Improving Digital Capability through Digital Literacies


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Digital capability is critical to learning, living and working in the C21st. The specific role of higher education, as laid out by successive UK Governments, is to equip a generation of learners with high level skills for the global knowledge economy and – more recently – lead a national recovery based around digital industries (Livingstone and Hope 2011).
Students too expect that higher education will equip them for employment in a digital economy, and for participation in a digitally-mediated society. NSS returns show that ICT facilities and support services are being more harshly judged, as students who have grown up digital – and experienced e-learning during school – expect higher standards of provision. There is evidence from the introduction of student fees in the UK that ICT provision is a factor affecting where students will choose to study (JISC/IPSOS MORI 2008).
The evidence from more than 75 proposals to the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme is that the digital learning experience is also being used as a marker of institutional distinctiveness. Universities need rethink their offer, from induction to graduation and into research careers, in terms of the digital experiences students have and the digital practices they encounter (Beetham et al, 2009).
This session will introduce tools for auditing and developing digital capability at an institutional and departmental level, including student-facing surveys, competence frameworks mapped to professional body standards, and models of organisational change. Participants will also explore a number of different models for becoming a successful digital institution, based on the outcomes of previous JISC work.
Beetham, H., Littlejohn, A. and McGill, L. (2009) Thriving in the Twenty-First Century: Report of the Learning Literacies in a Digital Age project. JISC. Available online at:
JISC/IPSOS MORI (2008) Great Expectations of ICT:
How Higher Education Institutions are measuring up. Available online at:
Livingstone, I. and Hope, A. (2011) Next Gen: transforming the UK into the world’s leading talent hub for the video games and visual effects industries, Nesta. Available online at:

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  • Improving Digital Capability through Digital Literacies

    1. 1. Improving Digital Capability through Digital Literacies PELeCON 2012 Dr. Doug Belshaw Researcher/Analyst, JISC infoNet23/04/2012 slide 1
    2. 2. Session objectives Access to, and experience of, practical tools to assess and progress digital capability across different staff roles and student groups Familiarity with how other institutions are developing unique identities and strategies Insight into how institutions are creating unique digital identities and strategies A better understanding of the relationship between digital literacies and the student experience23/04/2012 slide 2
    3. 3. Session overviewThis session will introduce tools for auditing anddeveloping digital capability at an institutional anddepartmental level, including student-facing surveys,competence frameworks mapped to professional bodystandards, and models of organisational change.Participants will also explore a number of different modelsfor becoming a successful digital institution, based on theoutcomes of previous JISC work. Image CC BY-NC-SA Simon Greig23/04/2012 slide 3
    4. 4. Part I Background23/04/2012 slide 4
    5. 5. ContextMany learners enterfurther and highereducation lacking theskills needed to applydigital technologies toeducation.As 90% of new jobswill require excellentdigital skills,improving digitalliteracy is anessential componentof developingemployablegraduates.23/04/2012 slide 5
    6. 6. What is our definition of digital literacy? We’re working with colleges and universities to embed core digital skills into the curriculum. By digital literacy we mean those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society: for example, the skills to use digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; as part of personal development planning; and as a way of showcasing achievements.23/04/2012 slide 6
    7. 7. What have we learned to date? 2006-08 – Learners experiences of e-learning programme Students success depends on strategies for integrating ICT into academic practice; students strategies and preferences differ widely 2009 – Learning Literacies for a Digital Age study Digital literacy needs to be integrated across the curriculum: learners develop through authentic tasks in meaningful situations 2010 – Supporting Learners in a Digital Age Nine institutional case studies in developing learners digital capabilities: listening to and responding to learners as a theme 2011 – Digital literacy workshop series Cascading outcomes of LliDA and SLIDA: tools for organisational and curriculum development; sharing best practice 2011-13 – Developing Digital Literacies programme Funded institutional projects, integrating digital literacy development across the board; community consultation23/04/2012 slide 7
    8. 8. Enhancing the student experience Getting access to Integrating diverse learning opportunities living/learning experiences Being able to learn fluently across technologies and contexts Knowing what I need to know, and how to express it Being a participant in the digital learning community Having critical judgement in relation to digital means and media Building academic/professional23/04/2012 digital identity8 slide
    9. 9. Improving graduate attributes Sense making Computational thinking Social intelligence New media literacy Adaptive thinking Cognitive load Cross-cultural management competency Transdisciplinarity Virtual collaboration Design mindset Davies, A., Fidler, D., Gorbis, M. (2011) Future Work Skills 2020. Institute for the Future, for the University of Phoenix Research Institute. University of Phoenix.23/04/2012 slide 9
    10. 10. Why digital literacy? Fair access and opportunity (digital technology reduces some barriers/inequalities,can introduce others) Impacts of digital technology on practice (research, teaching, learning, professionalism, knowledge transfer, development) New demands on the sector (graduate attributes and outcomes, the learning experience, lifelong learning)23/04/2012 slide 10
    11. 11. Part II JISC Developing Digital Literacies Programme23/04/2012 slide 11
    12. 12. Developing Digital Literacies ProgrammeA sector-wide programmepromoting the developmentof coherent, inclusive andholistic institutional strategiesand organisationalapproaches for developingdigital literacies for staff andstudents in UK further andhigher education.23/04/2012 slide 12
    13. 13. Developing Digital Literacies Programme  University of Greenwich  University of Bath  University of the Arts London  University College London  University of Exeter  Oxford Brookes University  Coleg Llandrillo Cymru  Cardiff University  University of Plymouth  Worcester College of Technology  University of Reading  Institute of Education, London23/04/2012 slide 13
    14. 14. Engagement with Sector Bodies JISC is working in collaboration with sector bodies and professional associations to:  Gather information and user requirements  Develop professional frameworks and practices  Synthesise and validate outcomes from the programme  Raise awareness and consult widely with stakeholders23/04/2012 slide 14
    15. 15. Engagement with Sector Bodies The sector bodies and professional  Organisational Development in associations JISC is working with Higher Education Group initially include: (ODHE)  Standing Conference on  Association for Learning Academic Practice (SCAP) Development in Higher Education  Staff Development Forum (ALDinHE) (SDF)  Association for Learning  Staff and Educational Technology (ALT) Development Association  Association of University (SEDA) Administrators (AUA)  Society of College, National  Heads of Educational and University Libraries Development Group (HEDG) (SCONUL)  Vitae23/04/2012 slide 15
    16. 16. Design StudioThe JISC DesignStudio is a developingset of resources forinstitutions to use andshare, including: Tools Resources Research papers References Project resources Project outputs23/04/2012 slide 16
    17. 17. JISC e-Learning Programmes blog The JISC e-Learning Programmes blog includes information from the Developing Digital Programme, including:  Outputs from projects  Contributions from experts  Details of upcoming and past events relating to programmes http://elearningprogs.jiscinvolve.org23/04/2012 slide 17
    18. 18. JISC Mail listJISC-DIGLIT-PUBLICis a JISC Mail list forthose interested indigital literacies butnot directly involved inthe JISC DevelopingDigital Literaciesprogramme.Resources,opportunities forfunding, and generalinformation about theprogramme are postedon a regular basis.23/04/2012 slide 18
    19. 19. Project blogs The projects funded by the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme all have blogs. The RSS feeds from these project blogs are aggregated at a Netvibes page.23/04/2012 slide 19
    20. 20. Part III Initial findings from Baseline Synthesis report (written by Helen Beetham, JISC Digital Literacies consultant)23/04/2012 slide 20
    21. 21. Difficulty of benchmarking complex practices“The practices we are most concerned to develop arecritical to institutions - the core practices of learningand teaching, research and knowledge transfer, andthe necessary administrative and managerial activitiesthat support them. Such complex practices areextremely difficult to benchmark, and there is atemptation to focus on issues that are more amenableto measurement such as access to and use of specifictechnologies.” Image CC BY-SA nerovivo23/04/2012 slide 21
    22. 22. Major barriers to digital literacies (1) Time – both staff and students perceive that they lack time to practice and become proficient in new technologies, even if they are generally aware of their potential. Transferability – although the majority of students are comfortable with using digital technology for social and personal ends, they can struggle to transfer these skills to academic study. Assumption – many staff believe that students are digitally ready, an assumption which is challenged when they set students specific tasks to do Motivation – there is low take-up of learning opportunities that are obviously skills-based as students can see them as remedial, irrelevant to their main programme of study23/04/2012 slide 22
    23. 23. Major barriers to digital literacies (2) Conflicting beliefs of academic staff – there are fundamental debates over how far digital technology is spoon feeding students and whether traditional academic methods have value that should be asserted as an alternative to habits of reliance on digital technology Overload – a sense of being overwhelmed by the availability of information and services, and the pace of technological change Digital divide – a minority of staff and students have real problems accessing digital technology, either for reasons of background, culture, previous educational experience, or simply a lack of means. Image CC BY-NC-SA Norma Desmond23/04/2012 slide 23
    24. 24. Assumptions around digital literacy development“But while the best tutors clearly do address personalreadiness for study and even provide guidance ondigital study practices, many others expect studentsto progress simply by engaging in their coursework: At the beginning of the [dissertation] year [academic literacy] is pretty dire but by the end when they’ve completed it they improved a 100% from where they were. To some extent, part of that is that they are actually up against it and they’ve got to get it sorted. Image CC BY-NC-SA alandberning23/04/2012 slide 24
    25. 25. BYOD“The philosophy of bring your own device is beingextended to bring your own services and even bringyour own skills, as most staff and students haveachieved basic levels of digital access and arechoosing technologies for themselves. This rationale,however, is not always expressed clearly, and norare policies always in place to identify and supportthose with less digital capital to draw on.” Image CC BY Adam Selwood23/04/2012 slide 25
    26. 26. Marginalisation through technology?“There is nowhere for most students to find out whatdevices are required, expected, or recommended fortheir course, or having invested in a device, how bestto use it to support their studies. Students who lackdigital capital of all kinds – devices, know-how andpositive experiences with technology – risk beingmarginalised.” Image CC BY CarbonNYC23/04/2012 slide 26
    27. 27. Mobile technologies“Students use of mobile technologies is beingacknowledged in the support for mobile networks andthe use of text messaging, for example, to provideupdates on the timetable or reminders of overduelibrary books, but there are very few examples of itbeing used for reciprocal communication or fordata capture i.e. in learning and teaching contexts.” Image CC BY Dominik Syka23/04/2012 slide 27
    28. 28. University of PlymouthAt the University of Plymouth, support for the development ofdigital literacy is provided by:Computing Services | IT Training and Skills Development |Faculty Support and Strategy | Educational Development |Learning Development | Employability Centre/Careers |Learning and Research Development | Library | DisabilityASSIST | Extra-curricular Learning Support | WideningParticipation | Work-based learning team | Technology-Enhanced Learning Team | Media HubEach service supports a different aspect of digitalcapability or a different context of digital participation. Image CC BY-NC-SA foto_mania23/04/2012 slide 28
    29. 29. Co-ordination of digital literacies in FE“In FE, support for students digital literacy isgenerally better coordinated, perhaps because ofthe small size of colleges and small number ofprofessional staff involved in student support, orperhaps because of the focus on individual studentslearning needs. Support tends to be provided in awider range of formats, from training sessions throughonline support to hand-outs and videos.” Image CC BY-NC-SA scalefreenetwork23/04/2012 slide 29
    30. 30. Part IV What forward-thinking institutions are doing (taken from report by Helen Beetham, JISC consultant)23/04/2012 slide 30
    31. 31. StrategyThe most forward thinking universities and colleges are: Creating opportunities for digital issues to be discussed across policy arenas. This might mean appointing a digital champion whose remit crosses existing strategic boundaries, or providing forums where senior managers meet to discuss digital challenges and opportunities Ensuring strategies translate into practical actions and include indicators of success Drawing on the lessons and legacies of previous change initiatives at the institution Describing carefully what is meant by digital literacy or digital capability or similar terms where they appear as aspirations Involving students in strategic thinking23/04/2012 slide 31
    32. 32. Developing capabilityForward thinking universities and colleges are: Providing face to face training in the use of academic systems Embedding key technologies, methods and aptitudes into programmes of study Articulating learning and teaching practices clearly, so that students can anticipate digital requirements Identifying sources of digital disadvantage and planning to remediate them Sustaining role-specific support networks, for example around specialist technologies, practices or roles Offering clear rewards to staff and students for developing and sharing their digital expertise Creating technology mentor or champion roles where appropriate23/04/2012 slide 32
    33. 33. Support and professional servicesForward thinking universities and colleges are: addressing the digital capability of professional staff working across professional and support services to articulate what digital capabilities students should be developing if they are to be successful in their studies involving students in supporting other students development, and even reverse-mentoring staff providing students with clear signposts to support and guidance23/04/2012 slide 33
    34. 34. Cultures and attitudesForward thinking universities and colleges are: explicitly rewarding innovation in learning, teaching and scholarship; recognising students digital cultures and identities while making explicit the practices of academic spaces (e.g. peer review, positive critique, language, referencing); enabling departments and professional services to evolve their own definitions of digital capability and their own means of developing it (but also); providing cross-departmental forums for sharing learning, teaching and research ideas; involving students as digital ambassadors and change agents. Image CC BY Aunt Owwee23/04/2012 slide 34
    35. 35. Going furtherMore information and links toJISC resources can be foundat the links provided in yourhandout. slide 35
    36. 36. © HEFCE 2011The Higher Education Funding Council for England,on behalf of JISC, permits reuse of this presentationand its contents under the terms of the Creative CommonsAttribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UKEngland & Wales Licence. slide 36