The goal of the Digital Education Strategy is to ensure that in 2020 Oxford remains a premier institution for teaching, adopting the very best of teaching innovations that are made possible by digital technology. The first step in implementation was to understand more fully the current patterns of technology use in teaching and learning, and to get a sense of the most important areas for resourcing from the perspective of academic staff and students. During Michaelmas term 2016 the Digital Education Strategy Implementation Group consulted across the University to understand technology use and future priorities.
There are five main areas for development over the period of the Strategy in order to achieve this goal:
- to extend the areas of excellence in digital education that already exist and to ensure that all departments and faculties regularly review how digital methods might enhance their teaching and learning provision;
- to use appropriate digital technologies to develop more inclusive provision for different learning needs;
- to support academic staff as innovative teachers by developing the functionality and usability of key digital platforms;
- to support students by making collections of resources more accessible and relevant to their learning;
- to clarify and agree the resources needed to develop digital education, where these might be most effectively situated and how best funded.
The Strategy makes a number of underpinning recommendations in relation to each of these.
The approach to implementation is that it should be driven by the enthusiasm and inspiration of academic staff and students: divisions are partners with Academic IT (IT Services) in encouraging and supporting departments and faculties to set their own priorities for adopting the use of new technologies in education. The Strategy sets out some criteria for good practice for departments and faculties to follow, such as developing local priorities with inclusivity in mind, and suggests ways to quality assure online learning. It also encourages departments to think across the breadth of their activities, noting the range of digital developments that are in use across the University, or elsewhere, that could be adopted.
In Michaelmas Term 2014, Education Committee approved the setting up of a Working Group to produce a Digital Education Strategy. The significance of the impact of technology on teaching and learning had been recognised in the University's Strategic Plan and an explicit commitment had been made to develop a strategy for digital education. Behind this commitment was an understanding that the way students are being taught worldwide is changing rapidly as universities harness the power of digital technology to develop new ways to teach and learn. The Committee was also conscious that, up to that point, Oxford had engaged unevenly with e-learning, its engagement being very much driven by the particular needs of individual departments and faculties or the enthusiasm of individuals. It took the view that institution-wide engagement was needed to bring about a more coordinated approach to new developments and a better understanding of the benefits of technology use.
Another important consideration was future employment opportunities for our students. These will be driven in large part by the development of digital technology and the creativity of individuals in this sphere. It was thus considered important to do as much as possible to equip our graduates for that future, ensuring that they are adept in the use of digital technologies, and encouraged to innovate and experiment. Embedding technology in their experience of learning is one way of supporting this.
The Strategy was formally approved by Education Committee in Hilary Term 2016 and by Council in Trinity Term 2016.
The Digital Education Strategy Implementation Group are:
- Julia Horn (Co-Chair), Head of the Oxford Learning Institute
- Marina Lambrakis, Vice-President of OUSU - Graduates
- Kate Lindsay (Co-Chair), Head of Technology Enhanced Learning, Academic IT
- Nicola Warren, Technology Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL), Continuing Education
- TBC, Education Policy Support
- Damion Young, Head of Learning Technologies, Medical Sciences Division
The Strategy recognises that the University needs to provide an enabling support structure to foster the willingness and enthusiasm of staff to embrace new technology use. It places emphasis on the availability of appropriate technology platforms, templates and tools, and of support - in terms of both advice and people - to bring about progress. The existing team in Academic IT has recently been strengthened with the appointment of two learning technologists to support academics in achieving their goals. In addition, funding is available to support initiatives identified by divisions as priorities. Decisions on this will be made by the Education IT Board.