Students Staff
University of Essex

July 30, 2018

Highlights from the staff and student tracker survey

Filed under: Uncategorized — sgswaine @ 2:42 pm

At Essex supporting staff and students to develop the skills they need is always a priority and in recent years colleagues from across a wide variety of departments have been working hard to help us further understand how digital tools and services are experienced within our institution.

For the past two academic years Library Services , IT & Digital Skills Training and Technology Enhanced Learning have deployed digital tracker surveys to gather feedback on how users think and feel about their own skills and the ways in which digital technology is integrated into their lives.

Three years ago the university built its first Digital Diagnostic for teaching staff after Alex O’Neill (IT Services), Marty Jacobs (HR) and Emma Wisher (Library Services) attended a Digital Leaders workshop with JISC. The surveys have been edited and marketed by staff here at Essex and when combined with other data they should provide us with some important clues as to how we can best invest our effort and resources into supporting digital skills within our community. 145 responses were received in 2016 and 114 in 2017, providing us with some insight into staff and student preferences as well as trends in user behaviour. The responses make for interesting reading and some highlights are mentioned below:

1. Usability/popularity

Unsurprisingly in both years, laptops were the most commonly used devices owned by students, whilst desktop computers and printers were more likely to be accessed through the university. It will be interesting to see how popular the new loanable laptop service at the library will become and whether it will alter student’s habits. Meanwhile most who took part in the last survey believed that Moodle was designed well and that they relied on it to complete their coursework. When asked to tell us about a tool or app they found useful, 22 out of 86 responses mentioned it as an example.

2. Learning

Of particular interest in the survey were the questions relating to the use of digital skills and devices in supporting learning. Online resources and digital technology are already embedded in course content through ebooks, journal articles, interactive polls and quizzes and the popularity of gaming as a tool for encouraging learning is becoming more widespread. Despite this only 10.2% of academic staff who took part in the survey identified as being amongst the first to adopt new technologies and the majority indicated that they would like digital technology to be used in their teaching practice more than it is at the moment.

3. Flexibility

The importance of being able to find information online is clearly a priority for students with over 95% declaring that they retrieve information for their course online on at least a weekly basis. 63.4% regarded digital technology as an important tool in helping them to understand information, up 6.8% from the year before. Meanwhile the potential of digital technology to empower users to manage their time effectively and learn in a more flexible manner was widely acknowledged with most respondents agreeing that it allowed them greater independence as well as the ability to fit education into their life more easily.

4. Accessibility

For those unable to read traditionally printed texts or who prefer to access material in alternative formats, assistive technology and services like SensusAccess can be of great benefit in communicating information and guaranteeing greater accessibility. In the last survey 10.6% of all respondents indicated that these technologies were vital to their learning needs.

5. Employability

When it comes to preparation for life beyond university most students are aware of the importance that digital skills play in a large number of sectors. A significant majority in both surveys agreed that digital skills are important in their chosen career field making knowledge in this area exceptionally valuable and an investment in future career progression. Constant developments make it important to keep up to date and with 45% of students disagreeing that they understood the digital skills that would be required of them before starting their course it is clear that supporting students with making the most of the opportunities available to them is beneficial for everyone.