On the 22nd of November, members of Jisc’s edtech and co-design team attended the 50th Meeting of the Student Experience Experts Group: Harvey Norman, Marcus Elliot, Chloe Tambling, Kike Fatogun, and Lawrie Phipps.
Keynote – Digital Transformation as Praxis: How to make it happen
Professor Arunangsu Chatterjee, Dean of Digital Transformation at the University of Leeds delivered a keynote talk about Digital Transformation. He defined Digital Transformation, talked about how it happens, and discussed various barriers.
To reach a definition of Digital Transformation he got the audience to type their thoughts into a vevox poll. The responses varied quite a bit, but the majority said “change”.
When describing how Digital Transformation happens and what the barriers to it were, he brought up the ‘Adoption of New Technology’ bell curve.
The X axis of the bell curve measures how early or late someone adopted a new technology. The Y axis measures how many people adopted the new technology at the given time. The people who reap most of the rewards from a new technology are the Innovators and the Early Adopters. The Laggards and Refusers get close to nothing out of it.
Professor Arunangsu believes that it’s important to consider this when presenting new technologies to groups of people. Amongst each crowd you present it to, they will be divided into those five categories.
Many innovators can get distracted by trying to convince the Laggards and the Refusers to accept their innovation. But Professor Arunangsu said that your time is better spent discussing your ideas with the Innovators and the Early Adopters. It is therefore important to try to scope out your audience and figure out who belongs to which category.
Professor Arunangsu aided his explanation of the bell curve with the below humorous comic. It brought quite a few chuckles from the audience.
The pandemic saw an unprecedented move towards teaching online. Rather than increasing support for online teaching, the pandemic has made in-person teaching more popular than ever, moving from two times to three times as popular as the online equivalent, according to the 2021 Unite Students Applicant Survey. Once restrictions began to lift, as well, there was immediate pressure from Government ministers in England to return to face-to-face teaching, though this was less true in Scotland, where restrictions on in-person teaching remained for longer.
Is this a result of online learning being fundamentally flawed? Is this a result of online learning not being advanced enough to be implemented yet? Or could this phenomenon be explained by the bell curve? Is this just a result of Late Adopters, Laggards, and Refusers feeling more comfortable with their square wheels, and feeling sceptical of the new and improved round wheels? It’s debatable, but it’s an interesting way of looking at the issue.
Overall, Professor Arunangsu’s talk was very well presented and engaging, a great start to the meeting. The topics covered in the talk were especially useful for the graduates who were new to the sector and weren’t familiar with the intricacies of Digital Transformation and the barriers to adopting new technologies.
Jisc Pathfinders: a partnership model for exploring challenges
This session introduced Pathfinders; our new approach to working in partnership with the sector to solve the challenges facing education that matter to Jisc members. I delivered the workshop with my colleague Marcus Elliot.
We gave an overview of what Pathfinders is, how it works, and how Jisc members can get involved. We also gave a sneak preview of the process as we guided the audience through a workshop to help identify challenges and articulate them in a way that will help solve them.
Those who attended this workshop were split into two groups. But despite that, they both identified similar problems and generated similar solutions. The problems that were raised included lack of engaging curriculum design, lack of motivation, and a lack of adaptation to student needs.
Both groups came up with the solution of “ask the students”. Both groups believed that students need a greater say in the learning and teaching that they receive.
Supporting Staff with reimagining learning, teaching, and assessment panel
After the two workshops, the conference introduced a panel session. The panel was chaired by Lawrie Phipps and hosted by:
- Rob Howe – the head of Learning Technology at the University of Northampton.
- Steve Wileman – Head of Digital Learning at South Staffordshire College.
- Scott Hayden – Head of Digital Learning at Basingstoke College of Technology.
- Dr Jane Mooney – Senior Lecturer and Academic Theme Lead for Digital Skills and Literacy at the University of Manchester.
- Professor Deborah Longworth – Pro-Vice Chancellor of Education and Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham.
There were a lot of interesting insights brought up in the panel. But we were especially intrigued by the insight raised by Scott about the state of student’s soft skills after graduating university amidst the pandemic.
He believes there’s been a rise of work-ethic-affecting video game addiction and mobile phone addiction. According to his research, he found that students on average spend 6 hours a day on their phones. And he said that the numbers found in his research were likely to be conservative because the students knew that the data was being recorded for the study.
Scott also mentioned that due to students spending so long in isolation, they had less social experience than previous generations of students. He believes that this has resulted in new graduate’s social skills reported to be lacking by teaching staff and even employers. This has caused difficulties for graduates when performing in interviews, assessment centers, and the workplace.
However, he brought up a potential step forward in discovering a solution to this problem. He mentioned that Bodyswaps could be a potential method of mitigating the impacts of the pandemic’s injury of graduate’s social skills. This is because Bodyswaps is a VR program that simulates a job interview scenario. The program tracks the wearer’s posture, body language, tone of voice, enunciation, eye contact, and many other verbal and non-verbal social cues, and informs the wearer on how they can improve.
Whilst Bodyswaps alone isn’t a holistic solution to the problem, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. It also expresses a wider point: that there is a need for more formal soft skills training following the necessary use of remote methods of learning due to Covid-19.
The University of Plymouth Student Digital Champions – our story so far.
Emma Purnell, a Senior Digital Learning Designer working at Plymouth University, gave an overview of the Student Digital Champion Initiative. This was the start of their 3rd year where they had a group of students from various disciplines and years working alongside their Digital Education Team. Their role involved providing peer support, gathering feedback on the student digital experience and helping students to develop their digital skills in a range of ways. The Student Digital Champions also encouraged students to try to make the most of the technologies available through promotion and awareness raising of what is available.
This was an interesting presentation about an important aspect of learning and teaching. Jisc’s 2022 Digital Insights Survey showed that FE students and especially HE students have been receiving less digital skills training year after year. That is the opposite of what should be happening when digital platforms are becoming more and more prevalent in all areas of life, not just learning and teaching. Digital skills are of prime importance but aren’t prioritized enough. It was therefore great to see Emma Purnell put some much-needed attention on the digital skills of students.
Using Video Annotation in Assessment and Feedback
This short presentation was delivered by Graeme Knowles, a Director of Education Innovation working at the University of Warwick.
He outlined a pilot study of the use of video annotation software, specifically a platform called GoReact, in assessment and feedback within Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick. The pilot study looked at two modules which utilised the approach to deepen learning and to enhance the reflective capabilities of students.
GoReact is a video assessment platform. It allows students to record performances, skill demonstrations or presentations. Teachers are then able to give feedback. This is done through comments, annotations, and even video-recorded feedback. The feedback is assigned to specific points in the assessment video, allowing feedback to be precise and specific.
Students reported that using GoReact deepened their learning. When receiving feedback on group projects, students reported finding it easier to reflect on their team’s progress by reviewing their recordings.
As well as the positive results of the pilot, the presentation outlined further planned use in Degree Apprenticeships, incorporating peer elements to enhance reflective element, and support for staff in the transition from normal methods of assessment with new assessment which utilizes video annotation software.
We thought that this was an important talk. From talking to many of the people at the conference, and from the work we do daily, we’ve learned that many people in the sector are concerned about the future of assessment. There’s been a rise of cheating due to a variety of factors including online assessments making cheating a lot easier, the rise of contract cheating and essay mills, and the cost-of-living crisis putting students under intense pressure to perform. There’s especially a lot of worries about how AI – especially the commonly mentioned GPT-3 – will affect the rates of cheating.
This talk helped to address a lot of these concerns by proposing an alternative method of assigning assessments. This could be less prone to cheating and put students under less stress in comparison to the more commonly used exams and essays. It was also informative as a few of us never knew that GoReact or even video assessments were viable alternative to classic assessment practices.
Overall, the Student Experience Experts Group was a great experience that all of us thoroughly enjoyed and valued. It provided us with an abundance of valuable insights into student experiences that we intend to implement into our product design and look further into during our research and co-design.