One size fits all….?

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This year we’ve trialled having a Digital Student Group at the college, based on research and case studies from other colleges. With all the promotion around Digital Student Champions no one seems to admit the obvious truth………..it doesn’t work for every educational provision, it’s not a one size fits all solution – it’s something that needs to be tailored usually through trial and error!

This may seem to be a negative start but it’s not, the idea and infrastructure of Digital Student Champions to help and disseminate digital skills and best practice throughout the student body of an educational network is fantastic. There’s some great examples out there of working Digital Student Champions, through project suchs as the change agent’s network by JISC.

However these case studies heavily depend on the subjects and interests of the students to be digital skill based, which only works effectively for those educational institutes which provide digital based provisions such as Media, Graphics and ICT.  A lot of the student digital champion routes are based on the idea that students are digital natives. Since the term was created it’s been seen to be a myth for most students, and a rather interesting assumption, mainly based on subject interest rather than age.

In a Land based college where we do not have a digital provision such as ICT, Media or other digitally based routes, except for photography, it is hard to find students who would want to disseminate to their student groups or come to the college with the digital skills straight off.

Admittedly I can only go off of what we have experienced here. We trialled an initial Digital Student Group at the college, which ran 3 times a year, once each term 2017 – 2018. This was decided as originally the role was going to be a Digital Leader but through initial talks with students and staff, a Digital Student focus group was decided as the better option for us. The initial response was promising with at least 20+ students from all over the college provisions identifying their interest, but only a few turned up to the first session. The same happened for the second and third group, even with reminders being sent to students and staff were asked to promote the group and remind students, as well as myself going into the course tutorials for the students.

The attendance spoke volumes, the old saying ‘you can take a horse to water…..’ comes to mind. Though not many students turned up to these sessions, and they were only HE students who attended, the information gained was a great insight. The following was discussed and students gave their views on:

  • Digital Champions – They liked the idea of Digital Champions but weren’t sure how this could be implemented effectively – a lot of them said they already had enough to do with their college work and enrichment activities. As well as not liking the ideas of asking someone outside of their course, student wise. However they mentioned the idea of having their tutors as digital leaders for them as students instead.
  • Digital Skills Site – They liked the Digital Skills Site that they had available to them and suggested ways to improve it.
  • Student Training – Students wanted tutors to have training on the Digital Skills Site for students so they can disseminate back to the students
  • Student Training – Digital workshops need  to be made available to students, at the moment it relies on the tutor knowing the apps.
  • Drop-in zone – E-learning based drop in zone for students to go to – (at the moment we are heavily tutor based and only deal with very basic student requests)
  • Digital Native Assumption – Students wanted staff to stop assuming they are digitally adept.
  • No clear guidance or signposting –

Overall lessons learnt from running this group and from what the students have asked for and said would work themselves, are:

  • Students want support but don’t want to have to give up set extra time for it due to curriculum demands – especially at FE level (as no one attended).
  • Having an option where students can go through training information, advice and guidance at their own pace is great to have for them to supplement their learning (Student Digital Site).
  • Digital Leaders wouldn’t work for them as you probably wouldn’t be able to get one for each course and most wouldn’t want to talk  to a student stranger about it.
  • More support and clearer signposting is needed for students here at the college in regards to the Digital side of college.

The main actions we’re taking next year is that we’re going to trial going into course rep meetings and working with the students in their course rep groups. We’re also hoping to go into course tutorials, leading the course based sessions as a digital workshop rather than as a set role. It also means we can gather more feedback to help improve and signpost the provision and support, as well as encourage students to upskill digitally. It will be time intensive for our team but it should be useful to help encourage and train students on digital skills. As well as have the drop-in zone and Digital Skills Site, clearly signposted to staff for the students to be able to help themselves digitally at their own pace and become independent learners. To help disseminate digital skills and best practice throughout the educational provision, it’s just going to be facilitated by the e-team instead of the students to start. As this process continues you never know we may get to a point of Digital Leaders, but at the moment it’s a foundation building process based on student feedback from this year’s focus group.

So Digital Leaders are not a one size fits all straight off the bat, but at the same time the idea of Clear Digital support for students to help disseminate digital skills and best practice throughout

their educational life is sound, it’s just to do it in a way which fits and works with your organisation. Leaders might not work, but in-class tutorial focus groups might.

Here’s to some more trial and error next year!

~ Laura

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