Make sessions more interactive, provide on-demand content and other findings from Jisc’s digital experience survey

Jisc’s analysis of over 27,000 FE and HE students shows that, while learners are generally pleased with the quality of digital education provided, there are still some areas in which they’d appreciate improvements

Edtech non-profit Jisc’s digital experience insights student survey shows that, while students across further education (FE) and higher education (HE) are generally pleased with online learning, there are certain areas in which they’d like to see improvements – including mental health and wellbeing, and digital upskilling among staff.

Between October and December last year, Jisc gathered responses from 5,372 FE students and 21,697 learners across HE, providing extensive insights into student perceptions of digital education delivery – which are predominantly positive. The aim is for survey results to support the sector in adapting and responding to the changing situation while adhering to coronavirus policies.

Almost seven-in-10 respondents rated the quality of online and digital learning as either ‘best imaginable’, ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ (68% of both FE and HE students).

For FE learners, online support was also well rated, with almost three-quarters of students citing it as ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘best imaginable’.

Across both FE and HE, students were keen to express the benefits of e-learning, stating that on-demand class recordings were great for note-taking, while the flexible nature of digital provision made it far easier and more convenient to fit around existing life and work commitments. Some FE learners even said they enjoy the comfort of learning from home, also stating that they like feeling more in control of their own development.

“It’s thanks to staff that the rapid transition to ‘digital-first’ teaching has been possible, and their achievements deserve real celebration” Sarah Knight, Jisc

In terms of negative perceptions of remote education, students highlighted challenges such as technical issues, distractions, unsuitable study environments, feelings of isolation, and wellbeing and mental health issues, among others.

To address these challenges, learners suggested the following improvements:

  • Get the basics right – including Wifi (on-campus and elsewhere), reliable hardware and software, clear navigation to learning content, timetabling and session scheduling, audio and lighting to improve online lessons
  • Make learning sessions more interactive
  • Record lessons for on-demand provision to support student learning preferences or styles, revision and catch-up
  • Train and support lecturers to use online tools in a pedagogically sound and inclusive way
  • Consider pace of delivery and perhaps set up shorter learning sessions with regular breaks
  • Create opportunities to talk to/ask questions of lecturers and fellow learners, and provide timely individual and group support
  • Improve communication – establish reminders for when sessions will start and when assignments are due, and create an accessible list of frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Sarah Knight, head of data and digital capability at Jisc, commented: “It’s thanks to staff that the rapid transition to ‘digital-first’ teaching has been possible, and their achievements deserve real celebration. It’s brilliant to see that students are reaping the benefits of their hard work. Students too, have had to face an entirely new studying format, and the transition can’t have been easy.

“Jisc’s digital experience insights surveys are designed to support colleges and universities to understand and improve the digital experience of their students, and to provide baseline and benchmarking data to inform digital strategies across the sector. We hope this data pulse helps universities and colleges see clearly where students are benefitting, and where they could be better supported.”

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