Making use of digital learning resources in the education sector
Guest post by Darren King.
The increased demand for digital learning resources in education has put pressure on educational facilities in terms of acquisition and implementation.
Jisc published a recent report in collaboration with AoC entitled Shaping the digital future of FE and skills. It states there are not enough digital resources in further education to meet the current demand. And a lot of what is there is lacking in quality.
This may well deal with further education and vocational learning. But the principle of providing virtual learning environments and digital libraries for students applies to all age groups and educational facilities.
So what can be done to improve the quality and quantity of digital resources?
What digital learning resources are available?
Digital learning resources include video, audio, text, images and animations. They can incorporate infographics, PowerPoint presentations, podcasts and other interactive viewing material.
A teaching toolkit produced by Jisc offers support and guidance on the use of digital learning resources. This includes multi-media materials in certain key sectors such as construction, education, health and childcare.
Jisc resources include videos, quizzes, guides and interactive activities linked to National Occupational Standard qualifications. These are created by experts in their respective fields.
Google has produced a suite of cloud-based tools under the banner “Google for Education”. This brings together video chat, email and collaborative documentation using its suite of applications, enabling remote teaching in many areas of education.
The current restrictions on travel and issues of social distancing are making education difficult. These digital resources help maintain contact between teacher and student. This enables the learning process to continue from any location in a safe and secure environment.
Virtual Learning Environments
A virtual learning environment (VLE) is an online interactive site where important information can be stored, webinars viewed, and student assessments can be made.
Curriculum mapped content combined with other learning materials such as videos and games provides the ideal mix. But the resource must be up to date and relevant. These can all be contained and organised within a virtual library, so students can find information quickly and easily. Embedding digital resources in the VLE will help keep the content together.
It is important for student to be able to access relevant digital resources within the VLE for their particular course. Providing reading lists with links to e-books is a good way of achieving this. Keeping a log of the materials and where the links are embedded will make it easier to update and add to later.
Using e-books rather than printed matter
Students used to get their books and reference material from the library, or buy it from a specialist bookshop. Now students can download e-books to read on mobile devices as well as PCs and laptops.
E-books are cheap and easily accessed; there is no waiting for another student to finish and return it to the library. Students can also highlight sections and add notes, ideal for revision purposes, or go straight to relevant sections by using the search feature. They also offer supplementary features such as text to speech and the ability enlarge text or change its appearance.
E-books contain hyper-links to related material. This means one volume offers access to multiple digital learning resources. However, many e-book providers limit the number of users at any one time. Therefore it is important to choose a company that can allow all students access.
How can specialised IT service providers help?
School administration is in itself a specialised area. Those tasked with running the day to day operation of the facility usually have their work cut out. However, managing IT systems usually requires bring in professional help. This both frees up the administrators to do their job, and saves time and money in the long run.
Schools and Multi-Academy Trusts can all benefit from external IT services. An IT service can assess an organisation’s requirements with regard data storage. It facilitates student access to digital learning resources in a manner relevant to the educational facility and course.
Managed IT services in Croydon
Many Local Education Authorities are partnering with specialist external IT companies such as Cygnet IT Services CIC. They provide managed IT services in Croydon, Sutton, New Malden, Mitcham and broader South East areas.
Cygnet is helping MATs, schools and charities by providing technical support, cloud backup, disaster recovery plans, anti-virus and anti-malware protection.
SME cyber security issues
In the education sector, cyber security is just as important as it is with any SME. Personal detail of every teacher, administrator, student and other ancillary staff need to be kept. If this data was to get into the wrong hands, this would be a serious breach of their rights under the Data Protection Act and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
SME cyber security is mostly concerned with preventing data leakage. It also defends against insider threats, phishing and ransomware, but these things are also a threat to educational institutions. It’s essential to have a strategy in place to advise those who access and input data of the threats from innocently opening emails that can open the door to hackers.
In the event of a crisis, it is important to have a disaster recovery plan. The recent pandemic has demonstrated the need for more robust systems to allow education to continue, even when it is not possible to attend school, college or university. Remote learning is going to be a part of the new normal, and where and how we backup and store our data is something which has to be addressed.
Are you ready for digital learning resources?
More than ever before, the education sector needs to grasp the world of digital learning resources. There is a lot of material out there, but it is not enough to satisfy demand. Nor is it organised in a way that makes it easy for students to find and utilise in their studies.
From a teaching perspective, the pressure is on to find curriculum mapped content that can be used in a virtual learning environment.
Some providers, such as Jisc, are leading the way in putting together a virtual library of e-books, videos and other digital resources. It is up to schools and colleges to support and embrace this innovation, to help develop the resources going forward, and to be a part of the solution.
About the author
Darren King is the CEO of Cygnet IT Services, a UK based community Interest Company which provides IT support in Sutton and surrounding areas. Darren has over 20 years working in Information Technology working closely with supporting charities, businesses and schools.