The findings of the Irish National Digital Experience (INDEx) Survey were launched by the Minister for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, on Thursday 7 May. The INDEx Survey took place in autumn 2019 and saw 25,484 students and 4,445 staff who teach across 32 Irish higher education institutions help to inform and influence the future enhancement of digital teaching and learning in Irish higher education. This was the first time that both students and staff contributed to a national evidence base of this kind in Ireland.
At the launch, which had over 300 registered attendees, the Director of the National Forum, Dr Terry Maguire, discussed key implications of the INDEx findings with Alan Wall, CEO of the Higher Education Authority, Kevin McStravock, Vice President for Academic Affairs at USI, Claire McGee, Head of Education and Innovation Policy at Ibec, and Deirdre Hodson, from the digital education team at the EU Commission. Senior managers, staff and students from across a range of higher education institutions then discussed INDEx findings from the perspective of their contexts and experiences.
Before welcoming the Minister, the Chair of the National Forum contextualised the report launch for the audience: ‘This report is a major milestone in the digital journey the National Forum embarked on, with the sector, back in 2013. From the collaborative development of a national vision for building digital capacity, published in the form of a Roadmap in 2015, through various reviews, research projects and enhancement efforts across the higher education community, we have reached a point where we are well positioned to make sense of this treasure trove of insights.’
In the Minister’s welcome to the report she urged the higher education community to make the most of this new evidence base: ‘I commend the fact that the INDEx Survey features the input of both students and staff who teach. As the report mentions, developing the digital capabilities of students and staff is, without question, an interdependent endeavour and this is clear across all the INDEx findings . . . The importance of the digital lives of teachers and learners has never been more in focus than it is at the current moment . . . We have a unique dataset at a unique time, and it is up to the whole higher education community to make the most of it.’
The INDEx report includes findings across five themes:
- Digital teaching and learning practices
- Digital infrastructure
- Digital skills development and support
- Digital environment and culture
- Attitudes to digital
Findings reflect the high value students place on the use of digital technologies in their education and provide robust evidence in areas such as the importance of student and staff digital capabilities, the digital tools and activities valued within teaching and learning, how existing provision and supports meet the needs of different cohorts of students and staff, the degree to which students feel ready for the digital workplace, the policy and decision-making structures surrounding digital practice, differences between different institution types, and how Irish findings compare with comparator findings in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking on behalf of the Higher Education Authority, CEO, Dr Alan Wall said: ‘Our higher education system continues to demonstrate its ability to respond to national needs. In the most challenging of circumstances institutions have repurposed facilities, developed novel responses and meanwhile continued the day job of supporting students to progress. All this has created a new opportunity for institutions to learn, to innovate and to capture and share the experience in support of students and other stakeholders. We too are supporting this journey by continuing to promote best quality teaching and learning so institutions can use these INDEx Survey outcomes as a catalyst for growth as we exit the Covid crisis.’
The National Forum would like to extend sincere appreciation to the registrars, steering and advisory group members, student and staff volunteers, and survey contributors across our higher education community, who allowed the INDEx Survey and report to come to fruition.
Dr Terry Maguire, Director of the National Forum, welcomed the report: ‘I am delighted that we now have the INDEx findings, which provide an invaluable evidence base for future action. We will work with the higher education community to ensure that the insights from this national survey are combined with new knowledge gained from the shift to online and remote teaching and learning so that the potential of digital technologies can continue to be leveraged for the benefit of all.’
Now we know where we are, it’s time to build our future together…
The full INDEx report can be accessed here.
A summary of the main report can be accessed here.
A recording of the launch event can be accessed here.