Supporting learners in a digital age


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Mini Project 2 of Assignment 1 (MMEL)

In 2011, JISC funded a research project, Supporting Learners in a Digital Age (JISC, 2011).  This mini-project will explore how some of the institutions involved supported learners in three key areas: preparing students for studying with technology; integrating digital literacies into the curriculum; and involving students in designing their own learning.

After conducting a learner voice conference which highlighted students’ lack of awareness of the e-learning facilities available to them, Abingdon & Witney College developed an online e-learning induction programme. In addition, each student received information on a college branded memory stick to provide ‘any-time, any-where’ access. The success of this programme was evidenced by a student and staff survey which showed that 88% of respondents found the new induction programme helpful. In their evaluation of the project Abingdon & Witney College found that the key features for the success of the project were response to learner voice, adequate staff development, and backing from senior managers (JISC, 2010a).

Salford University chose a cross-curricula approach to integrate digital literacies by developing an Information Literacy Strategy (JISC, 2010b).   The University has used the Seven Pillars of Information Skills framework (Bent and Stubbings, 2011), which takes into account learners’ different aptitudes and prior learning experience, with the aim of developing digital literate learners who will “have an awareness of how they gather, use, manage, synthesise and create information and data in an ethical manner and will have the information skills to do so effectively” (Bent and Stubbings, 2011:3). Although this programme is still ongoing, Salford university has made several recommendations. For example, learners’ prior experiences of technology should be taken into account; innovation amongst staff should be promoted, and senior management need to support the project.

The Universityof Glamorganraised the profile of the learner voice by involving students in policy development.  This included setting up student-led focus groups, one of which was tasked with reviewing expectations of Technology Enhanced Learning.  This group recommended more consistency in staff use of the VLE,  student training for the VLE, and online access to social networks. In addition, an actively engaged student voice representation has informed changes in technologies, such as upgraded software, the development of an online assessment submission system, and cross-campus Wi-fi.  The University has attributed the success of the programme to students’ active and effective involvement in the planning and implementation of recommendations, with improved communication between students, academic staff and service staff (JISC, 2010c).

Regrettably, this is a  limited selection.  However, taken together with further readings of the case studies (JISC,2011e), it is clear that institution wide strategies are crucial to supporting learners’ digital literacy. For example, to effectively integrate academic and information literacies into the curriculum, tutors and learning resource staff must work together to meet students’ expectations.  In addition, staff should be innovative in their own use of technologies in order to proactively promote digital literacy to students, whilst nevertheless recognising the range of students’ capabilities.  Clearly then, considerable investment in the projects is required from senior management, which in these case studies was afforded by a funded study.  Nevertheless, commitment from management could be considered to be the key element to the successful development of institution-wide digital literacies.


Beetham, H., McGill, L., Littlejohn, A., (2009) Thriving in the 21st century: the report of the LLiDA project (Learning Literacies for the Digital Age): Conclusions and recommendations

Bent, M.,  Stubbings, R. (2011) The SCONUL seven pillars model of information literacy:2011 update, SCONUL [online] Available at: http://www.sconul.ac.uk/groups/information_literacy/publications/coremodel.pdf

JISC (2007) In Their Own Words – Exploring the learner’s perspective on e-learning [online] Available at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearningpedagogy/iowfinal.pdfLast accessed 26th October 2011

JISC (2010a)  How can focusing on induction support learner development of digital literacies? Abingdon & Witney College. [online] Available at: https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=36208955 Last accessed 25th October 2011

JISC (2010b) How can digital literacy help provide the building blocks for lifelong learning? University of Salford [online] Available at: https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/slidacases/Salford Last accessed 25th October 2011

JISC (2010c) How has an institution’s focus on engaging with students changed the way technology is used? University of Glamorgan [online] Available at: https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/slidacases/Glamorgan Last accessed 25th October 2011

JISC (2010d) How have student expectations for using personal technology been met? Birkenhead Sixth Form College [online] Available at: https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/slidacases/Birkenhead Last accessed 25th October 2011

JISC (2010e) SLIDA Case Studies [online] Available at: https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/slidacases/SLiDA+Home Last accessed 26th October 2011

JISC (2011) Supporting Learners in a Digital Age briefing paper [online] Available at:  http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/publications/briefingpaper/2011/JISC_SLIDA_FINAL_web.pdf

Luckin, R., Clark, W., Graber, R., Logan, K., Mee, A., Oliver, M. (2009): Do Web 2.0 tools really open the door to learning? Practices, perceptions and profiles of 11-16 year old students, Learning, Media and Technology, 34:2, 87-104 [online] Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17439880902921949 Last Accessed 20th October 2011



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