What you need to know
This guide is about learning design rather than strategy development. It is, however, worthwhile considering the part a digital strategy plays in the achievement of good learning and assessment design.
If you are involved in developing or implementing a digital strategy, these are our tips for success:
- Base your strategy on a set of educational principles - see principles section
- Ensure your strategy is translated into policy and procedure and can be clearly followed through into practice – see quality section
- Align your strategy with other institutional strategies such as estates (see learning spaces section), IT (see infrastructure section), staff development (see staff development section), business growth and marketing in order to achieve institution-wide transformation
- Make best use of data to monitor the impact of your strategy – see learning analytics section
- Encourage innovation by establishing a supportive, blame-free culture
- Communicate your mission to all stakeholders in ways that are meaningful and transparent.
Why a strategic approach matters
With the challenges posed by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and the recommendations of the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (FELTAG) report (pdf), a strategic approach is essential to steering your organisation towards successful digital practices.
Clear leadership from senior managers is the key. Without leadership and strategic direction, digital learning and assessment – and the benefits these can bring – are likely to only exist in dispersed ‘pockets of good practice’ rather than becoming the norm.
When implementing your strategy, aim for an open, supportive culture and instil a passion for good learning throughout the institution. Such a culture empowers teaching staff to experiment and provides the motivation to work through initial difficulties.
Recognising this, many institutional leaders now participate in digital training sessions alongside their staff to demonstrate their commitment to the organisation’s strategic goals and to unite everyone behind the common goal of providing a high-quality learning experience for all students.
What the experts say
“The digital student experience is not ‘one thing’ but is many faceted and born of complex and fluid relationships between different elements… Taking a strategic approach ensures the benefits of any interventions are realised.”
Clare Killen, educational consultant
Be inspired: case studies
Staffordshire University – a connected university
Staffordshire University’s new digital strategy aims to transform the institution into a 'connected university'. Under its influence, the culture is changing: embedded use of digital for online teaching and learning is becoming the norm, all academic staff have been issued with Surface Pro laptops and classrooms have been refurbished to better support digital learning and teaching. The new strategy has also turned the spotlight on designing whole courses rather than individual modules.
“It is clear that the new structure and strategy will embed technology in a much more strategic way.”
Sue Lee, e-learning manager, Staffordshire University
University of Northampton – becoming ‘Waterside ready’
The move to the new Waterside campus has become the catalyst for a new strategic vision for learning and teaching based on active blended learning (ABL) at the University of Northampton.
ABL involves student-centred, participative learning experiences in which blended learning and student-led activities outside the classroom are as much the norm as classroom-based activities.
Professor Alejandro Armellini explains the impact of ABL on the student experience in our interview, the large lecture (theatre) is dead.
In the following video, he outlines how ABL principles have been embedded across all programmes of learning.
“ABL is our new normal. A module that makes effective use of ABL is a ‘Waterside ready’ module. ABL is not something we do in addition to our regular teaching duties: it is our standard approach to learning and teaching.”
Professor Alejandro Armellini, dean of learning and teaching, University of Northampton
South West College (SWC), Northern Ireland – changing strategic direction
Senior managers at SWC recognised the benefit to the college of offering education and training beyond the home region, and so began a strategic drive to extend the college’s provision through distance learning.
SWC is now on course to achieve a proportion of online delivery and assessment on all face-to-face courses. In 2016, 34 hours out of a total of 600 guided learning hours for each learner was delivered online and approximately 60 % of all vocational courses had some form of online assessment.
“Teaching staff, external verifiers and students all benefit from being able to learn and be assessed off site. Tracking student performance is automated, enabling staff to monitor and respond to at-risk students.”
Ciara Duffy, virtual services manager, South West College
Portsmouth College – taking the digital plunge
In 2014, Portsmouth College launched its personal learning strategy. The timetable was radically changed and all full-time 16-18 year-old students were provided with iPad Minis to make use of the increased independent learning hours.
Combined with redesigned learning spaces and high density wifi across the campus, this stratagem has given everyone at Portsmouth College the same opportunities for anytime, anywhere learning. The college has since seen a 27% increase in student numbers.
“Rather than keeping technology on the periphery of teaching and learning, we decided to go digital to the core.”
Simon Barrable, deputy principal, Portsmouth College
- Join our digital leadership training programme
- Take up our consultancy offer for targeted support, for example, for a digital strategy review