What you need to know
Designing effective digital learning experiences depends on knowing as much as you can about your students and their digital confidence and experience. Profiling your students at enrolment helps you understand better:
- Who your students are
- How and where they learn
- How confident they are in using technology
- What access they have to digital technologies
- How they apply those technologies to learning
- What kind of technologies they value most when learning
Setting up student-staff partnership roles such as digital ambassadors is another great way of establishing dialogue with your students (see engaging learners section).
A win-win situation for students and their institutions, partnership approaches such as these allow students’ experiences of digital learning to be heard at the same time as improving their employability skills.
Why student voice matters
As well as forming a routine part of market intelligence and data analysis, obtaining students’ views on their use of, and feelings about, technology in learning and assessment should be seen as a vital part of learning design.
Student surveys can show up gaps in parity of provision, for example from campus to campus, whether investment is needed in the infrastructure and whether their learning effectively prepares students for employment in a digital world.
For a really accurate picture of the impact of digital on your students, be sure to gather the views of all students. In general, digital approaches improve access for disabled students, as they do for those living, working and studying remotely, but the effectiveness of digital learning for all students should not be taken for granted.
Nor should it be assumed that all younger students are digitally confident or that those who are ‘tech-savvy’ will make effective use of technology in learning. Listening to what students say yields valuable, sometimes unforeseen, insights into their world, without which your time and effort as learning designers could be undermined.
What the experts say
“Universities and colleges are investing large sums of money on their digital environment in terms of infrastructure, learning materials and supporting their staff with the development of their digital capabilities. But do we know how the investment being made in these areas is impacting on our students’ digital experience?”
Sarah Knight, Jisc
Be inspired: case studies
University of Lincoln – working in partnership with students
Working in partnership with students to evaluate and enhance the student experience is at the heart of the University of Lincoln’s philosophy. Partnership initiatives at the university include work shadowing between students and the executive team, student representation on interview panels and appointing engagement champions.
The student engagement team also research into the impact of digital learning to better understand what kind of approach works best. Inspired by our report What makes a successful online learner? Jasper Shotts recorded the digital habits of successful learners to develop tips for the next cohort. These activities yield data that is used to create more effective course designs in the future.
“Student digital expectations may be quite different to those of teachers so I want to do a survey on what apps students are using. There are lots of barriers to students being informed consumers in higher education and working with student representatives is a very useful way to find out what these are.”
Jasper Shotts, principal lecturer, University of Lincoln
Jisc digital learner stories – Jade, a further education accountancy student
Our Digital student project explored a wide range of students’ expectations and experiences with digital technology, including the experiences of online learners, traditional campus-based and work-based learners. Twelve learners interviewed shared their experiences on video. Jade, a trainee accountant, was one of them.
“Blended learning really helped me because I could do the work at my own pace. I could get through the course at a really quick pace which helped me because I was working at the same time as doing the course.”
Jade, a level 3 AAT (Association of Accountant Technicians) student, Bradford College
- Use our four dimensions framework to assist you in setting up successful collaborative partnerships with your students
- Use our benchmarking tool, produced in conjunction with the National Union of Students, to improve the student experience at your institution
- Find out more about the student digital experience tracker project
- Student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners
- Insights from our institutional pilots (pdf) - part of our student digital experience tracker
- Key themes from our digital student/learner stories
- Digital student – further education, a report on FE learners’ expectations and experiences of technology
- Delivering an inclusive learning digital student experience