NUS report to HEFCE Student perspectives on technology

A study, produced by NUS, was commissioned by HEFCE on behalf of the Online Learning Task Force. Its purpose is to gain a broad overview of the level of demand from students – new and potential – for online learning provision in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), and student’s perceptions of that learning. As part of this study NUS undertook research focusing on the perceptions, demand, and training needs of students in both further and higher education.
The research undertaken highlights diverse opinions on e-learning and the use of ICT. Recurring themes include: effective use of technology, and not just technology for technology’s sake; staff need to develop their own ICT skills to meet the requirements of their students; and that ICT has great potential to benefit the delivery of teaching, but harnessing that potential is the predominant challenge.

A number of trends were highlighted:
• Students prefer a choice in how they learn
• Students are concerned about the ICT competency of lecturers and academic staff
• Opinions are fundamentally divided over e-learning
• Appropriateness of technology varies significantly from course to course

The study addressed demand, perceptions and training needs of current and prospective higher education students across the UK. There was a common request for more skills training, particularly around how to effectively research and reference reliable online resources.
Other issues raised include dissatisfaction that the type of technology used in HE is increasingly outdated; lack of staff engagement with the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE); agreement that not every area of study needed or was compatible with e-learning, and so to assume it would grant blanket advantages was not accurate, and FE students felt that a large investment was needed in order to correct the imbalance between school/college and higher education with regards to access to IT facilities – there is significant demand for improved ICT facilities.
Participants expressed concerns over “surface learning” whereby a student only learns the bare minimum to meet module requirements, however students could see some advantages to an e-learning approach.

Summary of recommendations:

Institutional responses to ICT – All institutions should have an ICT strategy that is revised every three years. Students should be actively engaged in the process of developing that strategy.
Institutional organisation and planning – Universities should appoint Senior Fellows responsible for new technologies, and support integrating such technologies into teaching and learning.
Institutional funding strategies – Faculties should have innovation funds to support academics to develop new ways of using ICT.
Development of new courses and modules – ICT usage in learning should be embedded into the design of new programmes through the validation process. Periodic reviews should be used to assess the extent to which a VLE, and ICT more generally, are used to enhance learning.
Institutional VLE use and policies – Institutions should review the use of their VLE to identify and share good practice of where it has enhanced the student learning experience.
Use of ICT to attain greater efficiency and convenience – Institutions should consider ways of making university administration more accessible through technology including e-submission of assessment, registration and course choices.
Student training needs and provision – All students should be offered training needs analyses of their ICT skills at the start of their programme to identify their training requirements.
Implications for module and course validations – The course evaluation form/process should question the extent to which tutors have integrated ICT into courses.
ICT and career development requirements for teaching staff – requires a coordinated institutional approach.

Read the full report at:
http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rdreports/2010/rd18_10/rd18_10.pdf