2022/23 UK further education teaching staff digital experience insights survey findings
The digital experience insights survey for further education teaching staff took place between October 2022 and June 2023. Participating FE colleges and sixth form colleges were able to select their own survey period within these dates, typically a three to four week window.
There were 1,630 respondents from 22 organisations. 20 of these were based in England, one in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. These 22 organisations represent 9% of all further education providers in the UK. A separate analysis of the digital experience of teaching staff in colleges in Wales was conducted in 2022/23.
The highest number of responses from a single organisation was 218 teaching staff (33% of their total teaching staff population) and the mean number of responses was 74 per organisation (on average 28% of the total number of teaching staff in each organisation that participated). However, three of the 22 organisations contributed fewer than 20 responses.
A survey indicating the digital experience of higher education teaching staff was run simultaneously and results can be found on our 2022/23 HE teaching staff report page.
Through Jisc’s digital experience insights service, organisations can gain valuable data to inform strategic, operational and digital investment decisions, evidence year-on-year improvements and demonstrate return on investment. Organisations that take part have access to their own data to assess their unique situations as well as benchmarking data. Full information about the digital experience insights surveys is detailed on our information page.
Teaching staff from 22 further education organisations told us about their diverse experiences of using digital technologies in their teaching practice. Some clear positive themes emerged. Most participants considered the teaching environment provided to them by their college to be above average, and further education teaching staff clearly employed a wide range of technologies and tools in their teaching practice. A continued move back to primarily on campus teaching was also evident, which matched the preference of most teaching staff for teaching on campus.
Participants highlighted where improvements could be made. This was particularly apparent when we looked at the overall support offered to teaching staff for developing their skills, and the support given to staff for using particular tools, devices and platforms. Several issues spanned both on campus and off campus teaching, with poor wifi connections, a lack of suitable devices, and problems accessing systems or platforms being particularly pertinent. Many of these themes are reflected in our 2022/23 digital experience insights survey for higher education teaching staff.
We also asked teaching staff to tell us, in their own words, about the positive and negative experiences they encountered using digital technologies in their teaching. Many took advantage of the various benefits, such as the option to have a flexible workplace, collaborating and communicating with colleagues and learners, and enhancing the learning experience for learners. However, what worked for some clearly did not work for others, with some teaching staff encountering problems with engaging learners, using unsuitable devices and navigating platforms and tools underpinned by sometimes poor digital infrastructure.
With this varied digital experience, there are obvious areas for improvement, as well as areas of success which can be consolidated, to deliver a more supportive and rewarding environment for teaching staff.
A mainly supportive teaching environment but with some problems
Most teaching staff were happy with the teaching environment provided by their college. 66% rated their college’s teaching environment as above average (8% below average), although this is a slight decrease from last year’s survey. Participants recognised the benefits of a good digital environment for learners. There was broad agreement that digital technologies enabled learners to make good progress in their learning (70% agreed) and 61% agreed that technologies allowed learners to be assessed fairly.
Teaching staff were generally positive about the support provided to them to communicate effectively online (63% agreed they were supported), however, this was below the pre-pandemic level (71% agreed in 2019/20). This was mirrored in the less than half (46%) of participants who said digital technologies made them feel part of a community of staff and learners. Teaching staff in further education also felt less supported to access platforms and services off campus than they did two years ago (56% this year, 68% in 2020/21).
Teaching primarily on campus
The continued move back to on campus teaching may partially explain the decline in staff who felt supported to work off campus. Taught classes took place primarily on campus (86%), an increase of 10% from last year. Only 3% of taught classes were delivered mainly online and 11% of taught classes were a mixture of on campus and online. When we looked at preferences for teaching, there was a modest shift towards a preference for a mixture of on campus and online teaching (71% on campus, 27% a mixture).
The vast majority of teaching staff used digital technologies in their on campus teaching (96%). Fewer staff used technology at home (60%), while 8% used technology for teaching in public spaces. Teaching staff delivered a wide range of activities using digital technologies over the past academic year. This included over half of participants (52%) who delivered live lectures or classes. Teaching staff widely used online quizzes (70%), uploaded content online (70%), and employed computer-marked texts or assessments (50%). Use of tools that support more interaction between learners was less common, including support for online collaboration (27%) and taking part in or moderating online text-based discussion (14%). Use of virtual, augmented or extended reality as part of teaching remained relatively low (3%).
Connection problems on campus and off campus
Teaching staff encountered a range of difficulties while using digital technologies. In this year’s survey we began to distinguish between on and off campus issues. Of particular concern was that 46% of teaching staff dealt with poor wifi connections on campus (14% off campus). Other major areas of concern included that over a third (37%) of teaching staff had no suitable device to work with either on or off campus, and 22% had no private area to work on campus (28% overall). Moreover, just less than a quarter (38%) could not access the systems they needed for teaching either on or off campus.
Support for digital skills is mixed
Teaching staff expressed their views on the overall support for effective online teaching. We found that just over half (56%) rated the quality of support offered to them as above average, a decline from 61% in our 2020/21 survey.
We asked teaching staff if they had received support, guidance or recognition for their digital skills. In five areas, less than half of teaching staff indicated that they had received support. This included just 25% of staff who agreed that they had time to explore new digital tools and approaches, 35% who stated their digital skills training needs had been assessed, and 48% who indicated they had received guidance about the digital skills needed for their course. Figures have improved slightly over the last few years but remain relatively low. Mirroring this, only 48% of teaching staff said they had been offered training on teaching online, and only 38% said they had offered training in basic IT skills.
Data skills and awareness among teaching staff
Awareness of the collection and use of learner data by colleges is relatively good but could be improved. 62% agreed that they understood their college’s data collection practices around learner data, although 9% disagreed. Newer staff were less aware of data issues, however, as 55% of staff who had worked for a college for a year or less understood how their college collected and used learner data. When looking at support for data skills, we found that 48% of staff were offered training in keeping data secure, while only 7% were offered training in data analysis.