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Digital Literacies in Higher Education: Diversity of the Student Experience

Key messages from the JISC-funded project focussing on postgraduate students at the Institute of Education

Diversity of the Student Experience

The contexts within which students are engaging with digital technologies are as many and varied as students themselves. Variables include such things as:

  • level of study and prior levels of study;
  • mode of study (full, part-time, distance, blended);
  • economics (diverse ‘hidden’ costs of technology adoption and use);
  • individual orientations towards technology use;
  • available time;
  • access to and skills in the use of new technologies; and
  • resilience in the face of change/ transition, etc.

The attached is a vignette of an internatonal PG student at the IOE:

Academic Practice is Both Digital and Textual

  • Academic practices are overwhelming textual.
  • These are situated in social and disciplinary contexts.
  • Textual practices are increasingly digitally mediated.
  • These practices take place across a range of domains.
  • Students create complex assemblages enrolling a range of digital, material, spatial and temporal resources.

Key Messages

1. Understand the students’ prior learning and level of confidence in using institute-provided and recommended software and provide appropriate training at all levels, both face-to-face and online so that it can be available in a timely manner.

2. Provide a clear site/visual map of the digital platform in order to provide a holistic overview of content and services available to students.

3. Simplify e-infrastructures bearing in my students’ workflows and use of space.

4. Simplify guides and provide a choice of audio/visual/written guides in different media.

5. Expand the availability/opportunities for training/workshops/tutorials, both face-to-face and online throughout the year.

6. Recognise that digital literacies are now part of the academic literacies students need to study and embed these in the curriculum.


The 'student experience' is not singular:

  • Evidence of marked difference is experiences and priorities across these four groups of students in the IOE study:
    •  PGCE, MA students, PhD students, Online masters' students
  • Different 'orientations' towards technology use
    • Curation (saving for later reuse), combat (access permissions) and coping (information overload)
  • Each student showed different orientations at different times; therefore these were not 'types' of students - the students' use of technologies evolved over time.