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Nigel Jones with students using Microsoft Teams at Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Nigel Jones with students using Microsoft Teams at Cardiff Metropolitan University
©Jisc and Matt Lincoln

Putting people at the heart of digital strategy

More students at Cardiff Metropolitan University are using digital technology to reach their potential. Our services have supported staff to work more flexibly, collaboratively and productively to make this happen.

“Our ambition is that digital is threaded throughout what we do,”

says Paul Riley, director of library and information services at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

“It will drive everything, from carrying out excellent research to increasing student numbers, helping to provide a first-class student experience.”

We worked with Paul, to put staff and student experience at the heart of the university’s digital strategy. The aim is to support more students to reach their potential and for the university to be an employer that uses digital to support communication, collaboration and productivity. This is an important shift in focus for the institution.

“Our new digital strategy looks at what business problems could be resolved by taking a digital approach and how we use digital to enable us to hit our organisational strategy,”

says Paul.

“Before we were concentrating too much on technology, rather than people.”

Storytelling to influence change

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Paul Riley
©Jisc and Matt Lincoln

Paul used three of our products to focus on the people the strategy supports. Firstly, he attended our annual education technology conference Digifest. The event pushed his thinking forward and opened up new possibilities. He considered key trends like Education 4.0.

Secondly, in 2016, Paul took part in our digital leaders programme, a four-day course which looks at creating a digital strategy that enhances learning and teaching. Paul says he learnt how storytelling could support him to get buy-in for change from senior staff.

“The course provided space to reflect and think about what we were looking to get from a digital strategy,”

says Paul.

“I learnt to tell the story about what I wanted to do with the strategy. For example, at a budget meeting, I talked about digital touch points from a student point of view, from enrolling online, to getting learning materials through our virtual learning environment. That identified areas for development and was much more powerful than saying: ‘I need £X to develop a service’.”

Thirdly, our digital experience tracker focused Paul on the student experience and influenced the university’s strategic direction with digital. It’s a short survey which gathers students’ expectations and experiences of technology and offers comparative data from other institutions. The university had done their own student surveys in the past but Paul says this Jisc-branded one saved time, and provided credibility and objectivity.

Results were unexpected.

“Students didn’t say ‘We need more PCs or better wifi’,”

says Paul.

“It was much more about threading digital through learning and teaching and making sure staff and students could use it. This led to our pilot of Microsoft Teams.”

Gaining workplace skills

Information systems lecturer Nigel Jones trialled using group chat software Microsoft Teams with his students for an application building module. It allowed him to be away for 12 weeks of the 2018-2019 academic year when he was travelling internationally but still provide tailored support to his students as they needed it.

“If one of the groups was having a problem, I’d get a notification on my phone,”

says Nigel.

“I could log in to Microsoft Teams, see what was going on and provide support. This helped the final applications and websites they produced to be better quality.”

Nigel says integrating the software into his teaching has allowed his students to work together more efficiently, as they would need to in the workplace as developers.

“Teams makes it easier to get group work done when you're not at uni, or somebody is not able to turn up to work on the assignment,"

says Simon1, one of Nigel’s students.

“Teachers can use it to communicate with individuals about their work or if the student has a question they don’t want others to see.”

Threading digital throughout teaching and learning

Staff and students have had more support to use technology since the digital strategy was published at the beginning of 2018-19. Paul has helped set up Your Tech Community, a support network for staff to embed digital in their work.

“As a result, we’re seeing more staff becoming engaged with how they can use technology in their teaching,”

says Paul.

Paul’s team is also working with teaching staff and learning technology developers on implementing role specific digital training for staff. This uses storytelling to get buy-in.

“We try to understand how a member of teaching staff can use digital to make their teaching and learning better,”

says Paul.

“So, rather than staff focusing on how they should be using the kit, they think more about how the tech can be integrated into what they want to do.”

Inductions for students have become more specific too. They look at how technology can help students complete their course and gain skills for the workplace. This is aligned to the university’s organisational strategy. It prioritises providing courses and opportunities that allow students to develop the ‘Cardiff Met EDGE’ – a series of ethical, digital, global and entrepreneurial skills to prepare them for life after university.

Indeed, the ambition is for this current digital strategy, which runs to 2023, to be the university’s last.

“The Jisc digital leaders programme encouraged us to ask if we actually needed a separate digital strategy at all,”

says Paul.

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Footnotes

  • 1 Student name has been changed