A survey of 37,000 students, released today, shows that half of college learners and almost 70% of university students think digital skills will be important for their chosen career, and yet only 41% of all of them believe their courses prepare them for a digital workplace.
This comes as the Government’s industrial strategy states: “Within two decades, 90% of jobs will require some digital proficiency, yet 23% of adults lack basic digital skills.”
The poll also finds that two thirds of respondents feel they are not told what digital skills they need before starting a course, andless than half agree that they have regular opportunities to review and update their digital skills.
In a foreword to the Jisc report, universities minister Sam Gyimah says: “This issue must be addressed as a matter of urgency if universities and colleges are to deliver for students, employers and the country as a whole.”
“I want all educational leaders to look closely at this report and consider how they can improve their own provision through the effective use of technology. I also urge them to take full advantage of the expert advice and ‘on the ground’ support provided by Jisc to take a fully digital approach to issues such as curriculum design and the learning environment.”
In the largest ever sample of such data, the education sector’s technology solutions not-for-profit, Jisc, questioned more than 37,000 students from 83 further education (FE) colleges and higher education (HE) institutions.
Participants in the second annual digital experience insights survey were asked about how they use digital technology, expectations for technology provision and support, learning habits, experience of digital technology at their institution and how it prepares them for the workplace. The survey proves invaluable for colleges and universities, supporting them to decide how to invest in technology so that it meets the needs of their students.
Satisfaction almost guaranteed
Despite the question mark over digital skills,overall satisfaction with digital provisionis high, with 74% of FE and 88% of HE students reporting satisfaction with the digital offer at their organisation. Pedagogy also comesout well, with 72% of FE and 74% of HE students happy with the quality of teaching they receive.
But students are frustrated when teachersdon’t use digital systems competently, especially when this wastes time or reduces access to course materials. However, students offer many examples of excellent teaching practice, which they want other staff to aspire to.
When it comes to help with using technology, FE students are overlooking the web and turning instead to teachers, who are the main source of advice for FE students, whereas only 8% of university students report turning to lecturersfor guidance.
Findings also show that students enjoy the flexibility and independence afforded by technology: 64% of FE students and 73% of HE students agree that they are more independent in their learning when digital technology is used. A further 57% of FE students and 67% of HE students agree that digital approaches help them to fit learning around their lifestyle.
Use data carefully
Only a third of FE students and 24% of HE students agree they are told how their personal data is stored and used. Some students used the survey to request improvements to their data protection. Suggestions include: ‘Don’t sell students’ data to third parties’; ‘Provide information on data protection’; ‘Don’t relax on data security’.
In his foreword for the report, Sam Gyimah, calls on the sector to ensure that use of data takes students’ wellbeing into account. He said:“The need for universities and colleges to offer further support around digital wellbeing, online safety and data privacy is prominent. Ensuring students’ mental health and wellbeing is one of my priorities. This report makes clear the need for universities and colleges to take steps to ensure technology continues to be employed in the best interests of students, not exposing them to further risk.”
Technology can empower staff and students
Jisc chief executive Paul Feldman, added: “The findings from our annual digital experience survey bring with them the real opportunity for organisations to provide their students with what they need to make the most out of their education.”
“Technology is playing an increasingly important role in our lives and, consequentially, within the education sector. It holds the real potential to empower both staff and students, saving time and making the learning experience more flexible, immersive and engaging for all.”
“More importantly though, it’s vital that we ensure students are equipped with the digital skills they will need to flourish in the workplace, something that’s crucial for our learners and the future workforce of the UK.”
“We look forward to working with participants to act on their findings, supporting them to use technology in a way that transforms the learning experience, maximising student success.”