Supporting learners in a Digital Age.

Posted: December 3, 2012 in e-learning
Tags: , ,

 Many learners enter further and higher education lacking the skills needed to apply digital technologies to education. As 90% of new jobs will require excellent digital skills, improving digital literacy is an essential component of developing employable graduates. (JISC, 2011)

The key elements of the report seems to suggest that even though students are familiar with technology and  have been  identified as digital natives (Prensky, 2001) the truth often shows capabilities are lacking and tend to be ICT centric. Digital know how is often limited by aging technology and previous experiences, with students tending to be literate in the social aspects of the technology but unaware of more advance techniques. (JISC, 2011).

Previous studies of digital literacy have failed to produce what graduate employers require, namely the ability to be flexible and having good judgment in a digital environment. (JISC, 2011)

An issue both common to student and tutors alike is that technology changes quickly…It is almost impossible for busy academic staff to stay up to date with all the latest developments. (JISC, 2011)

Because of constantly changing technology and applications a third year student will require different skills and technology than they used in their first year and indeed primary school students just embarking on their education will most  likely be using technology not yet thought of.

As with many aspects of education, provision funding is often a major barrier. In this context technology for supporting digital literacy or “know how” is one of the less visible tick boxes when parents and students review a College or University.  Consequently it is these areas that receives less funding.

One issue briefly identified was the lack of or requirement by Colleges and Universities to assess digital capabilities. It is therefore necessary that educators implant the ability of students to review their own learning needs, identify and make use of the appropriate technology.

The report itself outlines case studies instigated by a number Colleges and Universities to review digital literacy, the requirements and possible solution. These range from the need to embed learning technology in to the curriculum, the use of e-learning mentors for staff and student, student centre research and the integration of technology into the curriculum.


In the course of the SLida case studies, many institutes recognised the importance of learners using their own devices and services (JISC, 2011). In fact an online article from the BBC November 30th “Bring your own laptop to work” states that in Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council 12% of their staff bring their own devices to work and this has led to a “richer experience” for the staff, “quicker” and “more efficient decision making”   (BBC News, 2012)

The benefits provided by a virtual learning environment (VLE) are expressed as a means of supporting students by enabling 24/7 access to lecture notes, podcast and video content. A number of studies have indicated that students that are able to review podcast and video of lectures often perform better than student just attending the lectures. (Ewen Callaway, 2009).

Therefore maybe it should be asked does digital literacy need to be a cross curriculum venture or subject specific? and do tutors as well as students require to have digital literacy skills? Based on the latter, a recent NUS survey found that:

…students were concerned about the ICT competency of academic staff, with 21% thinking that their lecturers needed additional training. ( (Knight, Sarah, 2011).

In the field of supporting students we need to ask “Is there a set of necessary skills that students need to be digitally literate?” With constantly changing technology, a first year student will most likely be using a whole new set of digital skills by the time they are in their final year. This highlights the need for a curriculum based grounding in digital literacy but with embedded flexibility supported by an ongoing student review of their own digital skills.

The answer to this question is yes, reinforced  by JISC, and outlined in the Guardian Higher Education Network Blog site, with the article stating that:-

……..some key areas to consider, including introducing learners as early as possible to the technologies they will use; supporting students in using their own devices and services; involving students in decision making about technology and learning; embedding digital literacies into the curriculum; and rethinking graduate attributes for a digital age.(The Guardian (Knight, Sarah, 2011)


BBC Gavin Stamp, 2012. BBC News Politics. [Online] Available at:[Accessed 1st December 2012].

Ewen Callaway, 2009. ‘iTunes university’ better than the real thing. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 1st December 2012].

JISC, 2011. Supporting Learners in a Digital Age, London: JISC.

Knight, Sarah, 2011. The Guardian, Higher Education Net Work. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 3 December 2012].

Prensky, M., 2001. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, October, 9(5), p. 1.

  1. Immersive Learning University says:

    Reblogged this on Immersive Learning University.

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