The digital student experience is not ‘one thing’ but is many faceted and born of complex and fluid relationships between different elements. It is not possible to present a fixed model as the importance or prominence of each element will vary according to the needs of specific user groups, individuals and varying institutional priorities.
The diagram offers a loose framework that may be used to inform the design or development of a holistic digital experience for students and staff.
It identifies significant drivers for change, key strategic enablers and how these facilitate the creation of a robust, supportive and flexible environment and, in turn, a culture where students and staff are empowered to make most effective use of technology to support their learning and teaching.
There are many co-dependencies between the seven challenge areas we have identified as well as topics that occur in more than one of the challenge areas. Three strong over-arching themes have emerged throughout the guide:
- Taking a strategic approach to ensure the benefits of any interventions are realised
- Identifying and addressing environmental issues that impact on the student experience
- Establishing a culture of collaboration and openness where the efforts of both students and staff are recognised and rewarded
Broadly speaking the most significant drivers for change that are encouraging institutions to look more closely at the digital experience they offer to their students are:
- Changing student demographics
- The changing needs and expectations of students
- Economic and performance pressures
- Employability, vocational relevance and 'line of sight' to employment
- Institutional representation
- The need to develop new markets.
The number of stakeholders involved and the range of aspects to consider make it vital that clear and committed leadership is provided. This should be accompanied by a well-articulated vision and underpinned by values that steer and inform the culture leaders wish to create. Leaders will provide a defined and coherent route-map to implementation and will be responsible for any necessary change management initiatives. A devolved implementation model resourced by devolved funding will help to secure buy-in, facilitate the development of customised responses and empower students and staff.
The importance of taking a strategic approach to enhancing the student digital experience is discussed more fully within the guide.
The digital environment should be robust in terms of the reliability of systems, software, resources and facilities and also in terms of the coherence of support for users (including ‘bring your own’). Strategic leadership will facilitate the integrated planning processes necessary to build and maintain a suitably robust and flexible digital student experience.
The digital environment should also support innovation in terms of curriculum models that are pedagogically appropriate and designed with the users in mind as well as supporting flexible approaches to delivery and assessment. Students expect to be able to access the resources, systems and tools that they need when they need them, without undue restrictions.
Further information on creating a robust, flexible digital environment can be found within the guide.
With clear leadership and a robust, flexible environment the building blocks are in place that will enable students and staff to use digital technologies most effectively in a culture that is inclusive, informative and innovative. This is most likely to happen where all stakeholders are actively engaged in the process, feel empowered and have a sense of ownership and/or affinity.
Supporting students and staff to become confident, independent and digitally literate users of technology will enable staff to develop authentic and contextualised technological interventions that enhance students’ employability potential; including the use of technology to support each other and to network and collaborate with others. These skills need to be recognised and rewarded in some way just as other, perhaps, more traditional achievements are.
If the all the strategic, environmental and cultural aspects are aligned then the potential for individuals and institutions is vastly enhanced in so many ways.
We hope you have enjoyed the guide and found the links and case studies helpful as you continue to develop ways of enhancing the digital experience for your students.