Students gathering in a common area, talking and looking at their devices

Event Report: Learning Technology Supporting Employability

By Neil Dixon (ARU), Rob Howe (Northampton), Uwe Matthias Richter (ARU)

ALT East England and East Midlands organised an event on Learning technology supporting employability at Anglia Ruskin University Peterborough (ARU Peterborough)

The event was structured into five workshops/presentations and a panel discussion and was held on 11 January 2024. The following report summarises the themes of the presentations and the Panel discussion. 

Digital skills and teamwork workshop/sessions

An example of curricular digital skills was demonstrated by Penny Langford (MK College). This aimed to develop an example of digital skills for employability. Participants produced a digital artefact as part of a group activity which intended to demonstrate the skills required in the future. Participants were split into different roles – creator, researcher, spokesperson or timekeeper. The workshop demonstrated that we need skills such as real-world problem-solving and team working in education to prepare for future employment.

Trudy Lynch and Elisha Owen (both ARU) talked about developing virtual team- and project work in the context of extra-curricular digital skills development. ARU’s Students at the Heart of Knowledge Exchange (SHoKE) provides students, academics and external organisations with a unique opportunity to work together in diverse teams on social challenges set by external organisations. They established students could volunteer outside their studies working in a virtual team to help each other solve societal challenges.

Another example of curricular teamwork was discussed by Uwe Richter (ARU), who demonstrated an example of a module running virtual team and project work. The session emphasised the different project roles of students with the project scaffolded in stages including project plan, risk assessment, and peer and team evaluation. This was an authentic project-based learning activity which addressed wicked problems. 

Authentic assessment sessions

Paul Heselwood (ARU) provided an example of an ARU’s Live Brief module where students work on a brief provided by an employer producing an assessed output. Paul talked about his evidence-based policing module where students gain experience in using digital tools to analyse data, such as Excel, specialist Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and risk terrain modelling applications. A positive outcome of using these tools is that students recognise limitations on solely using data for decision-making for policing. 

Jim Littlemore (ARU) described his module as based on the Live Brief concept. In Jim’s module,  students worked with environmental agencies for their nature-based assessment. Students got the opportunity to use technologies like drones and smartphones to capture environmental impacts, and mapping platforms, which help them gain digital skills in the context of real-world activities. Students were building team working skills, and experiencing realistic employment opportunities and the value of sustainability by visiting natural wildlife sites.

Panel discussion: Embedding employability into the curriculum 

The panel consisted of Rob Howe (Northampton) (chair), David Conway (Northampton), Jin Tan (Bedfordshire), Fiona McGonigle (ARU Peterborough) 

The discussion started with the question of how well employability is aligned to university strategies and aims. One goal that the panel highlighted is to align your employability strategy to curriculum development, as this is not always carried out successfully. The development and delivery of a new course should involve employers and alumni in the curriculum process in order to embed employability. The panel emphasised that employability should be an assessed part of learning, and managed as part of (curricular) and alongside the curriculum (co- and extra-curricular). 

An issue with (some) courses is that students are not necessarily exposed to the range of jobs available to them. The panel suggested that if we want to develop our own talents in the UK, we need to see whether employers can inform us on the type of roles available relating to different courses. This is still mostly unfamiliar territory within Higher Education, which is not used to working closely with employers to develop their course offers and delivery.  Higher Education tended to focus more on research and education which also relates closely to the metrics used in league tables and other success measures such as the REF (Research Excellence Framework) and TEF (Teaching Enhancement Framework).

The panel also recommended facilitating the development of lifelong learning skills. Whilst we can teach students skills in the context of their course, students may not be equipped enough to develop new skills unless they develop metacognition, interdisciplinary and lifelong learning skills and strategies. The panel also raised the need for information literacy as a key skill, including knowing what information is key and how to find useful information. 

Institutions also need to make learning more authentic. One view expressed was that Higher Education should serve employers. However, institutions have multiple, often conflicting identities, priorities and objectives. 

The panel felt that employability should be everyone’s responsibility. While the gold standard of employability has been work placements, the panel agreed that this was not feasible to implement for all students and courses. Alternatively, students can take part in projects, live briefs, authentic scenarios, etc. which give them a similar kind of experience to work placement in some respects. 

The panel concluded that Higher Education should be more proactive, rather than reactive regarding employability such as linking to employers and companies, exposure to jobs, industry placements, and real-life experiences. For students, discipline theory should not always be central in their learning. Instead, students also need experience of the types of jobs that their degree may equip them for, and they need to be able to relate to these jobs.


The event was well received and student digital employability will be taken forward as a main theme in future sessions. Please sign up for ALT EE’s mailing list to hear about future events.

Authored by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *