Make institutional systems easy to access
Easy and secure access to institutional networks and wireless local area networks (wifi) are generally available at most institutions although these do not always work as seamlessly as students would like.
FE digital student research revealed that some learners who are skilled and enthusiastic in their use of technology found their college environments restrictive and not representatives of the industries they were preparing to work in.
Institutions should endeavour to provide these free of charge and with sufficient bandwidth and coverage to extend to all areas of the campus and halls of residence.
Case study - East Berkshire College
East Berkshire College rolled out Microsoft Lync 2013 Unified Communication™ system during the 2014-15 academic year. The unified communication system has improved the student experience by providing a single tool that is capable of supporting a range of learning activities and has enhanced opportunities for online learning from home or any location in the world.
Wifi as a basic digital entitlement
The common use of online platforms as a means of making information and resources more widely available means that free wifi is considered a basic entitlement by many students1. The growth in use of tablet computers, mobile phones and other portable and personal technologies requires institutions to make their systems and content accessible to a wider variety of devices.
Institutions are legally obliged to ensure their IT infrastructures are accessible and support the use of assistive technologies.
Many disabled learners use the built-in assistive technologies in their phones and tablet devices to access course content therefore good wifi provision may be a way of improving disability support while simultaneously reducing the need for additional assistive hardware or software.
Single sign-on and federated access
Students find it frustrating to have to log-on separately to different systems like virtual learning environments (VLEs), library systems, online resource and data sets etc. You might like this short introductory animation.
Implementing mobile learning
Our detailed guide on mobile learning provides a practical guide to implementing mobile learning.
Create flexible spaces for collaborative learning
Despite the rise in students bringing their own devices they still like to feel that everything they need to succeed will be provided by the institution. This includes infrastructure (fixed computers and printers), access to online and off-line learning resources and an environment where staff and students can work both individually and collaboratively.
Our detailed guide on learning spaces offers guidance and examples on how others are addressing this issue.
Case study - East Berkshire College
East Berkshire College is making mobile happen by setting some ambitious targets for 2016.
More than 80% of the classrooms are to have high-end mobile devices and the college now has 450 of these devices and over than 100 iPad tablets available for use. All curriculum areas and learning resource centres are to have intelligent self-service lockers equipped with mobile technologies to encourage users to make the most of mobile technologies, provide ease of access and promote independent learning. In addition, all curriculum staff desktop computers are also to be replaced with high specification mobile devices.
Integrate digital estates
An integrated digital estates strategy is needed to ensure the spaces, services and resources that are available to students provide the digital capacity they need and expect. The digital estate includes learning and social spaces, flexible configurations and furnishings, robust wifi, sockets, plug-and-play screens to facilitate collaborative working and secure storage for personal devices.
Case study - Coventry University
Coventry University has launched a Disruptive Media Learning Lab to provide a flexible and creative space which enables students and staff with a broad range of skills and roles to work together to test and refine new approaches to using digital media in education.
The Lab draws on existing areas of expertise and research such as gaming logics, virtual worlds and open media. Funding and support is available for selected projects.
Case study - Blackburn College
Blackburn College has invested heavily in technology and staff training to remain at the forefront of innovative education. Their Innovation Lab (iLab) and (iStore) provides a flexible learning environment specifically designed to support staff to develop and practise their skills and to increase the range and availability of learning technologies available to staff.
The iLab has nine zones facilitating different uses of a range of technologies in nine different environments. In addition, the iStore enables staff to trial and showcase their resources in a safe and supportive environment.
Case Study - Lewisham Southwark College
The blended learning centre at Lewisham Southwark College is available to students and staff to drop in to use a mix of technologies.
Students are able to use Macs, PCs, Chromebooks and iPads including a range of over 100 apps to suit their needs. Students attend 3D workshops where they use various apps like Thingiverse and PrintShop as they develop skills in searching databases, edit templates and manipulate 3D objects in a 3D digital environment.
All the workshops are mapped to functional skills English, maths and ICT from entry level to level 2.
Case study - Redbridge College
The iZone is a flexible learning area equipped with mobile and interactive technologies including: iPads, Surface RTs, Apple TVs, SMARTBoard, large interactive touchscreen TVs and interactive PCs.
Learners and staff members in the college can book learning suites and devices in the iZone - all of which are fully supported by the college’s e-learning team and a technician based within the centre.
Students and staff can also ask for advice on how to use technology to improve their existing teaching and learning practices.
Our detailed guide to learning spaces offers guidance and examples on how others are addressing this issue.
Recognise the importance of personal digital practices
“Each digital ambassador came from a different subject discipline, used different tools and had individual preferences as to how they used those tools. This meant that we were able to cater for the needs of students from a variety of faculties and every student went away from the workshops with something of relevance to them.”
Helen Long’a Tongu, Student, London Metropolitan University
The distinction between academic use of technology and social use is blurred – many students use personal networks and social media to support their learning as well as a broad range of apps and software, much of which will not necessarily be provided or supported by the institution.
Offer core and extended services
One approach is the onion or layered approach adopted by Manchester Metropolitan University whereby core services are identified that will be made available to all students with appropriate support and further outer layers are wrapped-around the core offer, providing or highlighting other technologies that may be available with varying levels of support.
Explore open and disaggregated options
Students operate in an open environment where a significant quantity of information is easily available. Facilitating access to this content and data can provide variety in learning, support innovation and help to build and maintain partnerships.
Maximise use of resources
Signposting quality resources and developing digital literacy skills will ensure students and staff can analyse the quality of resources for themselves and are aware of protocols governing copyright, intellectual property and acceptable use. In turn, this will build confidence in using and sharing open resources as well as creating new resources where lack of appropriate resources is an issue.
Case study - Furness College
The Performing Engineering Operations qualification is a core element in most engineering courses for which there is currently no specific or freely available digital content.
Incorporate external services
Consider incorporating external services such as use of personal cloud storage, social bookmarking, social media, blogs and wikis as part of an expanded digital learning environment.
Our shared data centre aims to provide a cost-effective solution for UK research and education through the co-location of systems and services.
Case study - City of Liverpool College
The City of Liverpool College is taking some radical steps to transform their digital environment, their services and business processes.
At the heart of this is a desire to bridge the digital skills gap between college leavers and the expectations of employers. The college is now a Microsoft Academy with a Microsoft Showcase Classroom based in the centre of Liverpool.
With the introduction of a greater variety of technologies and the desire to encourage students to bring their own devices the college identified a need to improve the speed and resilience of digital services and has become the first college to sign up to Jisc’s shared data centre for education and research.
City of Liverpool College will use the data centre to launch a new shared service for accelerated transformation of FE organisations, called SharEd which offers a portfolio of services including HR, facilities, finance, IT and management information systems, as well as professional services and consulting.
Case study - Plymouth University
Plymouth University has replaced a module-focused VLE with a dynamic Digital Learning Environment (DLE) that allows content to be created, managed and used by staff and students more flexibly across programmes of study. The DLE provides integrated access to teaching and learning resources, ePortfolios, reading lists and video support. The new environment allows students to use their own preferred devices and services and to access university services seamlessly from a single point of entry.
Secure affiliation and provide clear boundaries
The digital opportunities you afford your students are part of your overall learning offer. Students may not realise the full extent of the resources and facilities you offer or be able to distinguish services paid for by the institution from those freely available in the public domain.
Apply institutional branding
Similarly, they may not know when they are in a closed or institutional space or when they are crossing boundaries into more open spaces. Consider applying an institutional brand or identity to build student loyalty and make sure that students realise the full extent of the digital offer provided by your institution, including any outsourced services and support.
Moving from ‘walled gardens’ to public domains
In the early stages of study students need opportunities to practice in secure and closed spaces where perceived failure carries a low risk. As they progress through their learning they need access to more open spaces and to learn how to manage their academic and professional identities. Providing semi-permeable boundaries that provide a ‘walled garden’ with pathways out to more public spaces can support this transitional process.
Case study - Calderdale College
Edmodo offers a closed and therefore more secure network than other social media applications. Staff and students can use a wide variety of tools within Edmodo to participate in activities such as quizzes, note-sharing, assignment management and the sharing of resources with each other.
Case study - University of Warwick
The School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Warwick has developed the Languages@Warwick portal to support their students and those of their partner organisation at the Université Blaise-Pascale in France.
The portal combines a VLE, conferencing software, an ePortfolio, and use of Googledocs™ to enhance opportunities for collaborative learning, sharing, reflection and feedback. A streaming media system provides further functionality and supports the creating and re-use of video resources as learning assets. Students can meet others in a safe and supportive environment as part of their preparation for studying in either country, developing and evidencing their linguistic skills alongside their digital skills.
Reprofile IT support services to ensure a flexible user-centred approach
Robust technical systems are a given but alongside this there must be support for users (students and staff) that focus on developing their digital capabilities, including use of personal and mobile devices.
This is especially important given that our FE digital student research revealed that learners are strongly dependent on the confidence and capabilities of their teachers when using technology and the recommendation that staff and students should be supported to use digital technologies in more innovative ways.
The technologies, services and support options should be clearly signposted to all users and comprehensively referenced in induction sessions and at key points throughout programmes of learning. Similar support should also be made available to support all those engaged in curriculum redesign.
Case study - Redbridge College
Learners and staff members in the college can book learning suites and devices in the iZone at Redbridge College – all of which are fully supported by the college’s e-learning team and a technician based within the centre. Students and staff can also ask for advice on how to use technology to improve their existing teaching and learning practices.
Case study - Lewisham and Southwark College
The blended learning centre at Lewisham and Southwark College provides a flexible space where students and staff can drop-in and use a mix of technologies, attend workshops on innovative technologies and develop approaches to collaborative learning.
Actively engage all stakeholders
Invite all stakeholders and user groups including disabled students and the Students' Union, to play an active role in making decisions on developing the digital environment to establish a user-centred approach.
Offer a range of different opportunities to engage these stakeholders including encouraging and consulting with informal user groups and special interest groups (SIG) that may be trying out particular technologies.
So much data is collected but it only has any real value when it is analysed, interpreted and used to inform practice and performance. Student dashboard systems that draw on institutional data sets and learner analytics can help students to manage their academic progress and learning experience.
Case study - Kingston College
Tutors at Kingston College are using a free screen casting app called Jing to provide responsive audio feedback to students on their progress and performance. Jing enables users to capture videos and images on screen and record feedback on a range of assignment formats.
The flexibility of the software means that it can be used to provide feedback on practical activities, written as well as graphical work and to provide commentary to support student use and understanding of their personal performance data.
Systems need to provide customised data and services tailored to the needs of individuals rather than to push generic data and information sets to large groups. Students appreciate being able to personalise the notifications they receive via the devices and services they choose.
Learning analytics: the current state of play in UK higher and further education looks at the uses and intentions behind the use of learner analytics in 12 institutions and one organisation that provides outsourced services to other institutions. The report explores some of the legal and ethical issues involved.
Following recommendations from phase one and two of the digital student project, Jisc is exploring the development of a prototype service to support the collection and analysis of data on student expectations, experiences, attitudes and satisfaction with digital technologies in their studies in UK higher and further education.
Further information on Jisc’s exploration of a prototype digital student data service to support the collection and analysis of data on student expectations is available on the digital student blog.
Case study - Manchester Metropolitan University
Provide clarity, consistency and equality of access
Different courses require different technologies and approaches but students will quickly become aware of any variances in provision or lack of parity in resourcing. Ensure students can see that there is a rational approach to procurement and make the reasons for any differences clear.
A level playing field
Although some institutions are providing students with personal tablets to create a level playing field there are many ways to tackle issues of equality of access, ease of curriculum development and the development of digital literacy skills which do not require significant investment, for example: providing materials online, out-of-hours access, specific resource rooms and even materials on a USB drive Consider what flexible provision and support can be made available and how this can be tailored to meet individual requirements.
Case study - University of Leeds
Case study - Manchester Metropolitan University
Distance learners studying Exercise and Sports Science at Manchester Metropolitan University are issued with iPads™ at induction and course materials are now authored using iBooksAuthor and downloaded directly to students’ iPads.
This helps to meet the needs of learners who are struggling to fit learning in around their busy lives, minimise inequality of access and support cohort learning.
Case study - Portsmouth College
All new students at Portsmouth College will be provided with an Apple iPad device for the whole of their period of study. Students will need their iPads in college everyday but will keep their ‘anywhere, anytime’ device for independent learning and personal use.
The iPads will be returned to the college when a student leaves.
Case study - Prospects College of Advanced Technology
Prospects College of Advanced Technology acknowledge that providing an inclusive digital experience for all students is a key challenge and include assistive technology and a range of digital tools within their service provision.
The format of learning and assessment resources has widened to provide flexible learning opportunities for all, incorporating audio, video, images, text to speech and the use of games. The college has a trolley of laptops available for students and staff to book for use in class. Learning resource centres are available at all campuses for students to have access to computing facilities for self-study.
- 1 Beetham, H and White, D (2013). Students’ expectations and experiences of the digital environment. Jisc - http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/5572/1/JR0006_STUDENTS_EXPECTATIONS_EXEC_SU...