Digitally Ready

Laptop showing the Digitally Ready courseA student introduction to the Bristol virtual learning experience.

If you are a student, click here to go to the course

Digitally Ready is an easy to use, engaging opportunity for students to equip themselves with the tools and competencies needed to confidently start their online studies at Bristol. It helps them reflect on their transferable skills in online learning and identify areas they need to develop, as well as guiding them through the tools they are likely to encounter in their courses, via Blackboard. It also helps set expectations for the kind of engagement expected in virtual course spaces and online etiquette.

The course will run yearly as a pre-arrival task for new students. However, the course will be open for the entire academic year, so students can return to it whenever they need to. All students will automatically have access to this course, which will appear under their ‘My Organisations’ list on their Blackboard Homepage. They can also access it from the Blackboard Help tab, or by following this direct link to the Digitally Ready Course.

The main objectives of Digitally Ready

By the end of the course, students should be able to say:

I am aware that...

  • I already have a wealth of transferable digital skills
  • There are digital skills and competencies which I need to develop
  • I will need to engage in a variety of tools and technologies in order to successfully participate in my studies

I can...

  • Navigate the Blackboard home page and access the different tabs and know what they are for
  • Use the core Blackboard tools within my course spaces: find, access, participate by using them (where relevant)
  • Find help when I need it

I do...

  • Utilise these tools to meaningfully engage in my studies, and learning communities
  • Confidently communicate in the Bristol online environment through various modes
  • Seek out and take advantage of the help on offer to develop my own digital skills and confidence

I aim to be...

  • A valuable reflective, ethical and responsible participant in the academic community in my course
  • An active, empathetic member of the UoB community at large

Can staff access the course?

All staff members are also able to access Digitally Ready by self-enrolling onto the course. Follow this link to self-enrol onto Digitally Ready to explore it for yourself.

Digitally Ready in 2020 – how the course began

Digitally Ready was created as an induction for all UoB students during the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure that students who were less familiar with online learning had the chance to reflect on and practice the skills they would need to get started with online study.

The first iteration of Digitally Ready was available to all students in the digital induction week at the start of the 2020/2021 academic term. It aimed to boost confidence and skills using the key digital tools we use at Bristol, such as Blackboard, Ally, and Collaborate. Schools worked with us to provide video introductions to flexible and blended learning in their own contexts, as well as any specific digital induction training for school-wide tools. The course also connected students with the SU – particularly via an SU run Q&A forum – and Study Skills as an introduction to the virtual learning community and fantastic support opportunities at Bristol.

There were then two updated modules created during the academic year – one in November which focused on reflecting on the term so far and refreshing skills, and one in preparation for online assessments in January.

What did students think?

Over 10,500 students accessed the course during its first ‘run’ during welcome week 2020. The November update attracted 1,082 students, and the assessment module 1,096 students. The end of course feedback was completed by 2,458 students throughout the academic year 2020/2021. Overall, they were very positive about their experiences of using Digitally Ready – 74% rated it either 4 or 5 out of 5 when asked how useful the course was to help them start their studies. Many said they appreciated the chance to practice with some of the tools and connect to others online.

They also seemed to really engage with the materials, as we estimate 8,500 hours spent reading, over 300,000 page views, and 3,700 visits on mobile. Looking at the Study Skills online courses (four of which were linked to from Digitally Ready as well as the Welcome app) there was a huge increase in traffic compared to the same two week period the previous year. For example, in 2019 ‘Welcome to Study’ had 198 engaged users (we count engaged as sessions greater than one minute) in 2020 it had 2,746 engaged users.

In this feedback form, we also asked students how confident overall they felt using Blackboard (including Collaborate, basic navigation, using forums, etc). Before they started the Digitally Ready course, 51% said they felt either somewhat or extremely confident. After the course, this rose to:

  • 85% for Blackboard navigation
  • 76% for using discussion boards
  • 79% for using Ally to create alternative formats of documents
  • 89% for online etiquette and code of conduct
  • 84% for where to find help

What did we do next?

At the end of the 2020/2021 academic year, we used the feedback from students using the course, together with additional feedback gathered by our Student Digital Champions, to re-work some sections for 2021/2022. This work was mainly on making sure the instructions were concise, removing references to the specific situation we were in during 2020, and re-focusing the course for first-year students. We’re also creating new guidance for students on using MS Teams, and working with schools to provide updated ‘Inside your School’ welcome videos.

For returning students, we are now working to provide a new version of Digitally Ready, called ‘Reflect and Reboot’. This course will also run during welcome week, and will help students refresh their skills, reflect on what went well last year, and equip them to embrace blended and online learning for the rest of their studies. It aims to link to ongoing spaces of discussion around digital education, such as the new student-facing DEO blog ‘DigiTalk’. It will also start the conversation around how students can reflect on their digital skills in a more meaningful way, and think about how they can develop their competencies to help with their studies and beyond, into their professional lives.