Digital… That escalated quickly

Thanks to Jisc for being a Gold sponsor at the CDN Virtual College Awards 2020. In this blog,  Jason Miles-Campbell, Head of Jisc Scotland and Jisc Northern Ireland writes about the launch of their new three-year plan to support colleges in Scotland

You wouldn’t wish a pandemic and its health effects (physical and mental) on anyone. But it’s here, and it’s changed our lives in many ways. Whilst we strive to overcome COVID-19, the spotlight has certainly turned to digital in the college world. Jisc has, of course, been busy during the past nine months, and it’s an appropriate time to flag the launch of our three-year plan to provide digital services that elevate the sector’s ability to serve people as lifelong learners.

Developed in consultation with UK-wide further education, the Jisc FE and skills strategy helps steer and support colleges in Scotland. Work on the strategy began towards the end of 2019 and has been refined to take account of the pandemic’s impact on the sector (as highlighted by the joint Jisc and AoC research project, shaping the digital future of FE and skills), and the Scottish Digital Ambition 2030 work too. The strategy introduces the ‘digital elevation model’, which will be an online self-serve tool to help providers plan and invest in a digital journey relevant to their unique circumstances. In addition, the strategy highlights the current Jisc portfolio for FE and outlines the services it will develop for the sector over the next three years.

With the welcome news of progress towards an effective vaccine, can’t we return to the pre-pandemic ‘normality’ before too long? The Digital Ambition consultation identified flexibility as a key quality for future further education delivery. Some learning will need to be done using specialist facilities timetabled on campus. However, a lot of learning might best be done anytime, anywhere, giving learners more control, and crucially, more opportunity. This preference could be down to learners being geographically distant, having life challenges which make attendance difficult, or simply down to their preferred way of learning.

Our challenge is to use digital to provide, within our resource, the flexibility of access to learning which allows even more learners to achieve and thrive. For a long time, ‘any time, any place’ access to learning was promised, whilst few inroads were made into in-person, timetabled classes. The campus will still have its place – for access to facilities, comfortable learning space, and social support. But not simply because students have been timetabled to be there.
Jisc’s dedicated further education web pages have lots more information, news and advice to support the sector – be sure to visit, sign up to the Jisc Headlines newsletter ( and follow us on social media.

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