FE students are shunning the web

More than two thirds of further education (FE) students are turning to each other and their lecturers for technical support, overlooking online help for their digital queries 

Contrary to their often-presumed digital know-how, FE students are more likely to ask each other for help with technology (32%) than search the web for useful tips and tutorials (only 14%). More reliant on staff than their HE counterparts, a third (35%) of FE students turn to their lecturers first for digital advice, compared to only 8% of university students. 

The Jisc survey represents the largest ever sample of data showing how students use digital technology in education and their attitudes towards it. 
In the report foreword, Sam Gyimah calls for action: “I want all educational leaders to look closely at this report and consider how they can improve their own provision through the effective use of technology. I also urge them to take full advantage of the expert advice and ‘on the ground’ support provided by Jisc to take a fully digital approach to issues such as curriculum design and the learning environment.” 

More than a third of FE students surveyed want technology to be used more on their course. 64% report to be more independent in their learning when technology is used, and more than half (57%) agree that it helps them to fit learning into their busy lives. 

Notably though, of all the examples of how digital technology might enhance their learning experience, students are least convinced that it makes them feel more connected with people, either their fellow students or lecturers.

I call on all universities and colleges to work in partnership with their students to ensure they are providing the best possible education experience – one in which digital technology is fully integrated and offers opportunities for all learners to develop the skills they need to thrive in today’s fast changing world of work

Less than half of students (47%) agree they could access health and wellbeing services online, suggesting that they might benefit from clearer signposting, directing them to often much needed support.  

The report also shines a light on the digital competencies of staff, with many students reporting frustration when lecturers struggle to use digital systems correctly, saying it wastes time and restricts access to digital resources. Learners do however report examples of excellent practice that they’d like staff to aspire to.   

Only half of FE students say that the software used on their course is industry standard and up to date, but positively, almost three quarters are satisfied with the digital offer provided by their organisation.  

Sam Gyimah concluded: “I call on all universities and colleges to work in partnership with their students to ensure they are providing the best possible education experience – one in which digital technology is fully integrated and offers opportunities for all learners to develop the skills they need to thrive in today’s fast changing world of work.” 

“The Jisc report provides a hugely valuable insight into the digital experiences of students at their colleges,” said Kirsti Lord, Deputy Chief Executive, Association of Colleges.

“It’s heartening to see that FE learners value the support they receive from their lecturers, and the results show the supportive digital environment colleges provide their learners. It’s interesting to note that students often don’t have the level of digital skills that they’re presumed to, and it is fundamental that learners are armed with the skills that they’ll need to flourish in the digital workplace.”