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There is evidence from some of these projects that current institutional provision is under stress, though it must be emphasised that most of the studies reviewed in this chapter do not provide detailed evidence about different kinds and outcomes of provision. Points of actual or potential stress include the following:
Strong and credible evidence that learners require support for online research skills and critical/evaluative approaches to information; also that they over-estimate their own capabilities and are naïve about the provenance and purpose of messages in digital media.
Strong evidence from UK-based programmes that learners require support in migrating to more ICT-based study practices in HE and FE, and in using subject-appropriate technologies for deep learning.
Evidence that learners benefit from being able to use their own technologies for learning, including software and services, and that in some institutions this is problematic
Indications that support for learners ICT skills needs to move from ‘training’ on institutionally provided technologies to more tailored support for the technologies learners choose or are constrained to use – which can be peer-led (e.g. student help desks, study ‘buddies’)
Evidence that technologies can be used to extend the process and period of induction well before students actually arrive at college/university, and help to ease social transition. This is also a critical window in which expectations about study practice can be communicated.
Evidence from the US but born out in UK studies that learners lack general research skills, that moving to third year and postgraduate study can be a source of difficulty, and that ‘digital scholarship’ should continue to be an element of the curriculum throughout study and not confined to first year modules.
Learners are still strongly led by tutors in choosing and using technologies for learning: course practices become personal norms
Learners expect digital technologies to be used consistently in their programmes of study, and with a clear educational rationale. They will vote with their feet if course provision does not meet their expectations
Tutors skills and confidence with technology are therefore critical to learners’ development
Indications that there is a clash of knowledge cultures, emerging particularly around issues of plagiarism and originality in student writing.
Evidence that despite an apparent facility with technology, most learners use only basic functionality and are reluctant to explore the capabilities of technology, take risks with their study practices, or make critical and reflective choices about technology use.
Evidence that students are often dissatisfied with the feedback and assessment process, which may indicate a lack of understanding of academic expectations, and again a contest over knowledge values. Little evidence of feedback being used as a mechanism for learning development.
Evidence that HEIs, under the influence of the UK Gov’s transferable skills agenda, have taken a functional approach to literacies under the assumption that individual skills are highly transferable across contexts. Either a more behavioural/professional approach (i.e. focus on deployment of personal capabilities in specific task contexts) or an interpretive approach (i.e. focus on how individuals understand tasks and how social contexts support that understanding) – or (CEDEFOP) an approach drawing on the strengths of both – would be more effective.
The Berlin Communique of 2004 (Bologna working group on Qualifications Frameworks) requires member states to move towards defining higher qualifications in terms of ‘workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile’. However, most UK HEIs define their degree programmes (for the purposes of credit transfer) primarily in terms of workload, level, and knowledge.