Caroline Casey MA Education
The focus of this mini project will be centred on how the Supporting Learners in a Digital Age (SLiDA) institutions responded to the report’s findings, from the perspective of support services, and will critically evaluate the impact of the report.
The SLiDA project explored how nine different educational institutions helped their students use digital technologies effectively in their studies,preparing them to live and work in a digital society.’ The background to the project was a previous JISC study, LLiDA, which made certain recommendations, although these were not stated in the report.
The challenges for SLiDA institutions were in bridging the ‘digital divide’ (JISC, SLiDA, p.1) in terms of student’s access to technologies and confidence in using ICT to facilitate full participation; addressing currency of ICT provision and the quality of the student experience (SLiDA, p2). Additionally, support services had the challenge of assessing students’ digital capabilities and staff development requirements, providing appropriate opportunities for skills to be brought up to date in an environment of ever changing technologies.
The institutions, in meeting the above challenges, took a strategic approach to curriculum redesign by integrating and embedding digital literacy across the curriculum.
The report recommended a Strategy for Digital Capability (page 4) which included a framework of core principles to underpin student support through, for example, programme documentation, student entitlements and terms of reference for support services. Furthermore, the digital skills of teaching staff were seen as critical to the students’ experience and so the Strategy included general workshops, training opportunities, embedded experts and specialist professional support personnel.
Greater use of technologies presents learning institutions with opportunities to share practice between staff members, sharing of student’s technology skills through peer working, paid support roles, internships and mentoring roles (see CoLab, page 2 of the report). Such activities and opportunities enhance the student experience and support the development of graduate attributes.
The evidence referred to throughout the report is anecdotal; there are unsupported statements and assumptions in relation to the benefits of digital technologies - see the opening paragraph of the report ‘Digital technologies are essential to our workplaces and social spaces, and to successful study’; and so has limited academic value.