May 12, 2016

Digital Skills

Helen Wilding and her fellow part-time distance research students are aiming to identify the digital skills that would aid current and future distance health research students. This project involved looking at the software available from the University and the skills necessary to get the most out of the tools available.

Helen and her colleagues made great progress in identifying the key digital skills that part-time distance learners (or any learner for that matter) need to get the most out of their blended learning programme. They identified 12 main skills that they considered important for researchers to get to grips with. The skills and lessons they identified will now be discussed amongst the forum of students, gathering feedback and opinions from the range of individuals and experiences found on these courses.

Helen and Learning Technologist Dr Steve Wright produced a video outlining the skills that research students would require. To add further value to this they broke it down into the skills that are best to focus on in each year of study – getting learners to incrementally build up their digital skill set, ready for working confidently on important projects and their thesis creation. To find out more about the skills required, watch Helen and Steve’s video below. They are now working on structuring resources to help learners develop the skills they have identified.

Helen and her colleagues have not worked without challenges though. They have had to battle the problem of a lack of support for software that is not in widespread use across the University, making it difficult to encourage its adoption from other students. Likewise, as students who are distance learners, they do not have uniform computer systems and so had to deal with the varying hardware capabilities that affect the software that could be used. In addition to these challenges, Helen and her colleagues have also had to deal with the practicalities of part-time distance study, finding time from the students to get involved with feedback. Unfortunately there is no silver bullet for this problem and they are forced to use more labour intensive means of contacting students individually.

There have been lessons learned though; through her greater interaction with digital technology Helen has noticed a change in her own digital behaviour – a greater understanding of the importance of document security has given her a new found respect for having a robust password and the importance of encryption.