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Innovative approach to digital support receives praise from Teesside University students

11 March 2021 @TeessideUni


A partnership which has provided welcome digital support during the pandemic has been widely praised by Teesside University students.

At the start of the academic year, through its Advance Scheme, funds were made available to students so they could purchase mobile data and hot-spot devices to enable them to access their learning remotely.

The support has been invaluable for many students who have used the funding in a variety of ways – from keeping in touch with family and friends, to accessing assessments and assignments online.

The Advance Scheme is part of Teesside University’s Future Facing Learning initiative and sees the majority of undergraduate students provided with an ipad and specialist toolkit of apps.

In addition, they also receive £100 credit each academic year, up to a maximum of £300 in three years, which they have traditionally used to purchase online books and learning resources.

Working in partnership with JS Group, a leading provider of resources to assist student study, meant the Advance scheme could be quickly adapted and students have now been able to use their credit to purchase bespoke digital support, with Teesside the first higher education institution to use the credit allowance in this way.

Since September, over 100 orders have been placed by Teesside University students for additional digital data. It was used to help students with limited internet connectivity, to enable them to study while on the move, to keep in touch with family during the pandemic and, primarily, to ensure nobody has been digitally disadvantaged.

BSc (Hons) Paramedic Practice student Luke Clarke said: “The mobile data top-up has taken a strain off my mind - especially having all the family at home. Having my own internet access means I can access my classes without any worry.”

Martin Oracko, who is studying BEng (Hons) Civil Engineering, added: “The mobile data enabled me to connect multiple devices to the internet which made university work so much easier – it has been a great addition to the scheme.”

Steven Elvish is studying BSC (Hons) Cybersecurity and Networks and said: “The Advance Scheme has been great this year, from books to mobile top-ups, it is a fantastic aid to have at any time, but has been invaluable during lockdown.”

The Advance Scheme has been great this year, from books to mobile top-ups, it is a fantastic aid to have at any time, but has been invaluable during lockdown.

Steven Elvish is studying BSC (Hons) Cybersecurity and Networks

The positive reaction to the Advance Scheme is more evidence of Teesside University’s success in digital teaching and learning which, last year, saw it named as the first European higher education institution to become an Adobe Creative Campus in recognition of its commitment to promoting digital literacy across all courses and areas of study.

Professor Mark Simpson, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) at Teesside University, believes the pandemic has shone a spotlight on digital learning, with universities having to transition online, and that a blended approach may be adopted permanently in the future.

He said: “For us, embedding digital learning opportunities has been an integral part of our teaching and learning model for some time. We established a Future Facing Learning Framework as part of our 2020 strategy. With digital empowerment as a core element, it has transformed delivery of teaching and learning as well as how we engage with students.

“This has been underpinned by a large-scale digital transformation programme, which includes the Advance Scheme, as well as a mandatory digital development programme for all teaching staff.

“All of this work has positioned us favourably and although the move to remote learning was a necessity borne out of the lockdown, it has been a catalyst for further innovation.

“We appreciate the positive support we have received from JS Group and all our partners in relation to the success of the Advance scheme.”

Peter Gray, Chair and CEO of JS Group added: “It has been a real pleasure to be a partner on the Teesside Advance Scheme that has done such an important job in equipping students for their studies and in responding positively and effectively in addressing digital poverty. This year has proved the worth of Teesside Advance in terms of helping students transitioning to online learning and it is a great model for other universities to follow.”