“Staff and students have different digital literacy skills sets. Combining the digital bravery (R Sharpe and G Benfield) of the students with staff knowledge and expertise of a given domain can allow you to critically investigate digital practice in a subject.”
Jim Pettiward, blended learning facilitator, Centre for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT), London Metropolitan University
Fulfil student expectations
The pervasive use of technology in so many aspects of our lives means that students will come to further or higher education with some experience of technology and the expectation that it will feature in their learning journey. They will expect digital services like wifi to be freely and easily accessible as a core entitlement and that efficient administration processes and wrap around services will support their overall experience.
Explain how technology will be used to support learning within the curriculum
Our research on student experiences and expectations of technology (Beetham, H and White, D. 2013) shows that the personal digital skills that students already have will vary widely and some may find it difficult to transfer these skills into academic practice.
Our FE digital student research reinforces this point and advises against making assumptions about students' experience with, or attitudes towards, technology - reporting that students generally felt less confident and needed more ongoing support than their lecturers expected.
Make it clear how and why technology is being used to support learning from induction and at the start of new modules to establish an institutional digital entitlement.
Embed digital activities
Reinforce this by embedding digital activities and assessment opportunities as part of the curriculum design to set the expectation that students will use technology throughout their study. Accompany this with responsive support to establish a base level of digital literacy and confidence and a platform to explore and develop subject and discipline specific uses.
Technology can be particularly useful in bridging the gap between study and work. Apprentices and students on work placement can use technology to access resources, monitor their own progress and keep in touch with employers, tutors and assessors.
Students appreciate time to develop their practice in a safe environment – a metaphorical walled garden – with paths out to a more public domains as their confidence and competence expands.
Our detailed guide to evaluating digital services: a visitors and residents approach suggests a mapping activity that can help users to reflect on their digital practices, how they use technology and for what purpose.
Our guide to safeguarding learners online outlines the challenges for universities and colleges in ensuring learners know how to behave safely and responsibly in the digital space. It also provides guidance on developing a clear policy and promoting good practice in safeguarding.
Case study - PETA Training and Consultancy Services
Case study - Shrewsbury College
Case study - University of Southampton
Students carry out all their module research, interactions and assessed work online and their personal course blogs are aggregated into the main course web site.
The module was awarded the Students' Union prize for Innovative Teaching in 2013.
Case study - Glasgow Caledonian University
All Masters level students in Biosciences at Glasgow Caledonian University take a module on ‘Skills for Professional Practice in Bioscience 2’ which focuses on critical assessment and analysis (including online information and data), communicating and developing a professional identity online and experimental design and analysis.
The module is taught by a team comprising subject specialist, academic developers and a careers adviser. This is beneficial to all students but perhaps particularly so for the international students, some of whom face challenges with their professional and academic English.
Encourage independent learning and new approaches
As students progress along their learning journey and embedded digital activities become the norm reducing the explicit signposting of technology may be preferable in order to encourage a more independent and responsive style. This will allow space for new approaches to emerge, developed by staff and students, to reflect the changing environment, emerging technologies and to respond to learner needs and task requirements.
Offer authentic experiences and contextualise use of technology to meet subject and discipline requirements
Our research shows that disciplinary context is important and that students respond most favourably to authentic and meaningful digital activities that are directly linked to, and embedded in, their programmes of learning and assessment and that are relevant to their future employment ambitions.
In FE, the strong focus on preparing learners for the workplace also raises learners' expectations that colleges will provide industry standard hardware and software.
Confident modelling of this use by lecturers emphasises the professional value. This works best when aligned to opportunities for students to practice and become proficient themselves.
The variety of contexts and differentiated learning programmes means that what is relevant for a given programme of study will need to be carefully thought through and perhaps applied differently in different circumstances.
Case study - Association of Colleges eastern region
- Use of video conferencing packages to provide online support
- Development of blended learning material using free content creation tools
- Use of screen casting to give learner feedback and create video tutorials;
- Improvement of VLEs to make them more interactive and engaging
- Piloting of electronic individual learning plans (ILPs) with workplace learners
Case study - Blackburn College
BA Education Studies students at Blackburn College are exploring the significance of technology-enhanced learning in education through a module on 21st Century Learning. Student engagement and assessment is based on real-world use of a variety of technologies and approaches which helps them to develop a reflective and critical approach to emerging practices.
Case study - University of Liverpool
The Management School at The University of Liverpool integrates digital literacy with enquiry-based learning through a module in Sustainability in Business using online research to explore emerging practices and ideas that may not yet but published in print. A wide range of business-friendly applications are used giving the students greater insight into how business leaders use digital media.
Case study - City University London
Vocationally-oriented programmes such as journalism require students to be confident in digital practices.
At City University London a new module on social media and engagement has been introduced into the university’s MA course in interactive journalism to provide students with an opportunity to explore a range of cutting-edge tools and techniques and build a portfolio of evidence to support their future professional practice.
Case study - Hull College
At Hull College, established practice in maximising student enjoyment and success using ‘flipped learning’ in construction, engineering and motor vehicle programmes is being extended to a further four vocational areas.
Different types of technology are being used to enhance learning in ways contextualised to meet the needs of each curriculum. Piloting and evaluating the introduction of new technologies and digital approaches is allowing the college to develop a more robust understanding of how a range of technologies can be introduced in different curricula.
The college can also contextualise use of these to meet the needs of different subjects and learners as well as to inform the development of the e-learning strategy.
Case study - City of Glasgow College
The City of Glasgow College sets a high priority in providing industry-relevant learning experiences for its students, and regards use of current leading edge and future technologies as key to achieving this aim.
The ambition is being brought to life through industry academies – a series of 18 academic hubs spanning 6 faculties that are designed to support collaboration between the college, university education partners and industry to ensure that learners graduate with industry relevant skills and qualifications that have a high level of vocational currency.
Design for all learners
Draw out the different pedagogical uses and benefits of a range of technologies and encourage students to explore and contribute examples of their own. One example of how students and staff collaborated to explore the range of different technologies that could be used in assessment activities is the Tech Trumps game produced by the COLLABORATE project team at The University of Exeter
It is also important to recognise that technology can bring many benefits when creating a diverse and accessible learning environment. Using text to speech options and the accessibility tools in everyday software can make a difference to all learners, not just those with formally identified accessibility needs.
Our advice on accessibility and inclusion includes an online resource on using assistive and accessible technology in teaching and learning, and an informative blog post by on how you can make resources accessible for those with disabilities.
This is one aspect of digital entitlement that has been found to have a positive impact on all learners.
Case study - Leeds City College
At Leeds City College a raised awareness of how Texthelp Read&Write can be used to support students at all levels and abilities is helping students to improve their written work. This has been achieved through a programme of staff development, the learning from which is then cascaded down to students by their tutors.
Case study - Runshaw College
Teachers, trainers and assessors at Runshaw College are receiving training on the concepts and use of digital accessibility software to enhance the student experience. This is being offered as mainstream provision for all students at the college rather than for discrete groups.
Ensuring that staff are able to use text-to-speech software in particular, and have access to a range of materials to support their use, will help to meet changes in guidance from the Joint Council for Qualifications who specifically reference use of computer readers rather than human readers as an acceptable means of supporting the reading element within GCSE English examinations.
Plan holistically to embed use of technology in curriculum design and planning processes
Truly contextualised and integrated use can only be achieved by taking a whole institution approach to embed digital experiences appropriately within individual modules and across whole programmes of learning, teaching and assessment. Our guide on using technology to improve curriculum design offers further guidance and ideas. We also recommend our guide on improving student assessment.
Case study - Bath Spa University
A pioneering student fellow scheme run by the University of Winchester and Bath Spa University is enabling students to work as researchers alongside teams of academics at the universities on the Fastech project to embed technology-enhanced assessment for learning practices across all programmes of learning.
The collaborative relationship has advanced understanding of assessment-for-learning at both universities and shown the potential of engaging students as active partners in curriculum enhancement.
Case study - Blackburn College
Graphic Learning Wheels at Blackburn College are helping staff to explore a variety of technologies as well as different modes of learning and to apply these pedagogically as part of curriculum design and review processes.
Case study - Prospects College of Advanced Technology
At Prospects College for Advanced Technology teaching staff are working through each course taught at the college to update course materials, using interactive formats to make them ‘lively, interactive, interesting and online’. Examples of the formats being used include audio, video, animation, live streaming and sessions from workplaces.
Through the Generation Z initiative, staff are supported and encouraged to develop interactive and engaging approaches to learning; using technology to personalise learning and to encourage students to collaborate and create their own resources.
Case study - Heart of Worcestershire College
The FELTAG report challenged colleges and training organisations to achieve “a 10% wholly-online component” in all programmes from September 2015.
At Heart of Worcestershire College their innovative Scheduled Online Learning and Assessment (SOLA) approach to blended learning means they have already met the target and are approaching 20% in a number of key areas. The SOLA model has been applied to all Level 2 and 3 full-time programmes of study. It involves highly-structured, weekly online learning sessions delivered through the virtual learning environment.
This model has had a positive impact within the college allowing efficiency savings of over £200k per year. Success rates in the college have improved by over 11% since blended learning was first implemented and in addition to this learners develop crucial independent learning skills.
Rethink traditional models of delivery, assessment and validation
The emergence of new technologies opens up new possibilities for learning. It may be time to review some of the more traditional models of delivery and explore the advantages, disadvantages and requirements of new pedagogic approaches.
Case study - Oldham College
Learners listen to tutors commenting on their work whilst watching a video screen-capture of the document being assessed.
Agile and responsive development processes
Institutional processes that support and inform curriculum design like validation and quality assurance may also need to evolve to support new delivery and assessment models.
Support processes must allow staff time to explore the potential benefits of new models and to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for successful delivery without inhibiting responsive and engaging curriculum design.
Case study - Coventry University
At Coventry University an undergraduate course is also simultaneously an open online course that attracts up to 35,000 participants each time it is run.
The Phonar course aims to develop students’ visual and digital fluency through open-ended tasks that can take learners through photography, digital storytelling, online identity, video and audio mash-ups and social commentary.
This is a genuinely borderless classroom with a teaching and learning approach that is complex but provides a model that could be adopted within more conventional courses.