I gave a talk on 14 November at the launch of JISC’s new Community of Practice in Digital Experience Insights. The JISC Insights service builds on their work with the Student Tracker – a survey of students’ experience of the digital environment. Portsmouth, as one of the initial pilot institutions for the Tracker, has more experience than most in using insights gained from the student survey.  

One of the key take-home messages from the event, at least for me, was that the issues we are grappling with here at Portsmouth are exactly the same issues with which other institutions are grappling. The event also provided a valuable sanity-check: the approaches we are taking are the same approaches that others are either taking, planning to take, or would like to take!

The graphic below shows one example of how the student digital experience at Portsmouth is not dissimilar to the student experience elsewhere. Students were asked to name an app they found particularly useful. The word cloud on the left shows the national response. Once the various types of VLE (Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas) are combined, the three most popular apps are: VLE, Google, YouTube. The word cloud on the right shows the Portsmouth response. The three most popular apps are: VLE, Google, YouTube. It’s the smaller words that carry the institutional flavour – and I think Portsmouth does extremely well in this regard; 93% of our students rate our digital provision as good or better.

Speech Bubbles

Helen Beetham gave one of the most interesting talks of the day. Helen gave an overview of a pilot into the digital experience of teaching staff. There were insufficient responses to publish statistically robust findings, but there were some interesting titbits in there. For example, students are much more positive than teachers about the digital environment. Is this because teachers are more critical? Or perhaps they have higher expectations of what a digital environment should look like? On the other hand, teachers are much more likely than students to want more digital technology in their courses. Are students more conservative when it comes to expectations around learning and teaching?

The majority of responders to the staff survey identified themselves as early adopters – and yet about 50% never search online for resources; 84% of them are unsure of their responsibilities in relation to assistive technologies; 81% are uncertain when it comes to dealing with their own health and well-being in a digital environment; and 13% never update their digital skills. By far the biggest problem staff face in improving their digital teaching is – of course – lack of time to do so.

For the past three years Portsmouth has sought to understand the student experience of the digital environment, and we plan to run the JISC insight service for a fourth year. But we could build a much richer picture by asking teaching staff as well as students. So this year we plan to run the staff-facing digital insights survey. More details to follow in 2019! 

Credit image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash