‘Teachers need support to find and make better use of digital resources’

Teachers aren’t necessarily making the most of the available digital resources, says Karla Youngs, Jisc’s head of digital content and services for FE and skills

The latest research tells us that, while FE teachers have made huge efforts to support learners through the lockdown, not enough of them are able to find appropriate digital resources and use them to best effect. This means that some learners are missing out.

In an ideal world, fun, exciting and rich digital learning experiences would be the norm because teachers would have the vision, skills and confidence to make a wealth of top-quality resources really ‘sing’; think online groups in discussion, taking part in polls, games and quizzes and using animations and simulations – all far more engaging than passive experiences, such as listening to a lecture recording.

Unfortunately, and despite the shot-in-the-arm lockdown has delivered towards digital transformation across the education sector, this Utopia is still some way off from reality…

Challenges

The research, part of a joint Jisc and AoC project, Shaping the Digital Future of FE and Skills, was conducted between May and July with more than 400 teachers, learners, senior leaders and edtech experts. The project’s first report confirmed what we already know about digital resources – i.e, that there aren’t enough of them in FE and the ones in existence are disparate and of varying quality across different subjects. In line with Jisc’s specific content for FE, which includes hairdressing, health and social care, and construction, we’d like to see all course-specific, curriculum-mapped content passing through quality control.

During the study, via three webinars and two roundtables, some staff were surprised at how much content was available, but 30% stated they did not have the digital resources required. Forty-nine percent of learners, on the other hand, rated the quality of online learning resources they had as very poor to average.

This is backed by Jisc’s 2020 learner digital experience insights survey, involving more than 19,000 FE learners, which shows that only 32% have access to e-books or online training resources whenever they need them, and 71% never have access to augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) or simulations.

This further chimes with the AoC summer survey findings, demonstrating that certain courses are supported with high-quality and engaging digital resources and content; in particular, maths, computing and IT, business, health and social care, early years and childcare. However, there are also some significant gaps. Subjects where decent content was lacking included construction, hospitality and catering, travel and tourism, and a range of A-levels.

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Where colleges did not consider that they had access to sufficient high quality and engaging digital resources, the most common reasons were: insufficient interactivity (58% of responses); inability to develop in-house digital resources (52%); inability to find suitable digital content or insufficient formative assessment (45%) and inadequate curriculum coverage (42%). 

Solutions

As a result of this research, Jisc and the AoC recommend that government funds digital content creation for priority subjects and high-demand sectors identified by employers and professional bodies. A second recommendation asks government to fund a centralised FE and skills digital content search and discovery platform that highlights content.

In the meantime, my team has produced a free-to-use interactive toolkit to help teachers find and make the most of existing digital material – including but not limited to Jisc’s FE resources. It also contains direct links to useful websites, additional training and articles that might be of interest.

Finally, good practice in the sector around the use of digital resources, which the wider sector might find useful, can be evidenced at a number of FE institutions – including at Hull CollegeBorders CollegePlumpton College and Ashford College.


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