Mark Alexander Williams

Initial Thoughts

by Mark Williams

Had a first read through of my interview and focus group transcripts and made some notes, tried to connect some themes. It's really interesting and affirming when you read back and common terminology appears.

There is a definite connection made between technology and employability or vocational skills, with participants talking about tools such as Adobe Creative Cloud used in industry and the use of social media to build networks.

There was broad mention of the role of the Library in both physical and digital resources and in a positive and negative light, almost a love/hate relationship. Key to this seems to be having a personal interaction with a librarian/guide. Initially participants are using search engines, but then asking for this personal support to get deeper into research.

This also highlighted a broad understanding of information literacy and digital identity. Something that is echoed in my initial study of our JISC Digital Experience tracker. To me it's a surprising result as when I talk to first years they tell me that this stuff isn't being taught in schools, so that perhaps indicates that the resources and support for this in creative HE are good. Indeed, some participants praised the library support they received.

There were strong views about how we learn about new technologies, with some participants expecting to have to teach themselves and again this connection with employable skills, where students are learning by doing. This isn't stuff that is necessarily a part of the curriculum, but when challenges arise, they are often met by exploring technologies and engaging in peer support and learning. Some participants felt responsible for this, but equally some felt that they didn't know where to turn and that they needed more support from institutional resources.

Another emergent theme was poor communication within the institution and in part this was to do with email systems, but it also appears to be a cultural. Participants felt there was a lack of communication around change, and module feedback mechanisms were seen as a barrier to engagement, not something to support it. There is a suggestion that this conversation about technology isn't happening, but students do want to play a part in decisions about technology and how it affects their time at university.

There were some intriguing thoughts around the theme of technology as an enabler of distraction and procrastination, with one participant suggesting we need to "make room for procrastination" and that mobile devices can be a diversion, but also a means to let the mind wander and meander and discover new things. Their does though seem a general understanding of appropriate use of devices in teaching space, but many students found their devices best supported their learning on the move or outside the classroom.

I'm now going into the analysis phase of the study to try and code and categorise responses.