Supporting Learners in a Digital Age

The JISC (2011) Briefing Paper describes the outcomes of the funded project ‘Supporting Learners in a Digital Age SLiDA’ and reflects on how different institutions are preparing students for the future (JISC, 2011). In this project I intend to explore and critically evaluate the impact of the findings and specifically focus on the aspect of skills, knowledge and motivation associated with the greater use of technology in supporting teaching and learning.

The JISC briefing paper suggests that whilst students have their own laptop, tablet or smart phone many do not know how optimise its full potential and apply the technology to support learning (JISC, 2011). Whilst the JISC report acknowledges that ‘students arrive with very different experiences of using technology’ (JISC, 2011, p. 1) and these experiences may affect learner’s level of confidence for using technology, it fails to address how technology can support differentiation of students in teaching and learning. Eyal (2012) in Digital Assessment Literacy – The Core Role of the Teacher, explores advanced assessment methods in a digital environment and suggests that ‘A digital environment can be better to support the diversity of learners as they can work at their own pace’ (Eyal, 2012, p. 4).

The JISC paper suggests that technology changes quickly in response to commercial and social developments and therefore “It’s almost impossible for busy academic staff to stay up to date with the latest developments” (JISC, 2011, p. 2).
Salmon (2003) confirms the issue with staff development required to support learners in the use of technology in her keynote speech at University of Innsbruck,
Although the ideas of increasing access, participation, skills and competencies for the new forms of societies of the 21st Century are at the heart of many intentions, the investment in the role of human intervention and support to harness technology into the service of teaching and learning has been meagre by comparison (Salmon, 2003).

More recently Salmon (2011) suggests institutions and organisations have invested heavily in technological systems thus creating conditions in which networked learning can be widely available” (Salmon G. , 2011, p. 10). This apparent change in the views of Salmon since 2003, represents the pace of change in technological development and the response by institutions and teaching, reflecting this pace of change. Salmon (2011) believes there is no issue with staff motivation for harnessing new technology and that she has met many ‘academics and trainers who are very keen indeed to adopt these new ways to enliven teaching and learning in their subjects’ (Salmon G. , 2011, p. 10).

A key finding of the JISC report is that digital literacy should be embedded in to the curriculum in order for it to be successful, although one SLiDA institution, Abingdon and Witney College approaches skills development through the use of ‘a universal e-learning induction programme which mixes in class activities with anytime access to multimedia resources (JISC, 2011, p. 2). But where do teachers begin in integrating digital literacy into the curriculum as JISC (2011) suggests, the JISC briefing indicates that local interventions in curriculum areas have worked well at London Metropolitan University. However other Institutions such as University of Salford exemplify a more centralised approach through the development of core graduate attributes that support digital literacy’ (JISC, 2011).
The SLiDA institutions who participated in the project miss an opportunity in exploring the role of standards and functional skills curriculum in supporting learning. Ofqual sets out criteria used at the basis for functional skills development and the subject matter of functional skills includes ‘information and communication technology (ICT) which help people gain the most from life, learning and work’ (Ofqual, 2012, p. 3).

This suggests that further research is required to provide clearer definition of the digital literacy skill required and determine the effectiveness of ICT standards and curriculum in developing digital literacy skills for learning and work in the future.

Eyal, L. (2012). Digial Assessment Literacy – the Core Role of the Teacher in a Digital Environment. Educational Technology & Society , 15 (2), 37-49.
JISC. (2011, September). JISC Publications Supporting Leaners in a Digital Age SLIDA. Retrieved from JISC:
Ofqual. (2012, January). Functional Skills Qualification Criteria. Retrieved November 2, 2012, from Ofqual:
Salmon, G. (2011). e moderating: The Key to Teaching and Learning Online. New York: Routledge.
Salmon, G. (2003). Reaching for Online Stars. Keynote Speech at the University of Innsbruck . Innsbruck: Open University Business School.

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