Widening participation is a strategic priority across the UK. Whilst institutions focus on attracting learners from under-represented and hard to reach communities, staff are striving to develop engaging and innovative ways to deliver dynamic and inclusive learning experiences to support learners.
Digital exclusion and inequality
Is technology capable of helping progress the widening participation agenda? Not only in the context of supporting learner achievement, but also to develop digital literacy in relation to productivity and positive health? The correlation between digital exclusion and health/social inequality has been acknowledged. According to Lloyds Bank, digitally capable people are saving more than twice as much as those without digital capability. This recognises the connection between digital exclusion, social deprivation and the importance of helping people develop the digital skills they need to fully participate in society.
Does digital hold the key?
As the technological revolution evolves, digital developments create both opportunities and challenges. It could be argued that digital participation is no longer a binary issue, instead it involves taking on board a gamut of considerations in order to achieve social and economic impact as well as enhancing learning and achievement. Open Education Practice Scotland suggest that it isn’t just about devices and connectivity – delegates subscribing to MOOCs are more typically individuals with graduate level qualifications. Instead they indicate that situational barriers (such as socio-economic challenges), institutional structures (inaccessible support systems or curricula poorly aligned with learner need) and dispositional disadvantage (e.g. the subjective experiences of the individual learners) can all influence or indeed inhibit the likelihood of digital competence.
How can assumptions about learners and their digital participation be better understood to maximise opportunities? What kinds of partnerships should/could educational providers engage in to ensure that learners who experience exclusion because of socio-economic, geographic, financial or health inequalities (the furthest first) are provided with opportunities to thrive in the digital world.
Students expect staff to have the digital skills to help them master technology to enhance their learning and to become independent learners. How do we ensure the workforce is developed to meet this challenge? What skills do educational providers need to have to ensure that they meet these expectations?
We hope to unpack these issues over the next few months. If this is an area that interests, you keep an eye on our blogs for future posts.