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The digital economy is growing – are your students ready for the workplace?

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) the digital economy is growing (OECD, 2020) and has been irreversibly changed in recent months. Employers have had to adapt working practices at speed; Home working means that employers can recruit from a global talent pool and working together, but remotely has been essential to business continuity during the challenges presented by COVID-19.

New and different ways of working are required

As employers’ needs continue to evolve, the workforce of the future needs to demonstrate new and different skills (Educause, 2021) and to work in different ways (British Chamber of Commerce and Barclays Life Skills, 2021). It also needs to be resilient to the inevitability of ongoing change and to demonstrate both competence and confidence in multiple facets of digital capability over and above subject/industry specific expertise. In addition to using technology to manage the myriad of everyday functional tasks, the last year has highlighted the importance to industry in being able to use digital channels to communicate and collaborate effectively and to use online and blended learning as a tool for continued professional development.

Jisc DEI Student Digital Capability

So, how well prepared are your students?

Early findings from our 2020/21 survey of the student digital experience completed by 21,697 higher education (HE) students  (Jisc, 2021) found that only 17% of students said they were offered support to develop information and data literacy skills, and just 28% said they were supported to develop basic IT skills. While high numbers of students reported having experienced transactional digital activities such as live and recorded online lectures, access to resources and assignment submissions in their learning; far fewer had taken part in collaborative projects and online research – skills employers highly value.

Only 28% of students said they were supported to develop their basic IT skills
(Jisc, 2021)

Data-driven decision-making – put your data to work

The digital experience survey results provide a national overview , but there is no substitute for having your own data to inform your own strategic development.  If you subscribe to the digital experience insights service you can harvest and use your own data, as well as contributing to the anonymised national picture. In times of financial constraint, the data and detailed insight the surveys yield highlights where further investment in time, resources and technology can enhance the digital capabilities and employment prospects of your students.

Meaningful and focused conversations about digital capabilities

Case study: The University of Nottingham surveyed 400 recent graduates to ascertain the importance of digital capabilities to their job role. They combined the findings from this research with data from Jisc’s discovery tool and  digital experience insights surveys to contribute to their overarching digital futures transformation programme. They found that having the data led to more meaningful, focused and balanced conversations, which in turn has secured prompt support to progress the student digital capability agenda.

“The Jisc data informed our thinking pre COVID-19. It has since reinforced the importance of student digital capabilities, but, in a time of hard choices it is helping us to prioritise both efficiently and effectively.”

Professor Sarah Speight, pro-vice chancellor for education and student experience, University of Nottingham

What are the benefits of the digital experience insights service?

The survey was co-designed with the higher and further education sectors to address the digital challenges you told us you face. The service helps universities and colleges to:

  • Capture relevant data to inform future technology and resource investment decisions
  • Provide baseline data to evidence year on year improvements
  • Benchmark progress against others’ nationally
  • Secure return on investment, efficiency, and productivity savings

Find out more

This year over 38,900 higher education students have told us about their digital experience at university. Our next report will be published in autumn 2021.

Written by Clare Killen, content insights manager, Jisc 

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