Student digital insight survey

Yesterday we launched our Student digital insight survey for this year.

The student Insight survey is a national survey run by Jisc which aims to find out more about how students use digital technologies and how this affects their experience of learning.

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We last ran this survey (or the previous version of this survey) in April 2018. You can read more about the results and see a presentation we gave at the Data matters conference in January 2019.

Changes to the last survey

The majority of questions are the same as the last survey we ran and we will be very interested in comparing results. Have we made improvements? Or are there still clear indicators of work to be done?

We have however added in a few new questions. These have been shamelessly stolen from feedback in webinars and mailing lists (apologies I can’t recall which institutions they are from). The first new set of questions relate to digital skills. They ask our students about how important different skills are and how they would like to learn them.

skillsThe second set of questions are about the tools we use e.g our VLE, video system, tech in teaching and study spaces etc.

toolsPromotion

We are taking a softly, softly approach to the survey but will be promoting through the following mechanisms:

  • Email to all students
  • Ticker bar on Gateway (our VLE)
  • Digital screens
  • Through the myRAU app as a banner and a news item
  • Information on social media sites
  • Posters
  • Through the OurRAU news
  • By sharing slides with our academics so they can mention the survey in lectures

We will report back next month on how it has gone.

Results from the Student digital experience tracker

Back in April we ran the Jisc Student digital experience tracker and are now ready to share the data more widely.

The tracker is a brief (10 minute) online survey that all our students were invited to participate in. The survey  gathers data on students’ expectations and experiences of technology at their institution. It is run annually and each institution’s data is available for that institution to use, the data is also benchmarked against other institutions.

We asked all our students (in all year groups) to participate. They were sent the link by email, the survey was also advertised on the Student Facebook site and other social media, by posters and by academics. 218 of our students responded to the tracker (18 % response rate), this breaks down into:

  • Male (44%), female (56%) gender split (Q2)
  • 1st year (56%), middle year (15%), final year (18%), Masters/postgrad (10%) stages of study (Q3)
  • 20% self-identified as needing to use assistive technologies (Q6)

We are really happy with the response rate and the make up of students seems representative of the University. We also had a good split across centres.

Our key metrics were interesting. We are clearly at the start of our digital transformation with lots to do but the metrics show clear priority areas: 1) digital as part of learning and teaching 2) digital and data literacy of our staff and students.

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The key findings were that:

  • The amount of technology available at RAU is fine – students want us to make it more user-friendly and get better at training staff and students in how to use it
  • Wifi is very important to students but they actually think our coverage is OK
  • Students like consistency – on Gateway, in lessons, in tools
  • Students want us to prioritise online, free, up-to-date resources
  • Students don’t feel they are getting the right amount of digital training in tools they need for their course or in the skills they need for the work place
  • Students like computer rooms, printers and charging points
  • Students want more multimedia – videos (of lectures) and images
  • Students appreciate IT support and would like more help with technical issues

We have been working on an action log which takes the form of a ‘You said. we did’ spreadsheet. Highlighted areas are given a response in the following way:

  • We did (current resolution)
  • We will do (future resolution)
  • Why we can’t do it (explanation)

The log covers areas from accessibility, communication and data, to digital literacy, digital spaces and library resources.

We will be sharing these with students over the next few months.

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Academics have also been invited to look at more detailed analysis of the data if interested – this includes further benchmarked data (against other institutions and GuildHE institutions) and a summary of all the free text responses. Potentially the raw data could also be distilled and analysed at the centre level.

There has already been agreement that the survey will run again. Hopefully earlier in the academic year (November?) so as to not coincide with the NSS.

Jisc Digital capability discovery tool

Improving our staff and student digital capability is a key aim of our digital strategy. We are investigating a number of ways in which we can do this is in a strategic way. With this in mind we are participating in the Jisc digital capability discovery tool pilot.

The digital discovery tool supports individual staff and students – in universities, colleges and training providers – to reflect on their digital capabilities. It presents a series of reflective questions that relate to the different elements of capability. The tool is based on the Jisc digital capabilities framework.

Jisc digital capability model

Those who use the tool are presented with a series of ‘discovery questions’ looking at digital areas including: creativity, teaching, innovation, information literacy, wellbeing, productivity and collaboration. The questions aim to assess users’ confidence and experience with a host of real-world digital practices. Just by answering the questions, users are made aware of digital practices they already have and new ones they might try.

Jisc digital discovery tool

The initial log in screen

Users can then download a report providing them with a score in each area and guidance on how to improve.

My score is shown below in a graph.

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Marieke Guy’s report graph

As Jisc explains:

Organisationally, the digital discovery tool can be used to raise awareness of the range and importance of digital capabilities, and to encourage personal development. Conversations about digital capability can be taken forward with a common reference point and some shared terms. Digital capabilities become more familiar and less threatening.

The Digital discovery tool is not meant to monitor individuals, but staff could choose to bring their results into appraisal settings, or professional development reviews. While personal findings remain anonymous, aggregated data views are available to organisational users of the service. These can be used to help understand the organisation’s strengths, weaknesses, and priorities for development.”

Anonymised data from the tool can be extracted and used to help shape training strategies.

We are currently using the tool only within the IT services team but may roll it out further later in the year. The main thing is for us to have a plan for how we can support staff to improve their digital capability once they have explored and assessed it using the tool.

Focusing on the VLE

As discussed before on this blog Jisc have been conducting a light-touch review of our Virtual Learning Environment (Gateway). The review has looked at areas including student engagement, curriculum delivery and accessibility.

Last week Zac Gribble and John Sumpter from Jisc visited the campus to run a series of focus groups with staff and students looking at what works and what could be improved with our digital delivery. The will be delivering a report with recommendations for improvements.

Students talking to the Jisc team about Gateway

Students talking to the Jisc team about Gateway

The Jisc team enjoyed meeting the focus group attendees and were impressed with our Gateway content.

John Sumpter commented that: “RAU are in a good starting position for taking things forward” and that “reviewing your VLE use is an ongoing activity that compliments your digital strategy”.

Staff in the VLE focus group session

Staff in the VLE focus group session

 

Reviewing our VLE

When I was at university in the mid 90s there wasn’t a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). I seem to remember file stores and floppy disks galore but no central repository of learning resources.We just carried everything around with us – and bad luck if you lost anything!

The actual term VLE was first coined in the late 90s (by whom I cannot tell?) but in the US the descriptor Learning Management Systems (LMS) has always been more prevalent. Wikipedia offers an indepth history of VLEs for those interested.

Today VLEs are a given at Higher Education institutions. The 2016 UCISA TEL survey found that 100% institutions who participated had some form of VLE with the split being roughly 50:50 between open-source Moodle and Blackboard, other platforms barely got a mention. The 2017-18 survey is now underway and we are likely to see a new generation of VLEs, like Canvas, making headway. At RAU we have had a Moodle system for over 7 years – we call our VLE Gateway. On the whole we are happy with what we have, but as is often the case we feel we could be doing more to engage students, encourage academics and support our digital delivery.

Enter the new Jisc VLE review service. It’s not well advertised yet but as part of a provider’s subscription Jisc will review their learning environment for them. The VLE review will help us to “understand how our platform is being used, what areas could be flagged as best practice, in addition to highlighting barriers and challenges that are preventing your staff and students from getting the best of your VLE. The process will review: Curriculum delivery, Communication & Collaboration, Content management, Student Administration, and Technical. This approach helps identify and put in place the process, tools and digital capabilities necessary to meet learners’ needs. Furthermore, It’s a useful tool to build a business case for changes in IT infrastructure, staff development activity and create an ongoing mechanism for dialogue between departments“. [Jisc’s words]

The Jisc team have been allocated user accounts and will be spending time in our VLE looking at it from a student and staff perspective. They are also coming on site in mid-March and will be running focus groups and interviews with students, staff and those involved in the technical delivery of Gateway.

A course module in Gateway

A course module in Gateway

The plan is not to change our VLE – though many providers are doing that. The aforementioned 2016 UCISA survey found that over half of the institutions which responded had conducted evaluation reviews over the last two years. The plan is to make what we have more user friendly, more engaging and just…better! Easy right?! 😉