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Understanding the Digital Student Experience

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Josh Fleming, Head of Strategy and Oversight, Office for Students (with Sir Michael Barber).

(This is a preliminary review of a report that will be published next year). 

Triggered by the pandemic response while looking ahead. Digital poverty, definition: 

Six elements that make up digital poverty. 

  1. Hardware > having the appropriate device for the work you are doing. 

  2. Software > having the right software for what you are learning. 

  3. Connectivity > having the connection to get online 

  4. Having response TECH support when the student needs it

  5. Having a trained facilitator/teacher with the necessary skills to deliver learning online and to support the learning. 

  6. Having the space to learn.

Anecdotally the above are live issues and students are struggling. 

Emerging themes:

  1. Training for staff. There is a correlation between student engagement and the better trained the staff are and the better that staff feel that they are supported.

  2. Asynchronous learning is vital for anyone needing to be able to work around their studies especially if they are having to negotiate over who uses the one computer in the house and can do so on the kitchen table and not be disturbed.

  3. Surveys to quickly provide devices and connectivity where it is needed. 

  4. All institutions should be listening to students. THEY are best placed to tell institutions what they should be doing.

  5. Regular, clear communication is ‘so terribly important’ to navigate the situation created by Covid. 

  6. The potential is a huge opportunity. Over a five to ten year period, say taking disabled students, it can be transformative for them and for learning around the world.

We expected to find subject bias. The anecdotal bias of humanities vs hands on technical degrees, we have been surprised at how well the creative arts have transitioned so that lab time is far more effectively utilised in a way that helped with their pedagogical approach. 

With international students, asynchronous learning can be really good if there is a different time zone, but synchronous learning does aid with any sense of isolation. 

Use of AI to augment human instruction to free up staff time to concentrate on the higher order learning and to improve the student experience. The students of the future may not be taught by Bots, but they will be supported by Bots.



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