Jisc has today recommended to the government that better use and investment in digital technology and skills can help reimagine the way teaching and learning is delivered across the post-18 education system for the benefit of all.
“Driving up quality, increasing choice and ensuring value for money are at the heart of the government’s post-18 review. We believe technology can transform each of these areas so that students get an education that is digitally enabled, flexible, and driven by their individual needs.
“However, there are barriers to technology fulfilling its full potential. Teaching staff and learners need the skills and support to fully embrace technology. Regulatory strictures can be ambiguous and discourage providers from using technology to best effect. Funding mechanisms can prevent providers developing more flexible and innovative approaches to post-18 provision.
“The potential for digital technology to support the transition from education to employment by sitting at the centre of technical and academic education, skills, and apprenticeship design is yet to be fully realised.
"We explained that technology can enable a more flexible, student focussed ‘anywhere, anytime’ approach to education. It can underpin innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and ensure students are better equipped for the workforce needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution."
Paul Feldman, chief executive, Jisc.
Key recommendations from Jisc's response
Introduce technology ‘fundamentals’ benchmarks
Some independent education and training providers may not have the necessary technical infrastructure in place to realise the benefits of a technology enhanced approach to learning and teaching.
To ensure learning opportunities across the system are of high quality and deliver the best outcomes for students, the government could explore the introduction of a small number of technology ‘fundamentals’ benchmarks.
These could include:
- IT and network essentials - all students should be able to expect a basic level of IT and network infrastructure to be in place that meets the necessary security standards
- Connectivity essentials - all students should able to expect a basic level of connectivity that enables them to study and utilise digital resources for their learning.Once the fundamentals are in place, providers will have the springboard to take advantage of additional technologies which can deliver value for students and taxpayers
Data-driven curriculum planning
The government could help support providers to take a data driven approach to curriculum planning to meet the needs of the local and national economy.
The Department for Education (DfE) data collections are often presented in a way to ease on-screen display, rather than for interrogation by data manipulation. This means anyone wishing to utilise the data must spend time and effort reshaping data to be compatible for use with analytic tools.
Longitudinal educational outcomes (LEO) data is a good example of how useful it can be to combine data across departments, and this should be expanded.
For example, it’s not currently possible to identify the sources of the apprenticeship levy, and therefore likely demand for new apprenticeships, as the relevant data is based on company payrolls and only held by HMRC. Combining this data with other datasets held by government could give providers invaluable insights to help them plan accordingly and address skills needs.
Embed digital skills into all of post-18 education
The government’s Industrial Strategy states that “within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills”.
Our 2017 student digital experience tracker survey of more than 22,000 learners found that while 81.5% of university students feel that digital skills will be important in their chosen career, only half believe that their courses prepare them well for the digital workplace.
Elsewhere, while we welcome the inclusion of digital skills within the common core of T-levels, all FE courses should contain a digital element.
The Institute for Apprenticeships should therefore ensure appropriate digital capabilities are incorporated into new apprenticeship standards.
Improve credit accumulation and transfer
The concept of lifelong learning is becoming increasingly important to the future workforce.
More short courses aimed at upskilling people in work at level 2 and 3, as opposed to 2-3 year commitments, could provide a solution to help address the UK’s skills gaps.
Funding will be needed to support increased provision of short courses and a better system is needed to support the accumulation and transfer of credit between courses and providers.
The process could benefit from improved information transfer arrangements. When learners are transferring between courses and providers, they should be able to take with them a record of the credits they have achieved to date.
Technology and more accessible data and information flows could support providers to address skills shortages and better enable students to gain access to their verifiable achieved credits and search for the most appropriate fit with a short course delivered by any provider.