Focus groups

After the desk study, the Jisc FE Digital Student project went on to conduct some primary research in order to understand learners’ expectations of technology use during their experiences in FE.

For the purposes of the project we used the definitions provided by the HE Digital Student study, which helpfully defined learners’ expectations of technology as to what learners want based on their experiences before/outside of education, whilst learners’ experiences of technology are defined as what learners need to succeed at college and in the digital world beyond.

We conducted 12 focus groups with 220 learners across 6 colleges. This page summarises the findings from these focus groups. The focus groups were audio recorded and the plenary sessions have been transcribed. The facilitators also produced their own notes after each focus group.

In the desk review we found that there was very little published research from FE in the public domain, so we are making our initial findings available here, as seven key themes, written from the learners point of view.

  1. Don’t assume we are digitally literate. Take care not to make assumptions about learners or specific groups e.g. those taking certain subjects. Remember we learn well when we share knowledge, practices and applications with our peers.
  1. We need ongoing development. We need not only induction, but also ongoing assessment of our needs. For example, we might know there are advanced functions but don’t know how to develop these skills or know where help is available. We are introduced to technology but then don’t get help to learn more advanced skills. We’d like to be helped to develop our understanding of ethical issues involved with social media. We want to be introduced to more sophisticated tools & technologies. We know they are out there.
  1. We expect the same (or better) services that we had in school. We expect services to be as robust and reliable as they are at home (e.g. wireless that always works, Moodle without downtime, up-to-date hardware etc). These expectations are considered to be so normal as to be barely worth mentioning. We only mention it when it doesn’t work.
  1. We expect the college to provide what we need. We’d like free access to a range of digital devices, services and software. We don’t expect to have to pay for learning services they expect the College to provide (e.g. printing). We want help with using industry standard technology that we’ll use at work. We’d like to know that the use of technology in College is equipping use well for our future working life.
  1. We expect modern learning resources that are easy to find and use. We find the resources we need online. We access them from our personal devices and would like to be able to do this from on campus. How about making screencasts or videos and/or audio recordings of our lessons available online in Moodle?
  1. We want to work with lecturers. We’d like lecturers who are digitally literate, confident and willing to hand over control to us to use familiar technologies in class e.g. mobiles. We’d like to be able to choose which social media we like to use and when. We want to work collaboratively with lecturers, working together to explore the technology.
  1. Ask us what we need. We don’t feel the College genuinely asks for or listens to our views on technology. A couple of questions on a survey doesn’t count. We might surprise you. We don’t want to be forced to use particular social media against our wishes. (Staff seemed to think they were engaging learners in these conversations but the learners we spoke to didn’t agree!).

Resources to download:


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