Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose . . . Jisc Staff Digital Experience Survey

Jisc has published its report of staff version of their Digital Insights Survey.   Over 6,500 staff from across FE and HE in the UK took part in the survey so it provides a very rich picture of current practice and attitudes towards digital learning and teaching.

These large scale reports are really useful to give an overview of what is happening across the sectors. I know if I still worked in an institution I would be citing the report “all over the place” to help justify more sustainable resources and time for CPD around the effective use of digital technologies for learning and teaching.

screen shot of response rate from survey

However, I do find it quite depressing that the key issues still don’t seem to be being addressed. Time and more recognition for staff development around developing digital capabilities come up again and again. They featured highly in our 2018 ALT member survey too.  There is great work going on in the sector, but it still seems to be just in pockets.

In terms of digital infrastructure and  technology provision, this jumped out at me?
Teaching staff may have more opportunities than students to know how things could be better, so it is important to involve teaching staff in discussions and initiatives to improve the digital environment.

It is so important to involved teaching staff in decisions around technology provision. I see so many missed opportunities around deployment of software simply because no-one has thought to ask about the teaching applications it might have.  Similarly with teaching spaces. Sometimes less is more. You don’t need to stuff rooms with every new, shiny thing and as many tables as possible.  Think about how the space will actually be used, the noise levels, the time it will take to get everyone “seemlessly connected”, the impact on wifi connections and signal . . . 

Again, another familiar conclusion – more CPD and training are key to improving teaching staff confidence and expertise. I know I am biased (and full disclosure, I am the current Chair of ALT) but CMALT is a great way to provided motivation, recognition and ongoing development.  

The new pathways offer opportunities for those newer to working with technology through the Associate level, and for more senior colleagues through the Senior level.   As all levels are portfolio based and centre on personal reflection of practice, they provide an excellent way for colleagues to share their experiences of what makes an impact/difference, what doesn’t work and how we learn from those experiences.

Too often we aren’t allowed to talk about failure (which the report does highlight), but it is a fact of life that things go wrong. How often have you not been able to get onto online during a class, despite the fact that everything was working five minutes before your class started?  How many plan B, C, and D’s do you need?  Where do we have the safe spaces in our institutions to talk about these issues? How can teaching and support staff work more collaboratively to address the issues that really do make an impact on using technology in learning and teaching?  These issues can’t be addressed by training alone. As the report highlights:


“too often teaching staff are offered single sessions with no follow-up or support. This may be enough to grasp the basics but it does not allow staff to explore how new techniques can be applied in practice. It is not enough to provide resources and opportunities – there needs to be encouragement, recognition and motivation. Approaches that harness peer support are an effective strategy here, especially when this is built into organisational culture and modelled by senior managers.

Developing digital capabilities is a cultural as well as a technological issue. It has to become embedded in practice and not seen as some kind of add on or one off training activity. Like many, I’ve been saying for years, we need to invest just as much in people development as the shiny, new technology. Online learning is still touted as the future, or education 4.0 perhaps! But as the report highlights:

Teaching online is currently a minority activity that requires time and consideration to develop and scale up

I’ve been fortunate this year to be involved in developing a CPD resource specifically for online teaching at the University of Edinburgh. There has been institutional recognition that staff do not have experience of teaching online, and that they need to be supported, not just how to use a different VLE, but in understanding the principles of community building, online engagement, how to develop online teaching presence (more info here).

Let’s hope that in coming years, the findings from the tracker, and other surveys will have less of the new, old headlines and that support, practice, confidence and capabilities do actually start to make significant changes for our staff and students.

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