OTLA projects explore how the digital capability of students can support staff in their use of technology in their practice

Colin Bentwood, Managing Director of the Strategic Development Network (SDN), writes how four collaborative OTLA Digital projects have explored how the digital capability of students can be harnessed to support staff in their use of technology for teaching, learning and assessment. The projects tested a variety of models of student-staff partnership.

Students worked alongside teaching practitioners as they used many different technologies to enhance their courses. The findings will be shared with the whole sector, through a toolkit that will guide organisations to use and benefit from this innovative approach. The toolkit will be available in May and will set out how the phases of the staff-student partnership process covering the planning – recruitment – launch – action – exit and progression phases. There will be two practice sharing webinars on 13 June where the four projects will explain their projects and what they learned.

OTLA digital graphic

The four projects were partnerships led by FE and ACL providers and involved work-based learning providers, trying out different approaches in their different contexts. The projects were led by Heart of Worcestershire College, City Lit, Bishop Auckland College and Basingstoke College of Technology, with over 200 students and staff members participating across the four projects. Staff involved in partnerships were teachers, lecturers and trainers, supported by learning technologists, advanced practitioners and managers.

The four projects used a broadly similar model, with various adaptations and adjustments to reflect their organisations and partners, their different uses of technology, and the types of learners.

The approaches used included:

During the set-up phase:
  • Marketing to students and staff, including information about incentives, followed by recruitment
  • Project launch and briefing for each participant
  • Agreeing activities, timescales, reporting and communication (at a partnership and project level)
  • Identifying where digital skills development would have most impact for staff
  • Reviewing digital tools, platforms and apps that could enhance learning
  • Testing shortlisted tools and agreeing which to pilot in the classroom
  • Establishing individual student-staff partnerships
For implementation and delivery:
  • Students working with staff, and with other students in their class to support the use of a variety of digital technologies
  • Integrating tools within the classroom to drive and enhance relevant learning activities
  • “In-flight” feedback, evaluation and adjustments
  • Evaluation and feedback from staff-student partnerships at the end of the project

Some examples of activities that took place are:

City Lit conducted a digital skills’ initial assessment with staff and students at the beginning – this helped to identify individual and organisational digital skills’ gaps and provided useful data to inform the specific focus of each partnership.

At Mid Kent College, an entire class of a teacher were involved. The whole class engaged in the research stage, looking for tools to suit the prerequisites specified by their teacher. After the session, two students came forward to express an interest in leading on the project – these students then became the partnership member.

City and Islington College assigned the student partners with individual responsibilities. For example, one student was responsible for creating how-to guides for the students to refer to, whilst another was given the responsibility of preparing the teacher for the session.

Basingstoke College of Technology brought in existing Digital Leaders (students in a part-time digital support role) to give advice and guidance to the student partners. The Digital Leaders were able to provide insight into what it’s like to assist staff in using technologies from a student perspective, the benefits it brought and potential challenges to overcome.

Examples and tools from all of the projects and their partners will be available in the programme toolkit that will be published around the end of May.


For more information on these projects contact, Vikki Liogier, Head of Learning Technologies at the Education & Training Foundation, or Colin Bentwood, MD at the Strategic Development Network.

For further information on the ETF’s EdTEch work visit the EdTech webpages of the ETF website.

Share this article: