Digital teaching must be better, say university and college students

Author: jess.moore@jisc.ac.uk
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In a survey of nearly 40,000 higher and further education students, more than a quarter couldn’t give positive feedback on the quality of digital teaching, and only half say they receive guidance on vital digital skills.

A Jisc survey of 39,712 university, college and sixth form students finds more than a quarter (28%) unable to rate the quality of digital teaching and learning on their course as ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘best imaginable’. Only half (51%) agree they receive guidance about digital skills, suggesting the higher education sector must up its game to deliver the high-quality experiences students deserve, and the skills they need to thrive.

These findings were gathered between October 2019 and May 2020. In higher education (HE), 90% of the responses were submitted before the UK went into COVID-19 lockdown on 23 March 2020. In the further education (FE) sector, 65% of the responses came before COVID-19.

Commenting on the importance of this research, Sir Michael Barber, chair of the Office for Students, comments:

“It is crucial that university leaders understand how students are using technology, and what help they need with their digital skills.”

President of the Association of Colleges, Sally Dicketts, believes the insights are just as valuable for the further education sector. She says:

“Whether learning on campus, remotely, or with a blended approach, students are using digital systems and learning platforms, connecting and collaborating, and benefitting from a nurturing college community. Technology underpins every aspect of that experience.”

Yet the survey results identify gaps in provision. Of the 20,575 HE and 19,137 FE students surveyed, 60% in HE and 66% in FE rate the quality of support they receive to develop their digital skills as ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘best imaginable’, but only a third (34%) in HE and 41% in FE agree their organisation provides the chance to assess their digital skills. In both sectors, a fifth say they did not discuss their digital skills either during induction, during one-to-one sessions with tutors, in lectures and classes, or with other students. One university student notes:

“I don’t hear my instructors speak about things like keeping my personal information safe online, or my health and wellbeing as a technology user, ever.”

A lack of collaboration was exposed, too. In HE, 44% of students and 33% of those in FE say they never work online with other learners. A perceived lack of resources may be partly to blame; 11% of HE students and more than a quarter (27%) of FE students don’t agree they have access to online course materials whenever they need them

Sarah Knight, Jisc’s head of data and digital capability, concludes:

“Universities and colleges must do what they can to ensure all students have an equitable experience, whether they’re learning face-to-face, remotely, or through a blended approach. COVID-19 has highlighted the urgent need to address digital poverty. Helping students develop a preparedness for online teaching and learning will support their education and increase their confidence in the digital workplace”.

To learn more about students’ experiences with digital, universities and colleges can register their interest in running Jisc’s digital experience insights surveys 2020-21.

This years’ results will be discussed in three upcoming webinars – one focusing on HE this Wednesday 16 September, and another focusing on FE this Thursday 17 September, and one on how to get started with the 2020/1 digital experience insights surveys on Tuesday 22 September.

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Digital teaching must be better, say university and college students
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