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Unis must do more to embed digital education

A survey of more than 20,000 higher education students at UK universities has revealed that a quarter couldn’t give positive feedback on the quality of digital teaching they’ve received, and only half said they receive guidance on vital digital skills.

The HE sector must up its game to deliver the high-quality experiences students deserve, and the skills they need to thrive, according to Jisc. Photo: Pexels

One in 10 students don’t have access to online course materials whenever they need them

The ‘Student digital experience insights’ survey published by Jisc found 23% of students were unable to rate the quality of digital teaching and learning on their course as ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘best imaginable’.

“Covid-19 has highlighted the urgent need to address digital poverty”

Just 51% said they receive guidance about digital skills, “suggesting the higher education sector must up its game to deliver the high-quality experiences students deserve, and the skills they need to thrive,” according to Jisc.

Of the 20,575 students surveyed before and during the Covid-19 crisis, 60% rate the quality of support they receive to develop their digital skills as ‘good’, ‘excellent’ or ‘best imaginable’, but only a third (34%) agree their organisation provides the chance to assess their digital skills.

One fifth (21%) did not discuss their digital skills either during induction, during one-to-one sessions with tutors, in lectures and classes or with other students.

In the foreword to the survey, Michael Barber, chair of the UK’s Office for Students, said the results suggest substantial work needs to be done as a matter of urgency to reduce the digital divide in higher education.

It is essential that students receive practical support to develop their digital skills both to ensure they progress academically as well as in preparation for the careers of the future,” he wrote.

“We should not make the assumption that all students are confident and capable with the new tools and apps they are being asked to use.”

Jisc’s head of data and digital capability, Sarah Knight added that universities must do what they can to ensure all students have an equitable experience, whether they’re learning face-to-face, remotely, or through a blended approach.

“Covid-19 has highlighted the urgent need to address digital poverty.

“Helping students develop preparedness for online teaching and learning will support their education and increase their confidence in the digital workplace,” she added.

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