From education to employment

New online tool will help FE providers to benchmark and improve their digital status

Jisc’s head of FE and skills, Paul McKean

Digital tool to support planning and prioritisation of new technologies and IT infrastructure

A new tool that will help UK further education and skills (FES) providers to benchmark – and so improve – their digital status has been launched today, 3 March, 2022, by Jisc, the UK’s edtech not-for-profit.

The interactive and online FES digital elevation tool allows providers to review where they are on the journey towards being a fully digitally capable organisation. 

There are three levels of ‘digital elevation’ that organisations can benchmark against:  

  • Foundation: The ‘must-haves’. Digitally inclusive policies and procedures, compliance with web accessibility regulations, and remote access to systems for learners.  
  • Transform: The ‘should-haves’. Access for learners to a range of appropriate digital devices, opportunities for formative and summative online assessment, and digital workplace skills that are mapped to the curriculum.
  • Elevate: The ‘can-haves’. The use of integrated data analytics, artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality. Some of these elements are in operation across a small number of UK FES providers and these pioneers will lead future innovation across the sector.

The purpose of the tool, which has been co-designed with providers and piloted by 30 colleges, is to help providers self-assess, to identify next steps towards improvement, and to signpost to helpful resources.  

Among the pilots is Edinburgh College, whose assistant principal (quality and improvement), Kerry Heathcote, said:

“We utilised the digital elevation tool in a collaborative manner, systematically cross-referencing each of the assessments with the themes of our digital strategy 2020–2025. The accessible, intuitive platform and iterative nature of each element means that it has been highly effective at informing robust self-evaluation, action-planning, and review activity.” 

Matt Tudor, director of commercial development, strategy and partnerships at Bridgwater and Taunton College, which also took part in the pilot, added:

“We decided to use the digital elevation tool to understand where we are on the digital transformation journey.  What surprised us when we used it were the questions it raised that we hadn’t even thought of when embarking on this journey. We have now completed the assessment tool, have a clear action plan and are advancing at a far greater pace than we ever imagined.”

The tool is available now to all FES Jisc members, regardless of their digital starting point, as part of their membership. 

Jisc’s director of FES, Paul McKean, who has largely overseen the development of the tool, said:

“The pandemic has really kick-started the process of digital elevation for FES providers, but the use of technology across the sector remains mixed, with pockets of truly innovative practice. We hope this tool will drive strategic decisions and, ultimately, boost providers’ ability to prepare learners for an increasingly digital workplace.”

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