For several years now, ALT-C participants have discussed how students can be engaged as participants in digital learning. Colleges and universities are working with their students to build informed consent to the use of digital technologies and data, and to develop effective partnerships for digital change.
While the commitment to engagement is impressive, there is less evidence that these engagements are well informed by local evidence. Work done by Jisc’s Digital Student project in 2014-16 highlighted that consultations with students were often poorly designed, or ad hoc, and that national surveys did not provide a coherent picture of the student digital experience. The Jisc ‘Student digital experience’ tracker was developed in response to these needs.
The tracker has been running since 2016, at first with just 24 participants, but this year (2017-18) with around 180. It offers universities and colleges a research-based set of questions, proven to provide actionable evidence locally, and to support meaningful comparisons within and across organisations. The survey can be customised to local needs, and both the survey process and the data generated are managed locally. Student engagement is critical throughout, from planning and communicating the project to designing the organisational response. Students have also been involved nationally in designing the survey and in the expert panels that review and report on the overall findings.
Survey questions explore – and so encourage organisations to value, issues such as:
• Students’ personal practices with digital technology
• The digital expertise of teaching staff
• The quality of the digital environment for learning
• Student engagement in their digital experience
• Accessibility and inclusion
• Digital wellbeing and belonging
This session will explore some innovative features of the project, which have allowed the tracker to gain popularity at a time when student surveys in general are losing support. These include:
• The student engagement process, local and national
• The local co-ownership of data, and the commitment to supporting local research and consultation
• The active involvement of teaching staff, whose views on the digital environment and curriculum are treated as equally important to the student perspective
• Guidance on participative techniques to enhance the survey findings
• The community of practice approach, and the lessons learned
• Linking survey data with other data sources and research projects
• Using the survey locally to explore variations across different student groups
Participants at the session will be professionals working to understand the student digital experience in their setting, whether their focus is the digital environment for learning or the digital curriculum – or both. They may already have engaged with the tracker, or they may be coming new to the project. During the workshop they will:
• Share their own practices of student engagement, including survey-based and other approaches
• Hear how universities and colleges have used the tracker to help them build engagement and enhance the student digital experience
• Develop their own action plan for student engagement
Session content: evaluation and reflection
The session is based on an ongoing Jisc project which has been continuously evaluated via:
– feedback surveys completed by institutional leads during three cycles of piloting 2016-18
– presentations, focus groups and consultation sessions with users before and during the pilot process
– analysis of student data from the three cycles of piloting
– reference to the existing research and evidence base
Evaluation is not a focus of the present session, but provides the basis for offering the tracker as a proven instrument for research and student engagement. Feedback from the workshop will be used to help plan the development of the project as an ongoing service.
Beetham, H, C Brown, E Thompson & V Liogier (2017). Tracking learners’ digital experience: the benefits and impacts. [online] Association for Learning Technologies Annual Conference 2017. Available at: https://altc.alt.ac.uk/2017/sessions/tracking-learners-digital-experience-the-benefits-and-impacts-1841/
Newman, T & H Beetham (2017). Student digital experience tracker 2017: the voice of 22,000 UK learners. Jisc. Available at: http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/662/1/Jiscdigitalstudenttracker2017insights.pdf
Resources for participants