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</Ensuring interactive learning from home with Exeter’s IoC Summer School>

Published on 22 October 2020 by web editor

Case Studies

UK employers are increasingly looking to recruit people with digital skills into their workforce, with 82% of all job listings now requiring digital skills[1]. For university learners studying non-computing degrees, it can be challenging to learn these skills. The University of Exeter’s Summer School series, which was designed with support from the Institute of Coding (IoC), is now changing this. In just three weeks, undergraduates and post-graduates from non-tech backgrounds are able to develop vital digital skills.

The need for employers to find a greater number of people with digital skills is well-reported, with nine out of 10 (88%) reporting a shortage last year [2]. Increasingly, roles not traditionally associated with tech require some level of digital skills. Now in its third year, the University of Exeter’s Summer School is just one important way in which IoC partners are helping to address this.

Normally taught face-to-face in Exeter’s Q-Step Centre, this year’s programme was converted for online delivery in response to COVID-19.  In June and July, participants from 15 universities across the UK attended the summer school where they learnt important new skills through three week-long practical coding courses, focussing on developing skills in social data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Participants at the Exeter’s 2020 online Summer School

Learner engagement is key

We know from our research that making courses more flexible and accessible can encourage a much wider group of learners into digital skills education [3]. Feedback from previous learners led to a focus on encouraging active participation in Exeter’s Summer School courses, as bootcamps moved online. 

With careful planning, detailed instructions and signposting, Exeter created a successful digital version of the Summer School. The virtual classroom included live coding, guest speakers, break-out group discussions, traditional lectures, group projects and learner presentations.

The essential role of employer input

To equip people with the skills sought by employers, IoC courses and events are developed in collaboration with its large network of employers, educators, and outreach organisations. Businesses including Microsoft, DAZN, YouGov, BBC and Sky News all gave their time to deliver guest speaker presentations and Q&A sessions at the Summer School, enabling learners to get a feel for how the combination of a degree, and additional digital skills could improve their employability.

Participants attended one, two or all three of the week-long courses, depending on their availability and area(s) of interest. For each completed module, learners received a digital badge, signifying the new knowledge gained. Those badges and can be added to CVs, boosting future employability. Over the past three years, more than 100 people from non-computing courses, have enrolled for the University of Exeter’s Summer School – their feedback demonstrates the value of the Summer School to its participants:

“There is a tech skills deficit, particularly among arts student. This course was really good for providing a crash course understanding. And now I will be taking part in other courses to consolidate what I’ve learnt in order that I have these tech skills are well honed.” (Female, Liberal Arts, attended Blocks 1 and 2).

“I thought the week I attended (Block 3, AI and Machine Learning) was absolutely fascinating. It was a really well-blended mix of lectures, practical work and guest lectures. A brilliant course with fantastic teachers and I’m sad it’s over!” (Male, Engineering, attended Block 3)

Programmes like this enable a more diverse group of people to consider tech careers.

If you or your company are interested in partnering with the IoC, please email us at ioc@bath.ac.uk.


[1]  DCMS, 2019. No Longer Optional: Employer Demand for Digital Skills

[2] Open University, 2019. Bridging the Digital Divide

[3] Institute of Coding and Deloitte, 2020. Diversifying Digital

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