It's all about the learners
JISC Digital Experience Survey 2018Several times a week, I browse through my Edtech list on Twitter to see what's new. This week, the most interesting thing I saw was this. JISC have been asking learners for their views about all things digital, in relation to FE and HE. When I delved a little deeper and read the full report, I found that they had surveyed some Adult Learning providers and Employment and Skills providers but there were so few results that it didn't warrant a separate category on the report.
If you work in FE/HE or are interested in post-16 education, you really need to read the report. Especially, if you are responsible for IT/digital in education, this will be worth a read. Also, it has to be said, some reports are really hard-going but this one is an easy read, if a little challenging in its content. For what it's worth, I found some of the report challenged me in relation to my role as a digital manager, but some of it was very encouraging too.
My biggest challengeThe first and most urgent challenge was picked up by Sam Gyimah (Universities' Minister) in the forward.
This section of the report, therefore, challenged me greatly. I have to ask myself where we would fit if our learners were asked these questions. Do we prepare our learners for their course by telling them what level of digital skills they will need? I think we do for IT courses but what about the rest?
Do our courses prepare learners for the digital workplace? Again, this is a real challenge. If I'm honest, I think most providers need to do better and we are no exception at this stage. In my role, I often have to work out which battles are worth fighting. If any battle is worth a fight, this one is, but I have an optimistic hope that I actually won't have to fight very hard for this. Deep down, we want it and just need some help in bringing it to pass.
My biggest encouragementThere is possibly no greater feeling than that realisation that what you are doing (or attempting to do) turns out to be what people really want you to do. Don't get me wrong, my role was born from feedback of various types. We didn't just one day decide to invent a new role to avoid us all being bored. It was carefully considered and certainly has a well-defined purpose. When I read some of the 'what learners want FE to do better' parts of the report though, my heart did a little leap for joy... because we're doing it.
This is really what Phase 1 of my project was all about. We have upgraded the computers, released laptops back into community use and ensured that every PC is linked to a convenient printer. Of course, this should be a given - it's the 21st century - but these things cost money and lots of it. It is encouraging to know though, that we have spent the money on something that genuinely matters to learners in FE.
I'm picking at random here but we have upgraded software and unblocked all social media and YouTube and other sites that learners would find useful. As I enter Phase 2, we are looking at the VLE and other online learning, to improve it, make it clearer and more user-friendly and to ensure that it is all accessible.
Somewhere else in the report, learners were reported as saying they wanted their tutors to have better IT skills, so that they could improve efficiency when delivering content... and this is another thing we are already well into addressing.