Blended Learning: Exploring the Expectations of Today’s Digitally-Savvy Students

The UK’s Ofcom just announced findings from a recent research project, suggesting that 14-15 year olds are the most technologically-savvy age group.

Blended Learning sample - Panopto Lecture Capture platformOfcom’s Communications Market Report 2014 draws on a survey of nearly 2,000 adults and 800 children and was designed to measure knowledge of, and confidence in using, communications technology. The results were then used to calculate a ‘Digital Quotient’ score, or ‘DQ’, with the average UK adult scoring 100. 14-15 year-olds topped out the results, scoring an average ‘DQ’ of 113.

The ease with which the vast majority of young people are embracing digital technologies will come as no surprise to educators who are facing rising expectations for technology enhanced learning in the classroom. A new generation of learners who have grown up in an era dominated by digital communications are increasingly expecting dynamic media content to form a key part of the learning experience. Institutions are finding that more and more students assume that technology will play a significant role in the learning experience at their school, college, or university.

Of course, while on average young people are highly digitally aware, the picture is much more varied in reality. What students consider to be ‘essential’ or even just ‘desirable’ in terms of classroom technology depends greatly on their background and previous levels of access to technology.

By the time students reach university, some will have experienced a wide range of digital media in their blended learning environments, while others will have had much more limited exposure to learning technologies. The UK-based Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) has been conducting its own research into student expectations of technology to explore these issues in greater depth.

In a blog post on the JISC website outlining the situation at Higher Education institutions, Helen Beetham identifies some near-ubiquitous student expectations of ICT at university such as access to wifi throughout the campus, the ability to connect their own devices to the university network and the ongoing provision of institutional devices such as desktop computers made available to students in shared learning spaces. Beyond these common factors, it is clear that the digital provision at HE institutions needs to be flexible enough to suit the varying needs of an increasingly diverse student population.

One of the key points Beetham goes on to raise, however, is that while students have some expectations around the technologies they will encounter as part of their learning experience, they don’t want those technologies to become a substitute for face-to-face interaction with their teacher and peer group. Instead, they want the real-world and the virtual to coexist harmoniously. This is all linked to the importance of students feeling that they belong to a distinct community of learners.

What does this all mean for education institutions? Well, it means that schools, colleges and universities do need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to digital technologies so that they can offer their students access to new forms of ‘digital belonging’ that will only increase in importance over time. However, they also need to recognise that emergent technologies will be expected to complement, facilitate or augment real-world interactions, not replace them.

At Panopto, we have seen this trend play out around the use of lecture capture over a number of years. What our customers have seen is that far from replacing the physical lecture (as is often feared), the lecture recording is used to supplement, consolidate and support the learning that is still taking place in the lecture hall itself. Academics like Steve Bailey at the University of Kent have highlighted the fact that the introduction of lecture capture does not stop students going to lectures – there is still a huge appetite amongst students to come together with their peers to interact with a professor; an appetite which technologies such as ours has not changed.

Moving beyond lecture capture, academics who are using video to flip the classroom are doing so not to interact less with students, but so they can in fact interact in more meaningful ways and make their contact time really count. All of this supports the idea that while technology is playing an ever more vital role in student learning, it alone will never encompass the whole learning experience. The technology is just enhancing and refining the teaching and learning process – this is evolution, not revolution.

If you want to find out how lecture capture and video can help you engage with your digitally-savvy students, contact us for a 30-day free trial or request a demo.

Published: August 11, 2014