Digital Futures: Understanding FE Students’ Expectations of Tech

Twenty-four hours is a long time in politics – but, despite turbulence in Westminster, the positive noises around education have remained fairly steady this year. The Department for Education published it’s edtech strategy in April 2019 , stressing the importance of digital skills to support students’ studies and future careers. Then, on becoming prime minister in July, Boris Johnson echoed the recommendations of the Augar review, saying it is “vital we invest now in further education and skills”.

At Jisc, the leading education and technology not-for-profit, our vision is for the UK to be the most digitally advanced education and research nation in the world. As head of change for student experience, a key question for me is whether we really know how learners are using technology to support their learning. Understanding this will help us support universities and colleges to improve provision.

The Jisc 2019 digital experience insights student survey provides a valuable glimpse into 29,531 students’ expectations and experiences of technology – 13,389 of whom are in FE. At the FETL Forum, I will be reflecting on the key findings for FE, discussing the implications for colleges and skills providers with regards to providing an excellent digital experience for all learners.

In the report, Shakira Martin - outgoing president of National Union of Students (NUS) and head of student experience at Rose Bruford College - highlights the importance of actively engaging students in discussions about technology, and of actively preparing them for a digital workplace. I feel this is crucial, and it’s one of the reasons the results of our student survey are so important to colleges.

As the surveys have been running since 2016, we are gathering valuable longitudinal data on how students’ expectations and experiences of technology are evolving. This is key in informing colleges and universities on how their digital environment is being used by both staff and students. We’re seeing high investment in technology and supporting infrastructure, so it’s vital that organisations have evidence of the impact of this spending and the benefits of co-designing the digital environment in partnership with staff and students.

Government enthusiasm for digital innovation and investment in FE is always welcome, and I’m looking forward meeting with colleagues in FE at the FETL symposium to hear the significance of these aims to them. I’m hoping to hear how you are innovating your practice to deliver education for the students of today and the careers of tomorrow.

The digital experience insights student survey 2019 will be published on the Jisc website on the 3rd September. We also encourage colleges to sign up to participate in the 2019-2020 student, teaching staff and professional services staff surveys, which launches in October.

 This article was written by Sarah Knight, Head of change: student experience, Jisc