Only 34% of people in the north of England, where two-thirds of disadvantaged schools operate, have degree-level qualifications. Compare that to the 59% degree-qualified rate in London illustrates a considerable academic disparity across the UK. Some experts argue that poorer regions are up to 30 years behind London where education is concerned.
The government announced bonuses to those teaching STEM subjects at disadvantaged schools, with a £60 million investment designed to attain and maintain quality teaching talent. Teaching staff in the first 5 years of their careers will have access to an additional £9,000 on top of their salary over three years – tax-free. Additionally, 1,405 disadvantaged schools and sixth-form colleges across the country will benefit from a £498 million school condition improvement fund, which will be used to revamp the quality of buildings and facilities. These funds are a long-needed and substantial improvement to the current status quo in education. However, it seems the government’s plans may have omitted a crucial step – the quality of the learning resources.
To improve education systems, the quality and accessibility of learning resources must form a key consideration. There are several vital reasons why resources must be included in future government fund allocations for both schools and universities.
Resource quality bolsters education quality
Teachers and lecturers need to have access to high-quality resources.
The user experience (UX) of resources for teachers and lecturers is often overlooked in academia. Much like software industry-wide, programs and resources need to be built with the end-user in mind. If physical resources and low-quality digital textbooks are all that are available, UX features have likely been ignored or neglected.
Considered and well-executed UX in resources benefits students and teachers in two key ways. Firstly, it negates frustration at poorly functioning digital resources that can lead to the abandonment of them altogether, while inducing a more effective classroom and distance learning environment. Resources with great UX are crucial in early-year education, where students are generally less focused and harder to engage.
If resources are fast, powerful, and easy to access, they are more pleasurable to use. The more enjoyable teachers and lecturers can make study materials for their students, the more likely they are to stay engaged – particularly with the host of interactive features that can be contained within them.
Equally, fast, reliable, and powerful digital resources can save vast amounts of time in classrooms and seminars, as functions such as group collaboration and automatic search functions mean all students are on the same page at the same time. Educators only have so many hours in a day to captivate their students but with modern innovations in digital resources, study materials should never be a hindrance to time efficiency or learning quality. Where UX in resources is concerned, investment is crucial and overdue and should be looked at similarly to upgrades in buildings or salaries.
Advanced resources for better engagement
While higher pay and improved buildings are definite requirements for a better educational environment, learning resource quality is a considerable determinant of class-room based success. To encourage the full engagement and enjoyment of students, investments must be made to ensure learning materials are the best they can be, whilst also mirroring the resources they are likely to use in higher education.
This was once a decision between black and white or colour textbooks, but the range of etextbook features and customisations are increasingly vast and can be used to great benefit when engaging all manner of students in their studies. Functions such as text-to-speech, real-time group collaboration, automatic search, and, in BibliU’s case, automated smart quizzes that tailor questions to the skills and understanding of each pupil, all provide the best education possible at university level. Schools and colleges should not miss out on these cutting-edge improvements toward educational resources.
Resources that mirror higher education and future employment
Not only do high-quality digital resources provide more efficient, more enjoyable, and more effective education, but they can also work to better prepare students for further education and employment beyond. It is no secret in education that, as studying continues, learning becomes increasingly reliant on digital and online resources – a fact particularly evident throughout remote learning within the pandemic.
As we emerge out the other side of Covid-19, the government needs to understand that higher education and employment are more reliant on digital processes, and the knowledge of how to use them, than ever before. How can schools, colleges, and universities best prepare their students for these formats if the resources available to them are not complimentary with these future experiences?
The rise in central management systems, communication channels such as Slack and Zoom, and team reviewing in employment scenarios must be as present as possible in earlier education also, without resources of the highest quality, this is not achievable.
Considering the current digital skills gap within the UK this is a pressing issue. If the government fails to invest in the correct digital resources now, they risk widening this gap further. On the other hand, if students of all ages can learn STEM subjects via high-quality digital resources then disciplines such as software engineering, analytics, accounting, and marketing to name a few can be far more accessible as they approach higher education and employment beyond.
Government funding for the future
Investing in digital resources provides a platform for more accessible education via digital learning, as well as boosting the effectiveness and pleasure of studies. As students from all backgrounds reach university and employment age, the investment into their futures will be evident, as the ‘step up’ or learning curve is partially removed. The lack of attention to learning resources is a damning omission by the governments from albeit positive funding announcements, and the clock is ticking for resource prioritisation to come to the fore.
Dave Sherwood is the CEO & Founder of BibliU.