through, which is why we launched a project to build capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency.
We’re working to provide clear guidance on the digital skills and capabilities that are required for a range of roles, including leaders, FE teaching practitioners, learning technologists, library staff and learners.
Our digital discovery tool presents reflective questions relating to digital capability. A visual profile is created, with feedback and suggestions to help staff and students progress. To find out more, or to get involved, email email@example.com.
Need help to get started?
We have lots of resources to support staff and your organisation as a whole shift towards becoming digitally capable.
Our developing organisational approaches to digital capability guide and briefing document are a good place to find examples and guidance, whilst auditing tools including a checklist will help you start your journey.
We've also developed a checklist for curriculum developers to help course teams assess how well a course of study is preparing learners with the right kinds of digital capabilities.
Finally, our senior leaders briefing paper describes strategy, practice and process.
Who’s doing it well already?
There are some great examples of best practice we can share with you, including:
- Hillcroft College: small is (digitally) beautiful (pdf)
- Epping Forest College: unleashing student creativity (pdf)
- North Lindsey College: digital "missions" and digital teams (pdf)
- South Eastern Regional College: a whole college approach to developing digital capabilities (pdf)
- Salford City College: cascading skills through staff and student champions (pdf)
To share your experiences, hear from others and continue discussions around staff and student digital capabilities, join our community of practice via the digital capabilities JiscMail list.
We launched our building digital capabilities service in September 2018.
Colleges often contact the Jisc cyber security operations centre for preventative advice on how to protect their organisation and for immediate guidance on how to deal with security attacks.
Unlike larger and better funded universities, colleges are typically without specialist security staff, so Jisc is an essential friend and we’re always on the end of the phone.
If you’re not sure what a robust cyber security posture looks like, here’s our ten step plan to keeping your college staff, students, network and systems safe.
1. What are the risks?
Start with a risk assessment. What are you trying to protect against? Criminal gangs, disgruntled students and staff, 'hacktivists'? Does your institution have relationships with organisations or industrial partners that might make you an attractive target? And where are your biggest vulnerabilities?
2. Ensure network security
Put measures in place to defend the network perimeter, and to filter out unauthorised access and malicious content. Monitor and test these security controls. Segment your network so if one machine gets infected with malware you limit the ability for it to spread across the whole institution.
3. Educate your users
Produce security policies for all users clearly setting out acceptable and secure use of your systems. Maintain awareness of online security risks by providing ongoing training for staff and students, covering on-campus and remote access.
4. Make sure you have anti-malware
Put in place anti-malware defences such as anti-virus software, end-point protection solutions. Make sure they are turned on and kept up to date.
5. Keep software up to date
Make sure you know what software and hardware you have in place, so you can easily and quickly update as soon as new security patches are released.
6. Manage user privileges
Not everyone needs full admin access, so only provide privileged access to those who need it.
7. Know your incident management process
Accept that bad things will happen, and encourage a culture where people know how to report things that seem suspicious. Set up protocols so everyone knows what to do in the event of security incident and practice it. Know who to call if you need help when you are attacked.
8. Monitor activity
Establish a monitoring strategy and produce supporting policies. Continuously monitor all systems and networks. Analyse incident logs for unusual activity that could indicate an attack.
9. Share intelligence
Join CiSP (Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership) and encourage your staff with responsibility for cyber security to network with peers. Make use of existing capabilities. For example, if you teach cyber security courses, encourage those students to become security champions/ambassadors for others. Jisc members will be automatically plugged into its sector-specific intel sharing system.
10. Set the standard
Once the basics are in place, aim to reach the government’s Cyber Essentials or Cyber Essentials Plus standards. These provide assurance that you are on right track and can demonstrate to stakeholders that you are cyber security aware.
Finally, remember that the threat landscape is ever changing, so it’s important to regularly review and evolve your cyber security strategy and to adopt a digital infrastructure that can evolve to accommodate the latest technology.
At the end of the day, the principal and/or chief executive must understand the risks and responsibilities of cyber security. Ultimately, it’s their job to ensure the cyber safety of their college, their data and their people.
For further information, contact Jisc, check out this blog from a college that’s in the process of upgrading its cyber security strategy, keep up with Jisc’s security incident news, or visit the National Cyber Security Centre website.
Apprenticeships is a priority area for colleges, which are under pressure to help meet the government’s target of three million starts by 2020 – a tenfold increase from the current level of 300,000 apprentices.
It’s all part of the plan to boost the profile of vocational training and help fill the UK’s skills gap.
But with the increase in numbers and a change in policy that now puts employers in the driving seat, there’s a need for colleges to make courses attractive and the process of delivering learning and assessment as easy and seamless as possible.
For colleges wanting to improve the apprenticeship journey, we’ve created this interactive toolkit that gives advice and points out the pitfalls and advantages at every turn. It starts with how to prepare your college and staff, work with employers and recruit candidates. It moves on to delivery – implementing blended learning practice and evidencing learning – and finishes with assessment, both during the course and at the end.
We think that using digital technology can help at every stage and keep all parties engaged throughout. Building on our learning analytics work, our digital apprenticeships project is creating a tracking, monitoring and reporting system that will link employers, providers and apprentices.
It will gather data including attendance at training, progress and topic coverage, as well as data from systems such as student records, virtual learning environments and e-portfolio systems.
Analysing this data will show when apprentices are not engaging well and prompt intervention to find out what’s going wrong and help steer candidates’ back on track. This extra support should improve both wellbeing and outcomes.
Current systems exist that link providers and apprentices, but our system will be the only one that brings employers into the loop: they will want to know what their employees are doing when not in work and could check on apprentices at multiple colleges using the one system. Job done!
You can find further advice in our apprenticeships guide.
Perhaps the first question to answer is “do you know what students want?”
They like to be involved in decisions that affect them and could come up with worthwhile ideas and feedback. You could run your own survey or get involved with our student digital experience tracker.
The tracker gathers students’ expectations and experiences of technology, and can be tailored for FE. It builds on resources such as the Jisc/NUS digital student experience benchmarking tool (pdf), and our guide to enhancing the digital student experience: a strategic approach. The questions cover issues that are important to learners and/or to staff with a focus on the learning experience. The 2017 survey returned more than 22,500 responses, so don’t ignore it!
Pick colleagues’ brains
Attend one of our twice-yearly events run by the students experience experts group. Post-event resources from the last meeting, in April, may be helpful. Likewise, Jisc hosts an FE coalition meeting every few months brings together colleagues in FE who want to share and learn how technology can help support their work. Or browse event resources from our series of regional Connect More events, popular with FE practitioners to share the best and latest in teaching practice.
Check out who’s doing it well
More and more colleges are taking a “digital first” approach to strategic development. Take Portsmouth College, for example, which won an AoC Beacon Award in 2017 for innovative use of technology. If you’d like to see more examples of best practice in action, have a look at our case studies.
Find out what tech you need
If you’re going to use tech to help students, you’ll need the right infrastructure in place. If you need help to make decisions, we can advise. Top of students’ priority list is likely to be reliable wifi. This means they can access digital resources and study at a time, place and pace to suit them, whether on or off campus.
There's no point having all the best tech unless staff have the digital skills to get the best out of it. Our free advice and guidance is a good place to start, or enrol on one of our specialist training courses.
Instruction on good security practice is essential for all staff and students. They need to be able to spot dodgy websites, iffy emails and other common attacks.
For colleges, it’s about protecting their systems and data, but also about extending the scope of student care to enable their learners to live an easier and safer life.
Here are our top tips for keeping safe online:
1. Suss out suspicious apps
Why, for example, would a calculator app be asking to access your phone’s camera? It doesn’t need to, so it probably has an ulterior spying motive. Apply common sense.
2. Avoid the phisherman’s hook
One of the recent scams that first-year students are subjected to is an email telling them they’ve won a bursary and all they need to do to get it is to hand over their bank account details. The rule is, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.
3. Take care what you click
If you receive an unsolicited email from someone you don’t know, or a strange email from someone you do know that contains a puzzling attachment or a link, it’s best avoided – it could be a virus, or a spoof website.
4. Resist temptation
Students are often targeted to use as mules to launder money. It sounds great – hand over your bank details and you get £50 a week, no questions asked – but you’d be breaking the law by allowing someone to use your account for illicit purposes.
5. Beef-up passwords
Use a separate password for your email account that, if breached, can often provide access to many of your other online accounts. A solid password is one that comprises a short phrase of at least three words, plus numbers and other characters. Avoid using obvious passwords such as children’s or pets’ names, which criminals may be able to guess after looking at your social media accounts – so be careful what you post. It’s best never to repeat a password. So you don’t have to remember them all, use an online password safe, which will store them all securely.
6. Keep computers healthy
Install anti-virus software (a free package is better than nothing), back-up regularly and update software when prompted to do as they often contain security patches.
7. Preserve privacy
Be very careful of communicating personal or sensitive information when using public computers, or a public wi-fi network, which are vulnerable to hackers. Your name and address maybe all that’s required to steal your identity, for example. Be similarly wary what you post on social media and check your accounts’ privacy settings to limit who can see what. Ideally, use a virtual private network (VPN), which uses data encryption to hide internet activity.
First off, are you taking advantage of all the stuff you’re entitled to as part of Jisc membership?
Besides a connection to the national research and education network, the Janet Network, and its in-built cyber security features that protect your network connection, members benefit from the expertise of our computer security incident response team, which monitors the network and resolves security issues.
Colleges can use a range of our FE-specific digital resources. These include a range of curriculum-mapped e-books, including English and maths text books that will be particularly attractive for colleges with a high number of learners taking GCSE resits.
Access to e-books alone can be worth a small fortune versus buying copies, and are popular with students, who like the instant access, but really don’t like carrying heavy books around. Not convinced? Colleagues at Havering College and Coleg Cambria will tell you how they are reaping the benefits.
What else is included as part of my subscription?
We know that FE is short on time and money, so one of the most useful things Jisc does for colleges is to negotiate deals on behalf of the sector. All the pre-contract leg-work is done for you. Agreements on our framework cover cloud services, anti-phishing campaigns and telephony purchases, among others.
Moving all or some of your voice traffic from traditional telephone connections on to your IP network can make a massive difference to costs. Pembroke College, for example, has managed to cut its bill by more than 50% through this service.
Pick our experts’ brains
There are an awful lot of very experienced people at Jisc – experts in their field.
We are currently revising our help and support offer with the aim of making it more flexible. In addition to the suite of diagnostic activities, which our members can draw upon as an inclusive benefit of their membership, we will also be introducing new mentor-based paid-for support offer. Plus, members can continue to benefit from our paid-for consultancy options for when more extensive levels of support are required. We will be able to give more information about all these changes soon.
In the meantime, you can read about how we guided Epping Forest College through a process to transform its environment for students. Members can also search our wide range of online guides which cover subjects including cloud computing, digital skills, employability, apprenticeships, data protection and blended learning.
For more information on how Jisc can help you save time and money, contact your account manager.