The Digital Student expectations – do we know what we need to do?

The term Digital Student, coined a few years back is now widely used in the Higher Education sector in attempt to identify the needs and requirements of users entering their premises first time.
This world of permanent connectivity, immersive exposure to social media and ease of global communication and collaboration is becoming more and more relevant for all users, however for the younger generation their experience is more pervasive and often an inherent constituent of their everyday life. So why should this experience cease when they enter campus or a classroom?
In order to shed more light on this aspect a recent study undertaken by H. Beetham and D. White on behalf of JISC has revealed that the ‘baseline expectations’ of students studying at HE are actually relatively modest:

  • robust and ubiquitous Wi-Fi across campus locations
  • ease of connection of their own devices to the university network, and access personal/social web services
  • continued access to institutional devices, especially desktop computers with relevant high quality software for their use

The first two statements point to students desire to bring their own devices for both personal use AND learning. Therefore learning resources must be developed which will work and display natively on a variety of different platforms and also be engaging and media rich, as illustrated in the video below:

At the recent JISC Digifest 2015 event in Birmingham a panel of four UG and PG students answered several questions in the Student Expectations on Entering Education session as follows:

  • Their view is that the VLE is becoming less relevant to student, and tends to be mainly used for short ‘drop-ins’ the reason being that it is seen as too inflexible to be used via mobile devices
  • Instead students would prefer learning resources to be accessible via ‘the cloud’’ (OneDrive, GoogleDrive, Dropbox)
  • If there is a VLE module page then there should be a ‘quicklink’ section or widget at the very top with pointers to all the social media used during teaching such as relevant Twitter-feeds, Instagram, Skype, GoogleDocs
  • For social learning the tutor should set up one of the following tools for online study areas: Facebook group, GoogleDocs or Dropbox,
  • For synchronous communications students have experience in the use of Skype or Google Hangouts

This expressed views clearly point to the desire of students to move away from the currently offered institutional learning management systems

Studnet Wheelbarrow

In order to obtain the HE providers’ point of view a further JISC study questioned 50 Higher Education Institutions on how they intend to adapt to these challenges and their main findings can be summarised as follows:

This information should help to inform the decision making at Harper in further developing the campus IT infrastructure as well as driving changes to the working practices of those who deliver teaching.

There is a lot to be learnt from all this as we continue to prepare students for a working life in the 21st century.

-Henry Keil


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