Digital technologies are an essential part of student learning. The student digital learning experience encompasses the required technology services, supports, infrastructure, access and learning tools for ensuring graduates of post-secondary institutions have the necessary digital skills, knowledge and abilities to thrive in the world. Students need a robust, reliable, flexible, and accessible digital learning experience for their educational journey.

In 2017, a group of leaders at Vancouver Island University gathered to discuss the status of the student digital learning experience. They researched articles, explored best practices across the post-secondary landscape and discussed the state of the student digital learning experience at VIU. They hosted campus input sessions and listened to faculty, staff and students about what was required for ensuring student success with digital tools and technologies.

The requirements for success for the student digital learning experience at VIU can be categorized as follows:

Student Learning, Research and Community Engagement

  • Range of tools and technologies that are accessible, institutionally-licensed and current 
    • streaming video and storage, web conferencing, blogging and micro website platform, virtual learning environment from Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning
    • Lib Guides from library
    • co-curricular record from Student Affairs
  • Reliable technologies for learning built on robust systems and platforms
    • for teaching, learning, research and community work while providing access to excellent digital learning content, courses and experiences
    • ability to provide online and blended options where they offer genuine enhancements in learning
  • Open environments for collaboration and sharing
    • systems for community partners in learning to connect
    • platforms to build a sense of belonging in classes, courses and campus
  • Barrier-free access for all students to learn
    • multiple delivery modes and methods for learning, research and community work
    • use digital technologies to support access and inclusion of all campus community members
  • Rich digital teaching and research resources
    • digital research tools used by other institutions and industry

Supports and Services

  • Highly resourced supports and services: for all campus community members – days, evenings and weekends through email, chat, in person
    • IT Help Desk
    • Library
    • Registration & Records
    • Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning
    • Scholarly Research and Creative Activity Office
  • Essential: student portal for one-stop access
    • ease in access to tools, resources, learning, institutional services
  • Resources for design and development online/blended courses
    • supports and resources for faculty to build more learning opportunities
    • supporting use of OERs (Open Education Resources)
    • enhancing learning technology use


  • Access to Knowledge About Digital Learning Technologies, Tools and Application
    • ensure courses are embedded with digital capabilities
    • prepare students to study and work with digital technologies
    • support progress of students’ digital capabilities throughout their studies
  • Opportunities to Integrate Digital Learning Through Programs, Research and Community
    • undergraduate research, projects, experiential learning
  • Competencies for All
    • Security and Privacy
    • File Management
    • Digital Identity and Footprint
    • Media Development and Production
    • Digital Research Tools
    • Key Digital Information Literacies
  • Application of Knowledge, Skills and Competencies for Innovation and Advancement


  • Classroom Technology Needs to Meet VIU Standards for Teaching and Learning
    • AV, IT and classroom furniture standards from Teaching and Learning Spaces Standards Group
    • ensure all learning environments are current and viable for optimal learning
  • Ubiquitous Wireless and Superior Bandwidth
    • wireless is extensive throughout campus and classrooms
    • bandwidth supports all high level needs for digital content and communication
  • Robust Networks Within and Outside to Internet
    • switches, cables, network, systems are all current and support all uses
  • Infrastructure Supports 5+ Student Devices
    • VIU is able to support students bringing their own devices
  • Cloud-Based, Reliable and Flexible Infrastructure
    • leveraging the best of the cloud network and positioning tools and platforms in cloud
  • Evergreened Computers for Students and Faculty
    • classrooms, offices, support areas have up to date computers, laptops, monitors, software, printers
  • Opportunities for Digital Innovation
    • many opportunities for people to innovate (e.g., sandbox environment, innovation hub, tools, resources, projects)



2017 JISC Article: JISC Benchmarking Tool: The Student Digital Experience

This benchmarking tool is to help people improve the student digital experience at their institutions. The tool can be used at course, department, service area, Faculty or whole institution. Read each of the principles and decide which of the boxes best describes the current situation at your institution. Then look at the next box and see what you need to do for improvement. The tool is also a good starting point for discussions with faculty and students.

2017 JISC Article: Student Digital Experience Tracker: The Voice of 22,000 UK Learners

After piloting questions in 2016, the 20 question survey was completed by 22,000 UK learners from 84 institutions in 2017. Versions of the survey were given to adult community learners (ACL), students pursuing further education in non-degree programs (FE), students in degree programs in universities (HE) and solely online learners. Here are some key findings:

  • University students (HE) rely less on institutional computers than compared to college/non-degree students (FE).
  • Over 90% of FE students said they had produced work in a digital format; 4 out of 5 said they had experience working with others online
  • Over 95% of HE students said they produced work in digital format; but half had never used an educational simulation/game or polling device, online quiz to give answers in class
  • HE learners – most likely group to use the LMS to do coursework (60% FE students); 67% regularly access it via mobile device (48% FE students)
  • Learners do not report feelings of enjoyment when comes to LMS use, only 40% of HE and FE learners say they enjoy collaborative features or want their instructors to use the LMS more
  • Delivery of online assessments: between 55% and 68% agree that online assessments are delivered and managed well in their courses (f we exclude online learners – then at least 40% are either negative or neutral about online assessment)
  • 80% of HE students say they find it more convenient to submit assignments electronically (60% FE learners)
  • Fewer than half of FE and HE learners agreed they make better use of feedback if delivered digitally
  • Higher numbers of HE and FE learners agreed that e-assessment was convenient and more enjoyable and with better feedback (negative aspects related to delivery than management)
  • Learners are generally upbeat about the use of digital technology to support their learning
  • Learners on the whole do not believe that use of digital technology (to give access to course materials) makes them less likely to attend classes
  • Online learners scored more negatively with dissatisfaction with digital technology (isolated, struggle with info overload, lac of connection)
  • Just over 1/3 of all students said they were given the chance to be involved in decisions about digital services – mirrors other surveys of student engagement in decision making
  • Half of all online, FE and HE learners indicated that they were told where their personal data was stored and used
  • Bullying and harassment online: one in 5 HE learners didn’t know where to get help if bullied
  • Preparation for the digital workplace: ACL learners only 40% agreed they were prepared, FE and HE only 50%, online 56%
  • 85% of HE learners feel that digital skills will be important in their chosen career, 63% of FE learners
  • 40% of online and HE learners agreed that they had been made aware of the digital skills they need to improve upon -30% said they had not been told
  • Not enough learners are sufficiently confident in their ability to create a positive online profile, judge online content reliably or change privacy settings and manage passwords

2017 EDUCAUSE Article: ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology

The report accessed from this page is in its 14th year of publication organized by ECAR – the research group of EDUCAUSE. ECAR collaborated with 124 institutions to collect responses from 43,500 undergraduate students across 10 countries. Key findings:

  • Students rated their overall campus technology experiences favourably. Ratings of wireless network performance are highly correlated with the positive experiences students have with technology. Wi-Fi in outdoor spaces was the only item that students rated more negatively than positively.
  • When it comes to meeting technological support needs, students’ default modality is DIY. Students are more than twice as likely to figure out solutions to technology problems on their own, to search online sources, or to ask a friend than they are to use their campus help desk. Contacting the vendor or company to fix a technology problem is the last resort.
  • Students are remarkably savvy about keeping their technology secure. An overwhelming majority tend to secure their devices with passwords and PINs, using complex password protocols. Most students reported not sharingtheir devices and accounts with others, and only 1 in 10 have had devices stolen or accounts hacked in the past year.
  • Laptops are king, smartphones are queen, and tablets are on the way out. At least 19 of 20 students own a laptop or a smartphone, and 3 in 10 students own a laptop, a smartphone, and a tablet. Students view their laptop as critical to their academic success, and three-quarters of students said their smartphone is at least moderately important. Tablets appear to be in decline in terms of ownership, utility, and importance, in part because their functionality is duplicated by a combination of laptops and smartphones.
  • Students’ experiences with their instructors’ use of and approach to technology in the classroom are a mixed bag. A majority of students said most of their instructors have adequate technology skills, use technology to enhance learning, and encourage the use of collaborative technology  tools. However, students said fewer faculty use technology for sophisticated learning tasks (e.g., engagement, creative and critical thinking), and relatively few faculty ask students to use their own devices for in-class work.
  • Students are overwhelmingly pleased with the student success tools available to them. At least 80% of students think that every student success technology we asked about—from degree audit, planning, and mapping tools to early-alert systems, self-service tools, recommendations for courses, and suggestions about academic resources and about improving performance—is at least moderately useful.
  • Students are choosing sides in the online versus face-to-face debate. For the fourth year in a row, the number of students preferring a blended learning environment that includes some to mostly online components has increased. The number of students preferring completely face-to-face or completely online courses continues to dwindle. The number of students expressing no preference has been cut by more than half since 2014.
  • Students are satisfied with features of their LMS…except when they aren’t. Students have favorable opinions about the basic features and functionalities of their LMS. But, the more sophisticated the task and the more engagement required of students, the less happy they tend to be. This may be a function of the tools, the instructors who use them, or both.
  • Students would like their instructors to use more technology in their classes. Technologies that provide students with something (e.g., lecture capture, early-alert systems, LMS, search tools) are more desired than those that require students to give something (e.g., social media, use of their own devices, in-class polling tools). We speculate that sound pedagogy and technology use tied to specific learning outcomes and goals may improve the desirability of the latter.
  • Students reported that faculty are banning or discouraging the use of laptops, tablets, and (especially) smartphones more often than in previous years. Some students reported using their devices (especially their smartphones) for nonclass activities, which might explain the instructor policies they are experiencing. However, they also reported using their devices for productive classroom activities (e.g., taking notes, researching additional sources of information, and instructor-directed activities).

2016 EDUCAUSE Article: Digitization of Higher Education – Charting the Course

This article outlines eight digital capabilities for higher education institutions. Data from over 800 members is shared in terms of the average maturity level for each of the eight capabilities. Here are the eight capabilities:

  • Student success technologies (helping students explore pathways of interest, tracking student progress in chosen pathway, providing institution with tools and info to contribute to student success) – leadership and governance, collaboration and involvement, advising and student support, process and policy, info systems, student success analytics
  • E-learning (web based component, enabling collaboration and access to content beyond the classroom) – analytics, engagement, governance, security, accessibility, operational effectiveness, priority
  • Analytics (use of data, statistical analysis and explanatory/predictive models to gain insights into to act upon complex issues) – data efficacy, decision-making culture, investment, resources, policies, technical infrastructure, IR involvement
  • Research computing (services and infrastructure provided to faculty, students and research staff for purpose of performing research) – centre IT emphasis/priority, institutional emphasis, pervasiveness, tech infrastructure, physical/facilities infrastructure, centralization, support
  • IT Risk Management (identifying, prioritizing and addressing major IT risks associated with institution’s key objectives) – process and management, acceptance, investment, leadership
  • Information Security (functions and resources associated with providing information and systems security services for institution, including director, identity management, and access provisioning/deprovisioning functions and roles) – security services and operations, asset protection, systems review, policies, business continuity
  • IT Governance (decision making process to ensure effective and efficient use of technology and alignment of campus IT strategy with institution’s strat plan) – process, strategic alignment, IT investment, communication and participation
  • Culture of Innovation (nurturing an environment that continually introduces new ideas or ways of thinking, then translates them into action to solve specific problems or seize new opportunities) – leadership, communication, resource allocation, structure and process, capacity, policy, learning agenda

2015 JISC Article: Enhancing the Student Digital Experience: A Strategic Approach

This guide addresses the key challenges facing institutions and how to develop digital environments which meet students’ expectations. Four key challenging questions are identified:

  • How are you responding to the changing digital needs and expectations of your students and staff?
  • Do the experiences and the digital environment you offer to your students adequately prepare them to flourish in a society that relies heavily on digital technologies?
  • What are you doing to engage students in dialogue about digital issues and to work collaboratively with them to enhance their digital learning experience?
  • How well is the digital vision for your establishment embedded in institutional policies and strategies?