Are our digital and information services working for you?

Earlier this year, the University of Aberdeen took part in the Jisc student digital experience tracker, a nationwide survey of students’ expectations and experiences of technology.

The short survey included questions on access to digital devices, course-related digital activities, institutional level digital provision and support, and learner skills.

Although the 2017 survey was only open to 2nd year students, the results have given us valuable insight into your digital experience at Aberdeen – and highlight areas where we could do better.

We will be participating in the 2018 tracker survey, this time opening it up to undergraduate, online, and postgraduate taught students, and we’ll be inviting you to take part soon!

Meantime, here’s what our respondents thought this year; we have also included details of how your feedback has helped us make improvements to our services.

Access to Services

We were pleased that most respondents have access to vital services such as wi-fi and printing when required. However, when it comes to file storage and backup, only 55% say they have access when they need it and 34.6% say they don’t know what’s available.

Bar chars showing student access to digital services at Aberdeen in 2017

Every student has access to 10GB secure, backed up, personal filespace on the University network – find out more here! And your Office 365 student email account comes with up to 50GB storage. 

Contact the Services Desk for further information and support.

Digital Devices

Although most students now own at least two personal devices, a large percentage of respondents still rely on University provided desktop computers (46%) and printers (52%) when working on campus.

In recognition of this, and to keep pace with the latest technologies, we have installed mini-PCs with solid state drives in over 50% of our classroom estate expect to replace all remaining hard drive devices with SSDs over the next 2-3 years.

So not only do you have more room to work, the new devices will also speed up login time and significantly improve the performance of resource hungry applications.

We have made significant improvements to wi-fi provision including installing a gaming specific network in some Hillhead buildings, giving a much better gaming experience.

We have reviewed the printing service and will be reducing print costs in the near future - helping your budget go further.

Learning in the digital environment

With a wealth of digital learning resources now available, it’s perhaps no surprise that 95% of respondents go online to find information relating to their courses; they even provided us with a long list of activities that support their learning, including:

  • Online practice questions
  • Interactive quizzes in lectures
  • Primo library search
  • Lecture recordings
  • MyAberdeen

What is surprising is that only 67% produce work regularly in a digital format, with a lesser number regularly working online with others. Why not see how we can help you? See Resources for Learning IT!

Online Assessments

Online assessments are a growing feature of digital learning and offer lots of benefits to students. 60% of respondents feel they are well managed; but if there are things we could be doing better in this area, why not let us know! Contact the Service Desk and give us your feedback.

Learner Involvement

We were disappointed to learn that only 22% of respondents feel involved in decisions about digital services. The good news is that we are planning a number of focus groups over the coming year where you can help shape our future services. We will also be reserving a space for student representation on the boards of large IT projects, to help ensure projects better meet your expectations.

If you would like to be directly involved, please contact the Service Desk.

We will continue to work closely with student representatives and the Student Engagement Team to make sure more of you get the chance to be involved in decision making. And longer term, our new student intern will play a key role in helping us develop and communicate student facing services, ensuring our strategic direction is aware of, and responding to, student demand.  

Disability Support

Most respondents with a disability or health issue that affects their study seem to be getting the support they need (87.5%) and list over a dozen examples of assistive technologies that are helping them; but that still leaves some who need additional support. We encourage anyone needing additional support to get in touch. See our web pages for further information.

Benefits in using digital technology.

52% of respondents report that using technology on their course helps them understand things better and 68% say that technology helps them become more independent learners.

Surprisingly though, technology does not make you feel more connected to lecturers, or to other learners. This is disappointing and we’re keen to get your views on why this should be.

On a more positive note, 72% of respondents feel technology helps them fit learning more easily into their lives. That being said, a small percentage (23%) are distracted by technology and find that it actually reduces their motivation!

We recently created two digitally enhanced learning spaces (DELS), incorporating the latest technologies to support active, collaborative and distributed learning and enhance student experience. Now there is a new project underway to investigate which of these technologies we can roll out to other teaching spaces across campus.

We are also actively involved in the planning process for the new science teaching building – due to open 2021 – making sure the latest digital technologies are built in and that the student learning experience is a core consideration.

What else can we do to enhance the learning environment? Let us know your thoughts! Contact the Service Desk.

IT Security

It’s great to hear that most respondents feel comfortable with:

  • Operating in the online environment
  • Behaving safely and respectfully online
  • Creating a positive online image
  • Changing privacy setting and managing passwords
  • Judging online content for its relevance and reliability

And for the small number of respondents who feel they need support in these areas, we are happy to help. Please see our online IT Security resources or drop in past the Service Desk for further advice.

We put a huge amount of effort into IT security and are about to add more resource. We all benefit from a safe, secure environment, and is re-assuring that students are playing their part.

Your future…

Most respondents (76%) recognise that digital skills are important to their future careers. However, there are a number who feel that their course doesn’t adequately prepare them for the digital workplace.

If you feel this way, why not dip into the Learners’ Toolkit, our multi-award winning gateway to software, services, apps and digital skills at the University of Aberdeen. Or if you want to brush up your MS Office skills, we publish a range of workbooks suitable for self-study.

Brian Henderson
Director of Digital and Information Services