Through demonstrating how virtual reality can give medical students an insight into seizures from the patients' perspective, the ViRES project is clearly leading the way in engaging students with technology, but what is the picture across the sector?
An extensive survey has shed light on students’ digital experiences and expectations in detail, and at scale. With over 22,000 participants from 74 organisations in the UK and ten international universities, the 2017 student digital experience tracker (pdf) has collated some interesting results.
Recently released, the report gives some real insights into how students view the support offered through their universities, the skills they’re obtaining and whether this is equipping them for the world of work.
Scotland is not exempt from the ‘digital skills crisis’, and with millennials making up 50% of the workforce by 2020 – so says Price Waterhouse Cooper’s report into ‘reshaping the workplace’1 - there’s an expectation that the next generation of graduates will be the digitally capable workforce of the future.
The tracker found, that as a result of technology, 71.3% of students felt more independent in their learning, and a similar number felt they could fit learning into their lives more easily.
On the flip side of this endorsement of tech, and despite 82% of higher education (HE) learners agreeing that digital skills will be important in their chosen career, only 50% agree that their course prepares them well for the workplace. Should we be worried?
According to Sarah Knight, our head of student experience,
"Support, advice and guidance for developing students’ digital skills is often held across lots of different places in an organisation but many students are unsure about where to access it.”
What’s more concerning, in her opinion, is that a significant proportion said they weren’t sure what skills they’d need for their course or for their career afterwards.
It’s far from a negative picture across the sector though, and there are some great examples of good practice, including from Glasgow Caledonian University who feature, with ten other HE institutions in our guide to developing organisational approaches to digital capability.
We know from last year’s tracker survey that students were most likely to use new technologies if they’d seen these well-used by staff, so approaches such as the 2020 strategy to expand digital literacy at the Glasgow Caledonian University, offer real promise.
Within the tracker, several of the other areas explored were the digital environment and students’ access to digital services in the places where they usually learn.
We discovered that while 80% had reliable wifi within HE, it was clearly still a consideration for students with comments from learners including: “If everything is going digital we need better wifi”
Alongside eduroam, a wifi service designed with students in mind, we also run a number of services to boost institutions’ cybersecurity and safeguard learners.
With over a third of students who participated in the tracker unsure of how to access help if bullied online, the digital scope of universities reach beyond the teaching staff, illustrating the ongoing need for support of their students’ digital wellbeing.
If the future is bright, it’s most definitely digital, and in providing a well-rounded experience for students, we need to meet both their expectations and those of their future employers.
- 1 Read the full report, Millennials at work: reshaping the workplace - https://www.pwc.com/m1/en/services/consulting/documents/millennials-at-w...