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Designing and reading: “Why should I bother?” Engaging learners in digital literacy skills development – challenges for learning design -- 135 -- Short (oral) Paper


09:00 - 10:00 on Thursday, 13 September 2012 in 4.204

In today's environment it is vital for learners to develop digital literacy skills (defined by the European Commission as confident and critical use of ICT for work, leisure, learning and communication). The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education requires graduates to be able to demonstrate digital literacy. Employers consider these skills essential. And, with the personal cost of university education rising dramatically, learners themselves increasingly expect courses to demonstrate relevance to the workplace and fitness for purpose in the real-world.

In recent years the Open University's Faculty of Health & Social Care has evolved different approaches to digital literacy skills development for its health and social care learners. Ten years ago many learners arrived with little experience and low confidence in using ICT. However, the need for ICT skills within certain work-based learning modules put pressure on learners to engage in skills development despite low motivation. Since ICT skills resources provided by the wider university were not sufficiently supportive for these learners, tailor-made resources were developed. These provide detailed guidance and tasks ‘contextualised’ within each module, emphasising the relevance of skills to the subject or work-based setting. As requirements to develop digital literacy skills became mainstream across the faculty, a more sustainable solution for other modules became necessary. Resources were developed for an online repository that are more generic, shareable across modules, and easier to maintain and update. But despite this provision, some learners choose not to engage fully in digital literacy skills development, instead prioritising the subject-specific content of their modules.

The Evaluating Approaches to Developing Digital Literacy Skills project is confronting this reality by exploring the effectiveness of different learning designs in three modules, via learner perceptions of their skills development experiences, with data collected from questionnaires (n=298) and interviews (n=18).

We aim to identify:

  • why some learners fail to perceive the relevance of digital literacy skills development.
  • learners’ needs and preferences in relation to learning design features.
  • key factors affecting learner engagement.

Our results highlight:

  • learner attitudes to the role of ICT in work and everyday life and to learning design features, such as the use of generic versus module-specific resources and the degree of contextualisation.
  • relationships between attitudes/engagement and aspects of learners themselves, such as gender, previous experience, confidence, and their work setting.
  • This information will enable us to optimise our learning designs, better support our learners, make more explicit the benefits to employability, and thereby increase learner engagement.

    Our presentation will interest educators involved in designing skills activities, the development of digital literacy, or technology-enhanced learning in general. Although our shareable skills activities are not Open Educational Resources (OERs), similar principles apply, making our findings relevant to learning design in modules using OERs.



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    Slides from my presentation attached.

    Saturday, 15 September 2012, 12:56