This is the second of three blog postings about key themes emerging from early on in our study.
Our second theme is: Technology is under exploited
- Variation in practices and understanding of potential of technologies – by institutions, students and employers
- Institutions could do a lot more to unleash student creativity in using digital networks/media to engage with employers, alumni…
- Digital literacies underplayed for underpinning employability skills
- Employers and HE/FE generally have low aspirations in relation to “digital entrepreneurialism”
- Technology issues e.g. lack of integration, lack of mobility of data
- Variation in degree of data collection/analytics
Variation in practices and understanding of potential of technologies – by institutions, students and employers
Despite our finding some wonderfully creative uses of technology to support student employability, there does appear to be wide variation in practices and understanding of how to use it effectively. For instance, there are a range of examples of using e-portfolios, some to good effect, but it does appear that this technology is generally not being used to anywhere near its full potential. Universities seem to struggle with the concept of e-portfolios. Another example is the use of social media – in my view students are not using it to anywhere near its potential to engage and network with stakeholders such as employers and alumni. Perhaps this is because they see it more as something for their social lives – in fact, we often hear of cases where students set up separate Facebook groups (outside of the VLE) but don’t want tutors to intrude into this space.
Institutions could do a lot more to unleash student creativity in using digital networks/media to engage with employers, alumni…
Building on this idea that students could utilise social media to better engage with employers, institutions could do more to facilitate this. As an example, I’m hoping to kick-off a project to get students working on a real employer/sector issue – in the automotive supply chain – to help SMEs to use social media to recruit students to jobs and careers and thereby address a real issue of skill shortages within SMEs.
Digital literacies underplayed for underpinning employability skills
When we’ve looked at how different institutions are defining and shaping employability skills, there is not that much emphasis on digital literacies – nor is there much alignment of digital skills with employability skills. For instance, “team-working” and “communications” are typical employability skills and they are often illustrated through indicators such as “contributing ideas in a team”, “improving your team behaviour” – with no reference to digital skills & practices e.g. “keeping up-to-date with collaboration, communication and information management tools, “influencing team members to use collaboration tools”. To my mind, we should be equipping graduates with such digital literacies, but we must also help them to make the link between such digital skills and employability skills.
Employers and HE/FE generally have low aspirations in relation to “digital entrepreneurialism”
Having worked across both the HE and private sectors, I still find it amazing that there is frequently a significant communications gap between IT departments and other employers (& often with senior managers). I have a thesis (though admittedly it’s unproven) that HE in particular could help employers to be far more entrepreneurial using digital technologies – though we need to equip graduates with the capabilities, aspiration and confidence to become digital entrepreneurs in their jobs – working to influence and shape how digital media can be better utilised in more creative and entrepreneurial ways. I would certainly like to hear from anyone who feels the same way and who would like to help explore this idea further.
Technology issues e.g. lack of integration, lack of mobility of data
Previous studies have found the issue of technology integration and mobility of data (e.g. student e-portfolio data) to be an issue and we haven’t really found out anything to indicate if this is changing.
Variation in degree of data collection/analytics
Data collection and analytics is a relatively new area and there is another Jisc study looking into this – the only thing we can add from our research is that we have not yet come across any good examples of such analytics being applied to employability skills – but are very keen to hear otherwise.
The blog-post three themes:
- Theme 1 (of 3) – Institutions are on various points of the continuum towards student employability “maturity”
- Theme 2 (of 3) – Technology is under exploited
- Theme 3 (of 3) – Insufficient engagement and partnership working