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Digital Humanities elsewhere

Missed our GDPR training? Watch it online for free!

By from Jisc news. Published on Sep 18, 2017.

Worried you aren’t prepared for new data protection laws coming into effect next May? Haven’t managed to catch one of our free online briefings on the subject? Don’t panic! We've made a recording on the subject.

Many of our members have requested support and training on the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and we know it’s a high priority.

Indeed, judging by the results of a recent Jisc survey, most universities appear to be preparing well for the GDPR. Already, 12% have conducted training on this issue, with 71% planning training this year and a further 9% next year.

In terms of FE colleges, 10% have already undertaken training, 37% will up-skill staff this year and 33% in 2018.

Around 400 of you have so far taken advantage of our online briefings. The first 'moving toward GDPR' event ran on 1 August, 2017, and proved hugely popular, with 173 participants. The next one, on 4 September, attracted even more people – 230.  

Our training manager Katharine Iles, said:

“We quickly realised there was considerable appetite for information and training on the implications for our members of GDPR, so we decided to make access to support as easy as possible.

One of the presentations, featuring our chief regulatory adviser, Andrew Cormack, has been filmed and is available to view now. We will be arranging more online briefings on other aspects of the GDPR in the future. Keep an eye on our training pages for further details.”

In the video, Andrew describes:

  • The main differences between the new regulation and previous data protection law 
  • The areas organisations will need to include in their GDPR planning
  • Document information lifecycles for data processing

In addition, we organise more comprehensive GDPR training days. The next one-day course is in London on 23 November. At the end of the day, and for no extra charge, delegates take the EU GDPR Foundation exam. This 60-minute multiple-choice test is ISO 17024-accredited and set by the International Board for IT Governance Qualifications (IBITGQ) and registration is open now.

For more information on what the GDPR will mean for your institution, you might like to read Andrew Cormack’s blog on the subject.

Will Government change its ‘one size fits all’ funding structures as they force students out of the system?

By from Jisc news. Published on Sep 11, 2017.

The Higher Education and Research Act, brought in to realise the government’s ambitions of a diverse and competitive higher education (HE) sector, will impact on choices for students. Will these changes give students the education they need to ensure the UK - in the words of Jo Johnson, minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, - succeeds as a knowledge economy?

Today in Parliament, thinktank Policy Connect and the Higher Education Commission present the findings of their fifth inquiry; an examination of alternative provision in HE.

The report from Policy Connect, titled One Size Won’t Fit All: the Challenges Facing the Office for Students (pdf), calls on the newly-founded Office for Students (OfS) to recognise that the funding structures in higher education are fundamentally flawed.

They force alternative providers to move towards standard campus-based, three year degrees. Therefore, not providing better student choice or flexible courses. These factors reduce diversity in options for study and therefore limit opportunity for social mobility for those who most need flexible higher education.

Keynote speaker at today’s launch, Conservative peer, Lord Norton said:

“Over the process of this inquiry the commission heard from many providers delivering innovative and alternative models of higher education. With increasing global competition in the sector and changing social and business trends the question of how higher education is delivered will only become more poignant.

The government’s decision to task the OfS to promote choice for students and value for money showed great foresight in this regard but promoting innovation and balancing risk against the public interest will require careful handling.”

Paul Feldman, Jisc CEO and member of the commission, noted:

"There is an amazing vibrancy and diversity in UK higher education. This report highlights that there is more that can be done to make sure all students have access to learn anywhere, anytime and in a way that suits them. The Higher Education and Research Act also provides an opportunity for high quality alternatives to the traditional degree to prosper.

While I expect the typical three-year university experience will continue to dominate, students should have confidence that they can use reputable alternative provision if it’s the best way to meet their career choices, whether they are training to be an engineer, lawyer, musician, artist, cook or football management professional."

Jon Wakeford, director of strategy at UPP and member of the HE Commission said:

“In order to thrive, the HE sector must boost ways of learning to help respond to the different needs of students. Everyone with the potential and ambition to participate in HE should have the ability to do so, as well as benefit from the social capital and skills development integral to helping them become employable.

We’re pleased to support the report’s call for diversity in HE so that students from all backgrounds can excel and engage in both meaningful education and employment.”

Policy Connect’s chief executive, Jonathan Shaw, said that the commission’s findings highlighted the great potential laid out before the Office for Students:

“The new regulator should examine funding and evaluation structures in HE to ensure that potential students have the opportunity to study as they need - this is especially important for those wanting to study specialist subjects or in a flexible way due to their circumstances - so that the British economy can benefit from a highly educated, diverse workforce contributing to the economy.” 

It’s official - higher education students want staff to be better with digital, not to use more of it

By from Jisc news. Published on Sep 11, 2017.

Students have stated their frustration at staff’s inconsistent use of technology, with 22,000 voicing their opinions on the use of digital at their institutions in our digital student tracker report (pdf)

Many reported that they were frustrated with the variety of systems used by staff, and that some refused to use digital tools altogether. Some mentioned they felt staff had not been trained to use systems effectively, or did not seem to be getting enough training or support.

However, when asked what their institution should do and not do, students requested a better use of digital systems, not more, fearing it could be used to replace face-to-face time with staff. 

One student said:

“Don’t encourage or enforce online group work as it is better to meet. There has to be more group activities that require face to face contact with lecturers and learning practical skills”

Another asked:

“Don’t allow academic staff to pick their own ways of using digital resources. At the moment each academic uses the virtual learning environment (VLE) in a different way, making it very time consuming to keep switching approaches. It’s also obvious that academic staff have not received adequate training in using these systems”

However, learners do value the convenience of digital systems provided by their learning organisation. 80% of students surveyed reply on their institution’s VLE to do their coursework, 67% regularly access the VLE via a mobile device, and 80% found submitting assignments electronically more convenient. 

Sarah Knight, our head of change - student experience, said:

“Our survey showed digital technology is most often used for accessing information and for the production of work in a digital format, and is valued for its convenience and is a great way to fit learning into the busy lives of students. It’s clear that students want the same convenience they get from using digital in their day to day lives, at university.

What they don’t want, is a deluge of different technologies and ways of using them. Institutions need to adopt a joined-up approach to digital, in order to meet the needs of students”

The survey also showed that students want institutions to use digital to connect them with other students, and to provide lecture-based quizzes and polls. The anonymity factor played a huge role here, one student said:

“…we voted on questions and got to see the results at the end. Closed answers made it more honest and were really useful to see what other people thought”

Personalised learning with digital tools came out positively, with 40% of HE learners surveyed using social media to discuss their work informally ‘weekly or more often’. 59% access learning on the move weekly or more, and 60% using digital tools to make notes.

The report is the largest of its kind, and aims to paint a national picture of the student digital experience, encouraging organisations to work with students in order to create learning environments that harness the power of technology.  

Find out how HE and FE learning providers can sign up to get involved with the 2018 survey

Download the full digital student tracker report (pdf) and the accompanying briefing booklet (pdf)

New agreement with the National Archives

By from Jisc news. Published on Sep 08, 2017.

Together with The National Archives, we're delighted to announce the signature of a Memorandum of Understanding covering the period 2017-2019. 

We will work together to support collection discoverability, digital skills, and joint research.

The Memorandum of Understanding is the first formal agreement between our two organisations. It covers the period between 2017 and 2019, after which it will be reviewed.

This is an incredibly exciting time for the archive and information sectors as they collectively face the digital challenge, as outlined in The National Archives’ Digital StrategyDigital Research Roadmap, and the strategic, co-created vision for the Archives Sector, Archives Unlocked. This Memorandum of Understanding reflects our collective commitment to working in collaboration with key sector partners to meet these ambitions.

Bentham Hackathon

By Lucy J Stagg from Programme. Published on Sep 04, 2017.

UCL have teamed up with IBM to hack the writings of the philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). Bentham wrote on a vast array of subjects including democratic reform, religion, crime and economics and his ideas on education inspired the founders of UCL.

Fresh perspectives on delivering a digital student experience in FE

By from Jisc news. Published on Aug 23, 2017.

We launched our report, the evolution of FELTAG, last spring to celebrate effective digital practice in colleges and skills organisations, and to inspire others. Here, two colleges discuss how they're getting to grips with the FELTAG recommendations.

"The decision to ditch a plethora of software tools in favour of a single platform has brought about significant savings in cost, labour and time" says Ken Thomson, chief executive of Forth Valley College. Listen to our podcast to hear Sarah Knight share a fresh set of thought leader stories to guide and inspire. Read the accompanying blog.

English and maths retakes: more free books added to our collection

By from Jisc news. Published on Aug 18, 2017.

Cash-strapped post-16 education providers and students alike can now benefit from an expanded collection of free digital text books aimed at those retaking English language and maths GCSEs.

Another 15 e-books have been added to the initial 23 titles that were made available in September 2016. The collection, which we procured, covers all five of the main exam boards (AQA, SQA, OCR, Pearson Edexcel, WJEA) and includes practice and revision books.

Signing up for the collection is free for members and we have calculated that each full book downloaded represents a saving of £20. At a time when numbers of compulsory resits in these subjects after the age of 16 are predicted to rise considerably, the potential savings could be significant.We've calculated that the college which has downloaded the most e-books over the past year would have had to fork out £32,000 in buying the equivalent number of physical books.

From September 2013, it became mandatory for pupils failing to achieve a grade C or better in English language and maths (grade 4 in the new GCSE grading system) to continue studying until they do, or until they turn 18, whichever comes first.

The government introduced this controversial measure to better equip young people for the workplace, but it placed a huge burden on post-16 education providers, both in terms of employing extra teachers and buying curriculum-matched text books. Providing content and recruiting suitable teachers was, and remains, a big problem.

Our head of digital content services for further education and skills, Karla Youngs, is adamant that “every college needs this service”.

Creative Commons attribution information
Karla Youngs
©Jisc and Matt Lincoln
Karla Youngs

She explains:

“Four years ago, colleges faced a difficult choice: either pay for resources that are mapped to the relevant exam boards and the curriculum, which would result in savings having to be made elsewhere, or access free resources not designed for traditionally taught courses, and therefore not quite fit for purpose.

As of September 2016, a third, no-cost choice became available to Jisc members. A year later, and a complete collection of 38 books, which covers all five of the main exam boards, is available through our e-books for FE service, which teachers and learners from subscribing colleges can use for free.

While nothing can replace excellent English and maths teaching, opening up access to these digital resources will go a long way in plugging the gap. Teachers can use the e-books in the classroom or virtual learning environment and learners can access the content on their own devices, wherever and whenever they want. Being able to study at a time and place that’s convenient is particularly important for English and maths resit students, who often have to take these subjects alongside their chosen full-time courses.

This free resource also means that students will not have to reply on the right text books being available in the library at the right time – they can simply log in online, or download a page or a chapter at a time.

Colleges don’t even need to worry about updating with new versions since this happens automatically.”

Post-16 providers that want to find out more should speak to their account manager, or go to the e-books for FE service page for more information and to sign up.

Crowdsourcing and commentary with IIIF and W3C web annotations

By Lucy J Stagg from Programme. Published on Aug 01, 2017.

The rapid adoption of the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) by institutions worldwide means that millions of digital objects (comprising billions of images) are exposed to the web using a standard that allows people to make statements about them, in the form of annotations. We can consume the source material for research and crowdsourcing in standards-compliant tools, and share the output from this work as interoperable W3C annotations.

The Spotify of the textbook world takes off as Bibliotech is go

By from Jisc news. Published on Aug 01, 2017.

As libraries look to widen access to core texts, how can they make this affordable to both universities and students?

Social mobility of students is a topic that rarely leaves the education headlines, with tuition fees and accommodation costs at the top of the list. Less topical, but of real importance to students’ day-to-day learning, is whether or not they have access to digital resources.

Bibliotech, coined by its founders as ‘the Spotify of textbooks’, has been selected as a preferred e-textbook supplier in the UK. A shortlisted entrant in our edtech startup competition this year, Bibliotech negotiates with publishers on behalf of its users - be they students or academics - and via a web app, provide access to core textbooks for as little as £2.99 a month.

Bibliotech was named as one of the recommended suppliers for e-textbooks in the Joint Consortia Framework Agreement for Books, which launches today. UK higher education institutions may purchase their e-books, standing orders and related materials via this framework agreement which provides compliance under EU procurement directives.

David Sherwood, CEO at Bibliotech, commented,

“We’re very pleased to be appointed as a supplier on the Joint Consortia Framework Agreement not long after Bibliotech launched in September 2016.

We offer e-textbooks under a unique subscription business model and look forward to partnering with libraries in England and Wales to provide a sustainable library focused model for electronic textbook delivery.”

Caroline Mackay, licensing manager at Jisc Collections, said:

“It’s great to be launching this partnership with Bibliotech. It was set up by students who saw the potential of technology to provide online access to thousands of textbooks and learning materials, and gives a truly affordable option for many students, who would otherwise struggle to pay for these resources.

We are also able to offer the service to libraries, which should really help students studying electives get access to resources which they may only need for a short while, and could form part of a valued package of support from their university.”

The Bibliotech platform creates bespoke e-textbook packages which match institutions' reading lists and integrate into all library management systems, virtual learning environments and reading list software.

All students have unlimited access to the content purchased for their course - a library-focused alternative to the one-for-one model.  Bibliotech already work with most of the major publishing houses and continue to sign new publishing partners with top titles from all the major courses. 

Read more about the Bibliotech model and improving textbook access on the Jisc Collections website.

Govroam – the wifi solution for the public sector

By from Jisc news. Published on Jul 31, 2017.

Anyone who has to travel to different offices and buildings regularly as part of their job will understand what a pain it can be to swap on to different wifi networks at every new destination.

Identifying the correct network, sourcing the password, and actually logging on all takes time and effort.

In the public sector, where partner-working across different sites and organisations is increasing, “zero-touch” access to wifi has become a possibility with the launch of govroam.

It means that public sector employees across the UK can now travel between any participating public services’ building and connect to the network, without touching their laptop, smart phone or tablet. Once the profile is installed, the connection happens automatically.

The introduction of govroam will support the trend towards multi-disciplinary activities, such as the convergence of health and social care.

Imagine an elderly person is spending a long time in hospital after an assault and needs contact with social services, community health workers and the police. All of these workers can visit the hospital and use govroam to connect to the various online resource they need, while the service would also enable doctors to access patient records quickly during rounds.

Site-sharing with govroam enables multiple organisations to share a physical location and connect over a single standardised network. Parts of a council office could be repurposed for community-based police or health workers, or spare space in police stations made available for probation staff. This approach encourages collaborative working and has cost-saving benefits.

Such multi-tenanted sites are already being used in Leeds, where govroam is already in place as part of the Yorkshire and Humberside Public Services Network (YHPSN).

Another public service network (PSN) that was an “early adopter” of govroam is Kent, where every local authority in the county has rolled it out. Govroam is now available at more than 250 sites and rising and work is continuing to connect the whole of Kent’s PSN, which has more than 370,000 users across nearly 1,200 sites.

Govroam has also been deployed in parts of London, and there’s keen interest from PSNs in many other parts of the UK. The service is not, however, limited to PSNs: the fastest growing adopter of govroam to date is the NHS.

Govroam evolved from eduroam – the established wifi service used by the further and higher education and research sector and which runs on the UK’s national research and education network, the Janet network, and supporting the roaming of 1.6 million unique devices each month.

You can find out more by listening to our podcast on the benefits of govroam.

TDS Student partners with Jisc to empower higher education with tools to enhance student learning outcomes

By from Jisc news. Published on Jul 27, 2017.

TDS Student, leaders in providing student attendance and engagement solutions to higher education institutions across the UK and Ireland, today embarks on a new partnership with Jisc.

TDS Student welcome Jisc as the latest organisation to join their partner network and are looking forward to working in collaboration to build an integrated learning platform for the higher education sector.

The partnership between TDS and Jisc will enable universities and higher education institutions to gather a holistic view of student interactions across campus.

Ian Allen, business development manager for TDS Student UK, said,

"We are delighted to be working with Jisc.

The partnership will further complement the TDS Student attendance monitoring and retention platform, allowing existing and future customers to benefit from TDS Student and Jisc integration.”

Michael Webb, director of technology and analytics for Jisc, said,

“Working with TDS will enable us to extend the platform for our national learning analytics service.

Learning analytics helps support student success by allowing universities and colleges to make the most of their data to provide improved support and timely interventions to students, and to provide students with the data and information they need to improve their learning.

Ultimately this should create better results for all, improving student outcomes, while making universities more competitive and attractive to new students, so it’s exciting to start this next phase.”

Effective learning analytics allows universities to personalise interventions and uncover hidden patterns in their student data. In doing so they can reflect on how students are interacting, and make evidence-informed decisions about how best to support their students.

What are universities doing to defend their cyberspace?

By from Jisc news. Published on Jul 27, 2017.

Hacking is a growing problem globally and attacks on all organisations, UK universities included, continue to increase. So, what is the higher education sector doing to combat the problem?

A new survey by Jisc indicates that universities’ cybersecurity budgets are increasing rapidly, but investment alone is not enough to tackle the problem.

Raising awareness of threats, what they look like and what to do about them is a key defence in the fight to protect cyberspace, and the higher education sector is making good progress on this point. However, there are other difficulties to overcome, too.

The research shows that, although most universities have information security awareness training for staff, fewer than half train students. Meanwhile, some universities report difficulties in recruiting staff with the right skills and complain there is not enough support for cybersecurity from senior decision-makers.

To put the issue into context, latest Jisc figures show that, since October 2016, there were 770 Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against 176 different organisations connected to the Janet network. The unluckiest has been attacked on 59 separate occasions.

Working on the principle that preparation is the key to effective defence, 82% of respondents use outside expertise to test their systems for vulnerabilities, although fewer (51%) use third-party services to gain intelligence about current or emerging threats.

Jisc’s cybersecurity compliance manager, John Chapman, said:

“With the increasing threat landscape, it is becoming more important to identify where vulnerabilities are, keep technology up to date and to apply the latest security patches as they’re made available."​

Social engineering, especially phishing emails, (which may, for example, trick someone into a particular action, or into revealing confidential information), are the most common threats mentioned by survey respondents, all driven by a lack of awareness. 

It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the top cybersecurity priorities are protection and prevention – and end-user training. The Jisc research found that 83% of universities provide training for staff, which is compulsory in 46% of cases, but only 40% train students and only 8% insist that students take a course.

John Chapman added:

"Being more aware of specific threats and improving user awareness can benefit institutions by reducing their exposure to attacks that can have serious implications."

Respondents who felt their university was well protected against cyber-attacks said the issue was taken seriously by management, with the right investment, processes, technology and training in place. They felt able to react quickly to problems, undertook regular audits and, as a result, recorded a low number of incidents.

By contrast, those higher education institutions who felt they weren’t well protected said cybersecurity was low on management’s priority list, there was a lack of investment and they had trouble recruiting the right staff.

Using a real example, John Chapman explains how not investing in the cybersecurity area can be a false economy. He said:

“We recently came across a university that had invested in a Jisc automated approach to vulnerability assessment, which meant it was able to understand within a few minutes if any of the systems were at risk to the recent WannaCry attack.

“In turn, this allowed all the IT staff to be stood down from the alert on a Friday afternoon, saving the expense and disruption of working through the weekend to manually check that all systems across the estate had been correctly patched.”

The survey found that 72% of universities had staff dedicated to cybersecurity and 40% set aside money specifically for cybersecurity in 2015/2016, which is projected to rise to 58% in 2017/2018. Compared to the level of spending on cybersecurity during 2016/17, the mean amount is expected to rise by 132% in 2017/2018.

To help universities gauge where they are on the scale of protection, there are several recognised cybersecurity standards. Cyber Essentials is the most popular certification and 20% of universities have achieved this accreditation already, while 38% are working towards it and a further 29% are considering.

In response to 94% of respondents agreeing this would be useful, Jisc is exploring the possibility of producing a cybersecurity ranking system for its members (universities, colleges and research establishments). Jisc has already committed to helping members better assess their cybersecurity position by developing a security audit service.

The survey was conducted by Jisc between 30 March and 6 June 2017 and received 65 responses from 51 universities.

Govroam: bringing the success of eduroam to other public services

By from Jisc news. Published on Jul 20, 2017.

In this podcast Mark O'Leary, our head of network access, and Emma Smith, our Govroam development manager, discuss the benefits of Govroam and the challenges that have been overcome.

Experience counts: sectors unite to launch new venture for students

By from Jisc news. Published on Jul 07, 2017.

National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), Unite Students and Jisc announce partnership to create national register of student work experience opportunities.

In a move to help students find the right work experience, the NCUB, Unite Students and Jisc have joined forces. The partnership will work with universities to develop a unique matchmaking service aimed at bringing together businesses, charities and students to build a mutually beneficial connection.

Creation of a digital platform for the service will give students easy access to work experience opportunities across the country and NCUB has already integrated the working prototype with career service systems with partnering universities.

David Docherty, chief executive of the NCUB said:

“We are delighted to be working with Unite Students, and Jisc to level the playing field in giving university students equal access to opportunities, help universities provide a wider range of experience for their students and give business access to a more diverse talent pool.” 

Research shows that graduates with work experience are more likely to be employed, have increased confidence, attain better classifications of degree, and get a better job faster. The work experience platform will create a national pool of work experiences, particularly for students from disadvantages backgrounds.

The partnership will be working with business to provide a range of working experience opportunities for undergraduates across the UK.

Richard Smith, CEO of Unite Students said:

“We provide a home to over 50,000 students across the UK and our research has identified that employability is an increasingly important issue for students, so the timing of this project couldn’t be better.

We’re excited to be working with NCUB and Jisc to improve access to work experience opportunities for students, and know that it will benefit both students and the business community alike.”   

Paul Feldman, chief executive of Jisc said:

“This is an exciting venture to be involved in and one that will help to support universities deliver a joined-up, enriched experience for their students.

We know from the recent results of our student digital experience tracker (pdf) of 22,000 students, just how valuable work experience will be in increasing their understanding of the digital skills they need for the workplace.”

Preparing Scotland’s students for their digital future: the new priority for higher education?

By from Jisc news. Published on Jul 07, 2017.

The University of Glasgow emerged the deserving winners of this year's Jisc-sponsored Innovation Technology Excellence category at The Herald's Higher Education Awards.  

Through demonstrating how virtual reality can give medical students an insight into seizures from the patients' perspective, the ViRES project is clearly leading the way in engaging students with technology, but what is the picture across the sector?

An extensive survey has shed light on students’ digital experiences and expectations in detail, and at scale. With over 22,000 participants from 74 organisations in the UK and ten international universities, the 2017 student digital experience tracker (pdf) has collated some interesting results.

Recently released, the report gives some real insights into how students view the support offered through their universities, the skills they’re obtaining and whether this is equipping them for the world of work.

Scotland is not exempt from the ‘digital skills crisis’, and with millennials making up 50% of the workforce by 2020 – so says Price Waterhouse Cooper’s report into ‘reshaping the workplace’1 - there’s an expectation that the next generation of graduates will be the digitally capable workforce of the future.

The tracker found, that as a result of technology, 71.3% of students felt more independent in their learning, and a similar number felt they could fit learning into their lives more easily.

On the flip side of this endorsement of tech, and despite 82% of higher education (HE) learners agreeing that digital skills will be important in their chosen career, only 50% agree that their course prepares them well for the workplace. Should we be worried?

According to Sarah Knight, our head of student experience,

"Support, advice and guidance for developing students’ digital skills is often held across lots of different places in an organisation but many students are unsure about where to access it.”

What’s more concerning, in her opinion, is that a significant proportion said they weren’t sure what skills they’d need for their course or for their career afterwards.

It’s far from a negative picture across the sector though, and there are some great examples of good practice, including from Glasgow Caledonian University who feature, with ten other HE institutions in our guide to developing organisational approaches to digital capability.

We know from last year’s tracker survey that students were most likely to use new technologies if they’d seen these well-used by staff, so approaches such as the 2020 strategy to expand digital literacy at the Glasgow Caledonian University, offer real promise.

Within the tracker, several of the other areas explored were the digital environment and students’ access to digital services in the places where they usually learn.

We discovered that while 80% had reliable wifi within HE, it was clearly still a consideration for students with comments from learners including: “If everything is going digital we need better wifi”

Alongside eduroam, a wifi service designed with students in mind, we also run a number of services to boost institutions’ cybersecurity and safeguard learners.

With over a third of students who participated in the tracker unsure of how to access help if bullied online, the digital scope of universities reach beyond the teaching staff, illustrating the ongoing need for support of their students’ digital wellbeing.

If the future is bright, it’s most definitely digital, and in providing a well-rounded experience for students, we need to meet both their expectations and those of their future employers.


Higher education students not prepared for digital workplace

By from Jisc news. Published on Jun 19, 2017.

Our young people are touted as a tech-savvy cohort who have grown up with the internet and smart devices, but is the UK higher education (HE) system equipping them for life in the modern workplace?

While 81.5% of university students feel that digital skills will be important in their chosen career, only half believe that their courses prepare them well for the digital workplace. These are sobering statistics considering the well-documented technical skills gap in the UK and that good digital skills are becoming increasingly vital in the workplace. 

Our new student digital experience tracker survey (pdf) sheds light on the digital skills, habits and attitudes of today’s higher education learners. 

The results show that the use of technology in teaching and assessment is not fully embedded into practice. Highlighting an apparent mismatch between the skills required by employers and those that students are familiar with, or believe are necessary, the report warns:

“We need to be concerned about the almost 20% of learners in HE and almost 40% in FE who do not feel digital skills to be relevant in their chosen careers.

Since we know that around 90% of all new jobs require good digital skills, there must be a question mark over the workplace awareness of these learners, and perhaps of their teachers.” 

Our head change for student experience, Sarah Knight, says HE providers need to address this gap:

“Though colleges and universities are arming students with the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for their preferred careers, some are missing the opportunity to embed digital skills as part of the curriculum.

Incorporating opportunities to embed digital skills into the curriculum (as well as technology into the delivery), doesn’t only improve the experience for learners, it also enhances the professional development of staff.

The digital capabilities of staff are key in order to pass on the relevant digital skills to learners, to improve their employability.” 

However, it appears that tutors are not the automatic go-to for support in digital upskilling, particularly for university students. Just 15.8% of HE learners said they would ask for help from a tutor. Online assistance was the most common choice for this group (36.5% said they would turn here for help), with a lesser number (20%) asking fellow students, friends and family. 

Learners are generally upbeat about engaging with digital technology to support their course learning, but its use doesn’t seem to be widespread. The survey finds that around six in ten feel that use of digital technology on their course results in better understanding and allows them to fit learning into their lives more easily. More than 95% of HE students say they have produced work in a digital format and around 78% have experience of working online with others.

However, 58% of HE learners have never used an educational game or simulation as part of their course and 48.4% have never used a poll or quiz to give answers in class. 

The report notes that, considering the very high percentage of HE (95.7%) learners who access online information weekly or more, a decade and a half after the development of “the social web”, content-centred teaching practices continue to dominate.

It goes on:

“A similar observation could be made about the low use of interactive digital media such as games and simulations, which provide rapid intrinsic feedback, and polling, which provides in-situ feedback to make live learning more engaging and responsive. Neither appears on this evidence to be fully mainstream yet.”

The tracker is a tool that enables organisations to explore how students use and feel about the digital tools, environment and support they provide. It offers institutions valuable insight into how students are experiencing digitally enhanced learning, and provides an opportunity for them to engage with students with regards to issues such as the design of their curriculum and the digital environment.

More survey findings

Virtual learning environments (VLEs)

HE learners are highly likely to use VLEs: 80% rely on it to do coursework and 67% regularly access it via a mobile device. However, only 40% say they enjoy using the collaborative features or want their tutors to use VLEs more. 

Online assessments

Notably more HE learners agree that e-assessment was convenient (80%) in comparison with the number of learners who agree that e-assessment is more enjoyable (57.6%), provides them with better feedback (45.8%) or helps them avoid plagiarism (70%). This suggests that negative feelings about online assessment overall may be related to ‘delivery’ (and outcomes) rather than to ‘management’.

In both sectors, the report suggests that e-assessment perceived by students as being practically useful rather than pedagogically valuable. 

Digital learning tools

Students were asked how often they used digital tools or apps to complete course tasks in their own time. Of those who used such tools weekly or more, 64.4% use digital tools to make notes or recordings; 68.8% look for extra resources; 60.7% manage links and references; and 81.6% access lecture notes or recorded lectures. A minority (40.2%) use social media to discuss learning. 

Other notable statistics

  • 80.4% of HE students have reliable wifi access in their university
  • 95.1% have access to online course materials
  • 91.2% have access to institution owned computers and printers
  • 88.4% use their own laptop to support learning 
  • 65.5% agree they have access to digital training and support when they need it
  • 31% agree that they are given the chance to be involved in decisions about digital services
  •  80% know where to get help within their university if they are bullied or harassed online 
  • 35% agree they know how their personal data is stored and used  

Find out more

Purchasing power - we unveil initiatives to make digital collections affordable

By from Jisc news. Published on Jun 05, 2017.

We are giving subscribing universities and research centres access to more than 20 collections from three major publishers, Adam Matthew Digital, Brill and ProQuest, as part of a brand new group-purchasing pilot

The agreement is part of exploring new ways to help higher education libraries increase access to digital archival collections that facilitate research, teaching and learning in more efficient, joined-up ways.

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©Vogue via ProQuest - The Vogue Italia Archive
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The offer is based on a community centred approach to lowering the cost of digital archival collections and the simple market principle: the more products are purchased, the lower the price. Institutions have until mid-July to take advantage of this opportunity through the publishers' pages on the Jisc Collections website (Adam Matthew DigitalBrill and ProQuest).

Paola Marchionni, head of digital resources for teaching, learning and research at Jisc, highlights:

“Researchers and librarians face a common concern: how can we ensure sustainable access to special collections to deliver better research and innovative teaching?

Libraries have said that digital archival collections of primary source material are an important complement to traditional resources such as journals and books, but budgets are stretched and they find it difficult to purchase these often expensive content resources.”

The parallel initiative is a collaboration between Jisc and US-based Reveal Digital, which uses a library crowdfunding model to support the digitisation and delivery of special collections (such as Independent Voices), which represents the largest digital collection of North American 20th century alternative press titles.

We have negotiated pledging fees for UK institutions to gain early access to this unique collection and at the same time support UK digitisation and open access. Half of the amount pledged by UK libraries will go towards the digitisation of UK alternative press content for future inclusion in Independent Voices and UK pledging libraries will provide strategic oversight on content selection and digitisation. Independent Voices will become open access in 2019.

Dr Douglas Field, senior lecturer in 20th century American literature, University of Manchester, one of the institutions that have pledged so far, said:

“For decades, scholars have been searching through different libraries in the US in order to find complete runs of little magazines and alternative press publications.

By digitising so many previously hard-to-find publications, Reveal Digital has made these vital publications accessible, transforming these alternative press publications from marginal areas of scholarship into exemplary digitised copies for a new generation of scholars and enthusiasts.”

To date, eight institutions have pledged their support and helped to crowdfund the digitisation of UK content:

Chris Ashton, head of content and collections, University of Sheffield, said:

“The University of Sheffield has been very happy to pledge its support for the Independent Voices project in order to receive early access to this important collection of US alternative press titles, and to have a voice in the forming of an equivalent UK collection.”

For UK institutions, pledging for Independent Voices (via Jisc Collections website) is open until 31 July 2017. Here, you'll also find more information on the collection and Reveal Digital’s crowdfunding model.

Register for a free webinar on 20 June to find out more about Independent Voices, and read more about the group purchasing pilot.

The Independent Voices collection

The flood-like appearance of an alternative press in the late 1960s expressed the upsurge of dissent and of aspiration of American youth. Feminists, dissident GIs, campus radicals and the New Left, Native Americans, anti-war activists, Black Power advocates, Latinos, and members of the LGBT communities all began to publish newspapers and periodicals.

Drawing their inspiration from the successes and failures of the Civil Rights movement and the movement against the Vietnam War, an amorphous but broad movement for radical change splintered.

Read more about the Independent Voices collection.

Beating Brexit: why we must build more bridges towards borderless education

By from Jisc news. Published on May 24, 2017.

Overseas’ students are a key part of the UK economy, but Brexit is already having an effect on the numbers from the EU who want to study here. To ensure the UK remains a world leader in delivering education and research internationally we must now capitalise on developing opportunities for “borderless” study.

In this podcast we take a look at why we must build more bridges towards borderless education. Read the original blog post.

Two thirds of Scottish students think staff need to improve their digital skills to keep up

By from Jisc news. Published on May 16, 2017.

Our survey of 1,001 learners has found that 63% of Scottish students think staff need to improve their digital skills to keep up. A further 68% of respondents think that students should be taught more digital skills to help them to cope with the modern workplace - in line with concerns about a digital skills crisis, that have been heightened in the wake of Brexit.

The digital capability of staff and students is the key theme for this year’s free Connect More events, kicking off on 6 June at Caledonian University, Glasgow. The events have a varied programme of speakers from both Jisc and across the education sector and are an opportunity for professionals to network and share problems, and solutions.

Valerie McCutcheon, research information manager at The University of Glasgow said:

“One of the key benefits of being involved in a recent Jisc project was the opportunity to share our experiences and knowledge with others from different education institutions. I would encourage anyone who is keen to explore how technology can enhance the learning experience of students and tutors to register for the event – collaboration is one of the best ways to tackle the common issues that we in the education sector face.”

The survey1 also found that 54% of students think technology is developing faster than schools, colleges or universities can cope with, and more than two-thirds (79%) believed that staff need regular training in order to improve the way technology is used in their organisation.

Andy McGregor, deputy chief innovation officer at Jisc, who will be presenting at Connect More Scotland, said:

“Connect More events bring higher and further education staff together to network, to share effective practice and to learn. From previous research we know that most students are inspired to improve their own digital capabilities, but practitioners already have many priorities and targets that take up their time when it comes to implementing new technologies at their organisations. This event will provide ideas about how to use technology in an efficient way. There’ll also be the chance to use some inspiring tech from the hands on tasters available at Digilab, from VR headsets to robots and everything in between.”

60% of survey respondents also thought that advancements in technology stand to improve the learning experience for future students, which is the ultimate goal for lecturers and tutors wherever they’re based.

From digital problem solving to robots for the classroom, the free Connect More event, on 6 June will give educators - in both FE and HE - a chance to explore the tools available to them today and how to meet the expectations of tomorrow's learners.

Register for your nearest Connect More event.



  • 1 *The survey was delivered by Fly Research, on behalf of Jisc in May 2016

Learning at Work Week 2017

By from Jisc news. Published on May 16, 2017.

This week (15-21 May) is Learning at Work Week, but cast your mind back a short while and ask yourself: “What did I learn at work last week?” If you find it hard to think of at least one example, then maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit.

Need some inspiration? Let’s start with a little food for thought:

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”

So said former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. Showing understanding of how people best learn, Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Early Chinese philosopher Confucius thought that:

“He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”

And one for the boss, perhaps, courtesy of John F. Kennedy:

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Colleges and universities are full of learners, but the term shouldn’t be confined to students. If you are a manager or teacher in a college and university, then you must learn too, especially in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world that is increasingly reliant on technology.

Let’s continue by asking a few questions:

Lecturers, are you:

  • able to access technology specifically for teaching and assessment?
  • comfortable using that technology?
  • confident students are making the most of technology resources?

Managers, are you:

  • aware of how students use tech and their attitudes towards it?
  • aware of the role technology can play in student wellbeing and retention?
  • using technology to make efficiency savings?
  • confident that your staff are using technology to the best of their ability?

If you can’t yes to all or most of the above that apply to you, then maybe you need to learn some new ways of working.  

Firstly, establish a baseline: Work out the tech skills and resources you and your institution have, the skills and resources you would like to have and the skills and resources students and colleagues expect you and the institution to have. If there’s a shortfall, it’s time to make a change.

There is a wealth of help available from Jisc. Our new guide contains comprehensive information for your digital transformation journey and a suite of tools and resources. Alternatively, book in for one of our free Connect More events, being held around the UK in June and July and focused on the digital capabilities that every teacher needs.

How universities can use learning analytics to boost fair access and retention

By from Jisc news. Published on May 12, 2017.

Universities pulling together access agreements for next year should have learning analytics in their sights. ​Read the accompanying blog post.

In this podcast we take a look at how learning analytics can be used to boost fair access and retention of students in higher education.

"Keep up!" - 86% of students want higher education to keep up with mainstream tech trends by introducing activity tracking apps

By from Jisc news. Published on Apr 25, 2017.

It’s no secret that sales of activity tracking apps and wearables have boomed, with The Telegraph reporting that over three million fitness trackers are flying off the shelves in the UK each year. From monitoring our fitness and sleep and even our mental reflexes, self-improvement is officially the name of the game.  

86% of higher education (HE) students think an activity tracking app for learning and teaching would be helpful, finds our recent survey. Further findings show that 78% of HE students would be happy to have their learning data collected if it improved their grades, and more than half would be happy to have their learning data collected if it stopped them from dropping out (61%).

These findings come as no surprise, as the survey also found that 98% of HE students think that technology is becoming increasingly important in education. A further 76% of HE students surveyed who think technology is becoming increasingly important – think so because it makes life more efficient. It seems clear that students would whole heartedly welcome this self-improvement movement, along with the tech that they use in their everyday lives, into the education sector.

Enter learning analytics. This year, we will be releasing a learning analytics student app, so that students will be able to see how their learning activity compares with others and set targets to do better in their courses. This will not only benefit students, but staff members too, who will be able to view a dashboard showing the learner engagement and attainment of their students, allowing them to better target students who might be struggling with the course, and prevent drop-outs too. The app will also help staff members to better understand how to make learning more effective.

Speaking to Times Higher earlier this year, Ian Fordham, Microsoft UK’s new director of education, said higher education institutions are in a “hybrid” state of adapting technology into their academic offer:

"I think the learning analytics movement in HE is going to become much more significant, tracking students on their learning journey – for example, the amount of money that universities waste on lost students in terms of that journey.

Embedding learning analytics within a university’s tech-enhanced learning environment brings many advantages, including having a single version of the truth where universities have clear data from which to base informed decisions and create intervention plans early to improve an outcome.”

Andy McGregor, deputy chief innovation officer at Jisc said:

"It’s brilliant to see that students are as inspired about the creation of an app to improve their learning experience as we are. The app has the potential to help students take control of their learning progress as well as enabling university staff to continually improve the experience they offer students. With such apps becoming every day in other sectors and industries, it’s time that education reaped the benefits of such technology too. 

At Jisc we believe that digital has the power to transform and revolutionise education, and our work with learning analytics is an important step in the right direction"

To support the use of data and analytics, we are working with 50 universities to set up the world’s first national learning analytics service. This system is being developed to include bought-in learning analytics technologies, and Jisc developed solutions. The service will be underpinned by our code of practice, which sets out the responsibilities of organisations to ensure that learning analytics is carried out responsibly, appropriately and effectively.

To get up to speed on learning analytics, as well as our code of practice, you can read our quick guide to understanding your data.