Building digital capability community of practice – November 2019

I’m pleased to be able to share the presentations from our most recent Building digital capability community of practice event held on the 27th November in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. Please see our event page for the full agenda and summaries of each session. Please see links to the presentations below:

Please note regarding the accessibility of these resources: We want as many people as possible to be able to access these resources. We know that not all of these presentations are fully accessible and are working with our contributors to address this. If you have any difficulties with any of the resources please email the team at and we will do our best to meet your needs.

Our next building digital capability community of practice event will be on 21 May 2020 and will be kindly hosted by the University of Northampton. Further details will be released on our community of practice web page (opens in new window) in the new year.

Defining digital wellbeing

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term “digital wellbeing”?  For some it might be email overload, fake news, fitness tracker bands or the Google app that lets you “see a complete picture of your digital habits and disconnect when you want to”.  There are many connotations, bringing both positive and negative aspects of technology and how it affects our lives.

For us, in the Jisc digital capability team, “digital wellbeing” is one of the elements of the digital capability framework. It was originally defined as:

“The capacity to look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings; to use digital tools in pursuit of personal goals (e.g. health and fitness) and to participate in social and community activities; to act safely and responsibly in digital environments; to negotiate and resolve conflict; to manage digital workload, overload and distraction; to act with concern for the human and natural environment when using digital tools. An understanding of the benefits and risks of digital participation in relation to health and wellbeing outcomes.”

Revising the definition

Recently we have revisited the definition as we wanted to broaden it to not only focus on the individual but also include a broader societal and institutional perspective.

Having conducted a short study, we have presented our revised definition of digital wellbeing at the APT conference in London in July 2019. It was very interesting to get feedback as well as hear about main institutional and individual challenges in this area.


We recognise that digital wellbeing is a complex concept that can be viewed from a variety of perspectives and has several aspects within a range of contexts and hope that the new definition covers that:

“Digital wellbeing considers the impact of technologies and digital services on people’s mental, physical and emotional health.

We can view this from an individual perspective in personal, learning or work contexts. This means understanding and identifying the positive and negative impacts of engaging with digital activities and being aware of ways to manage and control these to improve wellbeing.

We can also view digital wellbeing from a broader societal or organisational perspective where service providers need to recognise and take responsibility for ensuring that digital systems, services or content are well managed, supported, accessible and equitable. They also need to empower and build capability in their staff, service users and partners to engage with these in a way that supports and or improves their wellbeing.”

Get involved

We would love to hear your feedback on the new definition of digital wellbeing as well as hear about what support colleges and universities need in supporting the digital wellbeing of their staff and students. Please post comments below, via Twitter #digitalwellbeing or email (

We will be introducing our work around digital wellbeing at ALT-C (Wednesday 15.30 in the main hall). For further discussions and a briefing paper sharing the outcomes of our work so far please join us at the digital capability community of practice event in Edinburgh on 27th November. You can also follow this work by subscribing to our new mailing list.

Launch of new question set in discovery tool on accessibility and inclusion

We are delighted to launch a new question set for subscribers to our digital capability service. The questions focus on accessibility and inclusion and are aimed at staff working in educational institutions. This is very timely as institutions are working to meet the requirements of the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) Accessibility Regulations 2018.

The question set takes a much broader consideration of accessibility and inclusion which is about making sure that technologies, content and services can be used equitably by all staff and students. The sections relate and map directly to the digital capability framework as indicated in brackets after the seven section headings below:

  • accessibility and effective working (digital proficiency, digital productivity)
  • accessibility and producing content (digital creativity)
  • accessibility and resources (information and media literacy)
  • accessibility and problem solving (data literacy, digital research and problem solving, digital innovation)
  • accessibility and relationships (communication, collaboration and participation)
  • accessibility and supporting others (digital teaching)
  • accessibility and self development (digital learning, digital wellbeing, digital identity management)

Subscribers will be able to download a description of these section headings and the questions from the website.

Developing the question set

We gathered together an expert review team to develop the question set over a two month period. This included people from HE and FE, Jisc accessibility experts and specialists in accessibility. This team used the digital capabilities framework and role profiles to identify section headings and activities relating to these. From these the review group developed the questions and feedback. They also helped to identify appropriate resources to support this question set.

We also had a secondary review process to refine the question set by getting feedback from Jisc digital capability team members and interested individuals who subscribe to the service who would be using the question set with their staff.

How to use the question set

Our guidance documentation offers ideas and possible ways to use discovery tool question sets with staff. These questions are designed to help staff consider and reflect on accessibility and inclusion issues in relation to their own job role, although we acknowledge that they may have skills and knowledge gained outside work that could be used to respond to questions.

On completion of the 14 questions staff receive a detailed report which identifies a level – developing, capable or proficient  for each section and offers suggested next steps that they could take to enhance their capability in each area. They are expected to select the most appropriate steps for their personal needs and might consult with managers about this to develop a plan that fits with their continuing professional development (CPD).

Each section in the report will include some suggested resources that might be useful. People can also browse a larger resource bank within the discovery tool to follow up specific areas they choose.

This is a complex area for staff as it covers a wide range of different individual needs, technologies, legal requirements and possible solutions to increase inclusion.  We hope that this question set will help to break down some of the issues into more manageable focus areas and offer ideas to enhance capabilities in this area. The terminology around accessibility and inclusion can be challenging so we have made sure that our discovery tool glossary offers some explanation of the terms used in the question set. We have also added a link to the glossary from the introduction page for the questions.

if you would like further information about the digital capability service and how you can access the discovery tool, please complete this form to find out more.

Looking ahead to ALT-C 2019: Data dialogue and doing

In my role as head of change for student experience at Jisc, ALT-C is one of conferences I look forward to the most each year. The conference offers a valuable opportunity to find out about current practice in universities and colleges, and to learn about some of the challenges associated with technology-enhanced learning.

Each year, the conference brings together staff from across the UK and internationally who are innovating their practice, and this is a great opportunity to network and share ideas. After the summer break, I find the conference energises me for the new academic year ahead. I am particularly looking forward to hearing this year’s inspirational keynotes from Sue Beckingham, Ollie Bray and Jesse Stommel.

This year’s conference theme of ‘Data, dialogue and doing’ reflects some key areas of work at Jisc. At ALT-C, my team will be presenting sessions on the evidence-informed guidance we can offer, providing insights from the data we are collecting to facilitate dialogue and enable the ‘doing’.

We are looking forward to launching the ‘Digital experience insights survey 2019: findings from students in UK further and higher education’ report at 11:30 on Tuesday 3 September. This gives a summary of the high-level findings from 29,531 students. We are delighted to have support from Shakira Martin, outgoing president of National Union of Students (NUS) and head of student experience at Rose Bruford College. In the foreword to this year’s report, Shakira highlights the importance of actively engaging students in discussions about technology, and the importance of preparing all students for a digital workplace.

As our digital experience insights student survey has been running since 2016, we are gathering a valuable longitudinal data set on how students’ expectations and experiences of technology are evolving. This data is key in informing colleges and universities how their digital environment is being used by both staff and students. With high investment in technology and supporting infrastructure, it is vital that organisations have evidence of impact, and that they recognise the benefits of co-designing the digital environment in partnership with staff and students.

This impact will be discussed in our workshop, ‘The value of an evidence-based approach to creating a digitally enabled organisation’. Taking place on Tuesday at 13:30 and led by Clare Killen, we will hear from Drew McConnel, University of Glasgow, and Derek Robertson, University of Stirling. Drew and Derek will be sharing their experiences of how data from the digital experience insights surveys is informing the development of their digital strategies.

On Wednesday at 12:15, we will continue to explore how students are using technology to support their learning, with Tabetha Newman and Helen Beetham discussing their research into creating functional digital student personas based on the outcomes from our digital experience insights data.

Our other area of focus, which is still identified as one of the key challenges for universities and colleges, is how we can support staff and students with the development of their digital capabilities. This challenge has also been identified through our digital experience insights surveys, and it’s one we are working closely with the sector to address. Through our building digital capability service we are supporting organisations with tools and resources to help staff and students better understand their levels of digital capability, and how these can be developed further using our discovery tool.

Although supporting individuals with their digital skills is an immediate priority, it’s also essential that organisational digital capability is developed. On Thursday at 14:00, Lisa Gray will be launching our new organisational digital capabilities maturity model. This model can be used by organisations to support their development of a holistic approach to building digital capability, with good practice principles based on our digital capability organisational framework.

An element we have been researching within our digital capability framework is digital wellbeing. On Wednesday at 15:30, Alicja Shah will introduce this work and offer a taste of the supporting guidance we will be sharing later this year. You can follow this work by subscribing to our new mailing list, and by joining us on 27 November for our digital capability community of practice event in Edinburgh, where we will be discussing this theme.

I am looking forward to being inspired at the ALT-C conference, to meeting new colleagues and sharing our work. Please do visit the team on the Jisc stand, and we hope you will join us for some of our sessions so we can work with you to support your practice.

How the discovery tool can be used with students

The discovery tool is part of the Jisc  Building digital capability service which provides research-informed tools and resources to help staff and students thrive with their use of digital tools and services in their learning, at work and in personal activities. Several institutions are already receiving the benefits of subscribing to this service. If you are not a subscriber you can find out more on the service website (link provided above).

The primary aims of the discovery tool are to support reflection, raise awareness and empower users (both staff and students) to manage their own digital development. In relation to students we have carefully designed question sets to achieve these aims with input from teachers and students.

The discovery tool has three question sets for students.

  • New Students
  • Current students (Further education and skills)
  • Current students (Higher education)

student-question sets

These questions sets are intended to be part of an ongoing dialogue with students about their digital skills, how these will be developed on their course and what they will need for a future workplace.

On completion of the appropriate question set students are presented with a detailed feedback report with suggested next steps and links to resources.

They are not intended to be used by students without any support or input – Jisc anticipates that institutions will encourage students to undertake the questions and share the results for example within lessons, personal tutor sessions or career conversations.

About the questions

We have designed the questions to focus on digital practices that students will probably encounter during their studies and have tried to use accessible and familiar language. We ask users to respond about their own digital practices. We attach very little weight to self-reported confidence, but we do expect learners to report accurately on which digital activities they undertake routinely.

The questions and feedback encourage students to think about new practices and nudge them towards trying them out.

The discovery tool takes a generic approach – different subject areas offer students opportunities to develop subject or profession specific capabilities as students’ progress through the course, but the questions focus on activities that all students may do.

Questions for new students

The question set for new/incoming students aims to introduce students to digital learning, both in terms of the activities they may need to engage with and the challenges that this may bring. It encourages them to consider the kinds of skills they will need to be an effective digital learner and highlights the fact that this will be an ongoing process as they progress through their course.

Questions and feedback aim to help them identify any individual preferences and needs that they may need to articulate to the institution, particularly around disability and physical or mental health needs. Like all the question sets in the discovery tool, this question set is not intended to be a ‘measure’ of their digital capabilities. It is very important that new students do not feel that they are being assessed, but that they are being supported to prepare for digital learning. This question set is mapped to the digital capability framework but at the top-level elements because we felt it was important not to overwhelm students at an early stage.

Questions for current students

The question set for current students is like the staff ‘explore your overall digital capabilities’ question set (with a few differences). It is mapped to the sub-elements of the framework and has sixteen sections. Two of the digital learning and teaching elements were adapted for the student question set to include ‘preparing for digital learning’ and ‘digital learning activities’. We also added an element specific to students ‘digital skills for work’. This question set is more comprehensive than the new student set and aims to encourage students to consider their digital capabilities across a range of activities that they may be encountering as a learner.

Tracking progress of students

The discovery tool offers a range of data visualisations which are very important to our subscribers. In relation to tracking student progress with digital capabilities there are challenges in having two different question sets.

Both question sets have different functions and are not comparable in a pure data sense, although we expect them to make sense to students as they are both rooted in our framework and move from a broad perspective to a more detailed reflection.

Suggested approach

It is up to institutions to decide how to use the student question sets within their own context. For undergraduates, institutions may find it useful to ask (and support) students to complete the ‘New student’ questions as part of a managed induction, where they are introduced to the kinds of digital learning activities they may encounter during their studies and help them identify and articulate any specific needs.

At the end of the first year, they could be asked to complete the ‘Current student’ question set. They could then follow this up with a re-take of this question set at the end of the second and third years to consider how they have progressed. A review of the results would offer institutions insight into any gaps or areas that are not seeing improvements.

For new postgraduate students, we recommend that careful consideration is undertaken about which question set to recommend. Students with language challenges or students who have been out of education for a while may benefit from the shorter introduction question set – while others may benefit from the more detailed question set.

Access our student question sets

Subscribers to the building digital capability service can download all the student question sets which can help decide how best to use the different sets with their students.

If your institution is not a subscriber to the building digital capability service you can find out more about this service on our website.

Sharing a transformational approach to practice-informed TEL

Photo of Kevan Williams, Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Manager at UCLan

Kevan Williams, technology enabled learning and teaching manager at UCLan

Photo of Chris Melia, senior learning technologist at UCLan

Chris Melia, senior learning technologist at UCLan

We are delighted to bring this guest blog post to you from Chris Melia, senior learning technologist at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) about the work of Chris, and his colleague Kevan Williams in developing their innovative DigiLearn programme.

The technology enabled learning and teaching team at the university uses the Jisc digital capabilities framework to inform all their digital initiatives and their new digital capabilities mapping tool, DigiPath, is based on the six areas identified by the six elements within that framework.

The UCLan DigiLearn programme

“At the University of Central Lancashire, we recognise the importance of developing digital capabilities across our staff and student community. In order to do this effectively, we have had to look at a different approach…”

Kevan Williams, Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Manager

Encouraging academic colleagues to recognise, develop and share best practice

Developed by Chris Melia and Kevan Williams of UCLan’s Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) team, DigiLearn is an institutional framework that encourages academic colleagues to both recognise and share best practice, as well as develop their own digital capability and skillsets.

Underpinning the framework is a four-stage model (image below), containing two main elements. The first (below left) starts by looking at existing practice and ‘what works well?’, then recognising value and impact and sharing experience and supporting others, with an end goal of enhancing practice.

The second element (below right) demonstrates how one’s ‘sphere of influence’ expands as they move through the stages, from identifying an approach as an individual, right through to enhancing practice and influencing sector. This relationship is represented by the arrows surrounding the four stages of the model.

UCLan four stage model for the development of technology enhanced practice

 “It’s really about building a community of practice, where we can all work together and support one another to develop the student experience and prepare them for the digital workplace”

Chris Melia, Senior Learning Technologist

Faculty-wide communities

At the heart of the DigiLearn framework are faculty-wide communities of digitally-inspired practice. These spaces encourage colleagues to overcome divisional barriers and engage in interdisciplinary conversation.

“Being part of this community means that I am able to connect with members of my faculty to innovate, share, learn and support each other as we introduce ideas into the classroom”

Kirstie Harrison, Lecturer in Adult Nursing

The DigiLearn framework

Building on these principles, a framework was developed to again encourage the sharing of best practice, but also a promote a peer approach to digital development – with colleagues acting as each other’s digital mentors.

The framework and accompanying role profiles are defined around three levels of award, appropriately titled to best represent the relevant level of recognition and achievement. Participating colleagues always start with the Practitioner route and progress upwards through the programme, with each level acting as a pre-requisite for the next.

There are four parallel strands embedded across each level of award, the first of which sees colleagues participate in DigiPath, the university’s new digital capabilities mapping tool based on the six areas identified by Jisc’s digital capabilities framework.

Additional criteria encourage colleagues to share best practice, initially at faculty level (Practitioner), moving on to institutional level (Advocate) and finally, sector level (Champion). This approach maps back to the ‘sphere of influence’ in the underpinning model, with an individual’s sphere expanding as they achieve the higher levels of the programme.

The evidence submitted includes a combination of blog posts, written and video case studies, presentations and publications. As colleagues progress through the programme, they are also required to evidence how they have supported and encouraged peers to move along the framework. This mutually supportive, self-fuelling approach ensures that contribution and progression is driven from within the academic teams, with pedagogy recognised as the main driver to success.

“The DigiLearn programme is celebratory in its nature, but also progressive in its purpose. It’s motivated me to upskill and enhance my digital pedagogy, but also given credence to my long-established approaches to teaching.”

Andrew Sprake, Lecturer in Sport and Physical Education

Since its initial Faculty of Health and Wellbeing launch in September 2018, the impact and momentum generated by DigiLearn has proven to be extremely positive. The video case study below demonstrates just some of the impact on colleagues across a variety of academic disciplines.

The initiative offers the opportunity for continuing annual development, as more colleagues achieve recognition for their capabilities and worthwhile enhancements to the framework are identified and embedded. DigiLearn has become a recognised measure of personal achievement for academic colleagues at UCLan, alongside the benefits acknowledged by the university’s students of being part of an active, technology-enabled and digitally creative learning community.

Next steps

The next steps for UCLan, are to embed DigiLearn across all their academic and student development programmes and provide an online platform to share technology-enhanced practice across the sector.

The University have now made their DigiLearn framework, role profiles and underpinning model available to other institutions (link opens in new window). To join their new DigiLearn Sector Communitysimply submit the sign-up form (link opens in new window).

Contact details

Chris Melia – Senior Learning Technologist

Email: Twitter: @ChrisLearnTech


Kevan Williams – Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Manager

Email: Twitter: @UCLanTELT


TELT Team blog:

DigiLearn hashtag: #UCLanDigiLearn

Digital wellbeing design sprint session @ Digifest

Heather Price


At the recent Digifest conference we ran a digital wellbeing design sprint session. This one-hour workshop was aimed as an introduction to the design sprint methodology and incorporated a focus on a particular wellbeing issue experienced by many, ‘email overload’. We thought that combining the design sprint and an issue in the digital wellbeing space would bring interesting ideas and solutions – and we were right!

What is a design sprint?

Design sprint is a process used for developing new products or services. It was developed at Google and is now being used and adapted in many organisations. A design sprint is a great way to get a cross institutional team in one place (usually these sprints last around 3-5 days), maximise learning and reduce failure rate when launching a new product or service. The sprint framework gives an easy way to navigate the six phases of the process (ranging from understanding the problem to validating a prototype with users).

6 phases of the design sprint diagram


To give our attendees a real flavour of the design sprint in the very limited time available we concentrated on the process from understanding the problem to generating ideas and then creating a storyboard for the solution. We didn’t have time to do the prototyping and validation with users – but we still got some great results!

Not surprisingly it seemed that all our participants were familiar with the issue of email overload. In order to understand and define the problem however, we used a simple technique of asking a series of questions using the five W’s and one H  (5W1H: who, what, where, when, why, how).

We then moved on to the individual work sketching ideas and solutions to the problem. Having shared the ideas within their groups the delegates created a heat map of best solutions and worked collaboratively on creating the best solution to the email overload problem. The solution was then presented in a format of a storyboard.

Here is a couple of the storyboards from the workshop. You can find the rest on Twitter #dwsprint.


We ended the session with a brief overview of a digital wellbeing project that the Student experience team in Jisc are just starting. This project aims to:

  • establish a shared vocabulary around digital wellbeing
  • review digital wellbeing activities in colleges and universities and what role or roles the organisation has in supporting their staff and students in this area
  • share examples of good practices
  • identify any gaps there are with the view to see what might be done to address them.

We would like to thank everyone who came along to the workshop for their enthusiastic contributions. It was great to see so much interest in the design sprint method!

Find out more

If you would like to have a go at running a design sprint yourself we recommend having a look at the “Sprint – how to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days” book by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Branden Kowitz; and also the Design Sprint Kit.

If you would like to keep in touch with the developments around the digital wellbeing project in Jisc you can join the project mailing list.




Speaking loudly with a foreign accent – defining digital capability


Photo of Alistair McNaught, Jisc subject specialist (accessibility and inclusion)

Alistair McNaught, Jisc subject specialist (accessibility and inclusion)

Thank you to Alistair McNaught, subject expert for accessibility and inclusion, for this guest blog post.  I was struck by Alistair’s comment in a recent training event about the importance of accessibility and inclusion being considered as an integral aspect of digital capability. This really struck a chord as our digital experience insights survey reports for 2018 identified that 18% of staff and students said they considered assistive technologies as vital to their work or studies, or chose to use them optionally.  That’s nearly a fifth of our staff and learners!


So, over to Alistair …

The problem with digital capability is that it makes you think about technology. It shouldn’t.

The real capability isn’t the digital, but what the digital does. Does it allow you to communicate more effectively with more people? Does it allow your students to consume course content on a range of devices? Does it allow them to rapidly scan the ideas in a long document and understand how they relate to each? Does it allow students with widely differing backgrounds and abilities to be independent, self-resourceful, stimulated, challenged? There is no doubt that digital tools and resources, used properly, can enable all these things. Equally, it can exacerbate existing barriers and create new ones if the focus is on the wrong thing.

There is an assumption that if somebody is using technology confidently they are being digitally capable. This is not the case. I once visited Central America with a group of friends. One was an excellent communicator – in English – but knew scarcely a word of Spanish. His solution was simple and elegant. It was also completely ineffective. He spoke loudly and slowly in English with a Spanish accent. It had all the style of communication but none of the substance. Rural Nicaraguans didn’t speak English. Adding a Spanish accent didn’t help.

Common misconceptions

But I come across the same types of misconception on a regular basis. So many college and university marketing departments put their prospectus online as an interactive flip book. Not one of the people who think this is a good idea have ever tried reading it seriously for information.

I see learning platforms stuffed full of PDF documents – or PowerPoints converted to PDF – and I try tweaking them so I can read the more comfortably on screen, but I can’t magnify them without having to scroll left and right. I can’t use bookmarks to skim the content because there are none in the document. I try to listen using text-to-speech but the text can’t be selected.

Too often, our digital capability is a triumph of style over substance, putting information online but retaining the barriers that stop it benefiting students who use assistive technologies, who need to access it on a different device, who need to change colours or magnification or simply need something more than text behind glass. It’s the pedagogical equivalent of speaking loudly in English with Spanish accent.

Getting back to the core of capability

We need to get back to the core of capability, beyond the tools to the task; to the “what digital does”. So here are some starting points.

  • Digital does inclusion. There are well over 8 billion videos on YouTube. It is difficult to imagine that there is something that could supplement a PowerPoint slide or replace a handout. Moving from a monoculture of text to a wider range of media will help include more people from different backgrounds, cultures and literacies.
  • Digital does navigation. Knowing how to properly structure a Word, PDF or web document using heading styles will allow every user to see the “map” of your document and instantly navigate around it without the burden of skim reading.
  • Digital does personalisation. Does the content you create (or provide) allow end users to change the colours? To magnify significantly without having to scroll left and right? To select text for it to be read by assistive technologies? To access on a mobile phone.
  • Digital does alternatives. If I can’t hear the video, can I read the transcript? If I can’t read the document, can I listen to it using text-to-speech? If I can’t write an essay could I produce a poster or video instead?

The nature and form of our digital capability is increasingly important. In September 2018, the UK at adopted new accessibility legislation. It requires that websites, intranets, VLEs and their content should be accessible.

Jisc is heavily invested in helping to shape the guidance our members will need. We have already contributed to a publication by the All Party Parliamentary Group on assistive technology on Accessible VLEs – making the most of new regulations. We help run a Jisc mail group on Digital Accessibility Regulations, and a Digital Accessibility Working Group for FE and HE, working with Government Digital Services to help ensure evolving guidance meets the needs of the sector.

We have a series of online courses on benchmarking your digital accessibility and our Accessiblity Blog is a source of rich guidance – as is the Future Teacher project which we support.

There’s a lot going on and digital capability will continue to evolve. But the digital capability of staff is only one part of the picture. The Open University have been world leaders in the production of accessible online materials but they are increasingly coming against the logjam of student digital capabilities. You can have the most accessible resources in the world but if the end-user isn’t aware of how to benefit from that accessibility, there is still a job to do.

Put accessibility at the heart of your plans

But that’s another story for another time. In the meantime it’s worth checking your plans for developing digital capability have accessibility at the heart of them. If they don’t, you’re just speaking loudly in a foreign accent but

making no difference to the quality of communication.

I can tell you from experience… it doesn’t work.


Guest post from Chris Melia, Learning Technologist, University of Central Lancashire. DigiReady: Equipping our students for the modern workplace

Chris is a Learning Technologist, working directly with UCLan’s Faculty of Health and Wellbeing as digital lead. Currently an MIE Expert, MIE Trainer and Microsoft Certified Educator – Chris is an active member of the Microsoft community, regularly contributing and advocating the use of technology solutions in education. He played a key role in the deployment and development of Microsoft Surface technology across the University’s academic community. Chris is currently leading on a new initiative, which recognises the development of 21st century, digital skills to support students in their future employment. He is also an active member of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) and holds Fellowship with the Higher Education Academy (HEA).

Picture by Chris Bull for Association For Learning Technology 13/9/18.
ALTC 2018 day three.

DigiReady: Equipping our students for the modern workplace

It has never been more important to prepare our students for the modern workplace by equipping them with future facing, digital skills. Following the Jisc Digital experience insights survey 2018, it was found that only 41% of students who were asked felt that their course of study ‘prepared them for the digital workplace’. In addition, only 40% agreed that they had regular opportunities to ‘review and update their digital skills’. At the University of Central Lancashire, the Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching (TELT) team have worked closely with our academic community to address these ever-growing concerns.

“The 21st century demands ‘21st century skills’. Our students are embarking on career paths which are invariably changing at a rapid pace, particularly in relation to technology. Many of our students are aspiring to become teachers of Physical Education and being ‘digitally literate’ is a crucial prerequisite of employability in this domain.”
Andrew Sprake – Lecturer in Physical Education
Jess Macbeth – Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies

It was identified across several disciplines that students were already demonstrating a number of digital skills, often without realising themselves and normally without any kind of formal recognition which could aid their future employability.

“At UCLan, the midwifery curriculum prides itself on allowing students to develop digital literacy skills and encouraging them to be ‘digitally ready’ when seeking employment. With employers often stating that digital skills are an essential requirement for those applying for the role of a newly qualified midwife, the team see this as an essential component of the midwifery course. Lecturers lead by example, by ensuring that all teaching and learning resources are delivered using digital approaches, encouraging the students to engage with these methods of learning.”

Neesha Ridley – Senior Lecturer in Midwifery

Our approach was to look at developing ‘DigiReady’, a new student certification underpinned by the Jisc digital capabilities framework (image above) and adapted from a more recent Microsoft tool. Implemented at course level, it centres around eight core skills ranging from effective communication, to online safety/security and profile management.

Students build up their evidence of skill development across these areas, which they record into an e-portfolio using OneNote Class Notebook. Evidence can consist of annotated screenshots, audio/video reflections, and sometimes involves different participation in interactive activities. The e-portfolio provides tutors with instant access to each individual student space, where they can monitor progress and provide valuable feedback along the way. Students are also asked to build a short presentation or video answering three reflective questions, which draw on evidence from their portfolio and overall DigiReady journey and development. This final digital artefact aims to provide a valuable resource that will support students in their future employability.

Jean Duckworth and Hazel Partington – both academics at the University, lead a suite of online Masters level courses and modules. Students arrive to the course or module with a range of different digital skill levels. Some may have studied or worked in a technology rich environment, whilst others have not yet developed their skills in this area. The team start the course with a very intensive induction, which starts with using Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Adobe Connect and the University’s Virtual Learning Environment. By doing this, students get to know each other and have the tools to fully engage in their studies. These skills are further developed as a student progresses through the course or module.

While the initiative is still in an early pilot phase that will inform its future development, we know it will play a crucial role in the digital development of our students.

“Employers often comment how ‘digitally ready’ students from our University are when they apply for jobs. By encouraging students to embrace and develop digital literacy, we are equipping them with lifelong skills that they will use throughout their careers, so they are confident and competent to provide care using digital systems in the work place.”
Neesha Ridley – Senior Lecturer in Midwifery

“We expect the introduction of the DigiReady programme will showcase the development of important 21st century skills to employers, stakeholders or course providers.”
Hazel Partington & Jean Duckworth – Senior Lecturers in the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing

“Initial feedback from the pilot programme has been overwhelmingly positive and will inevitably set our students apart.”
Andrew Sprake – Lecturer in Physical Education
Jess Macbeth – Senior Lecturer in Sport Studies

Guest blog post from Non Scantlebury, Academic Engagement Manager, The University of Hertfordshire: our co-host and organiser for the 4th Jisc building digital capability community of practice event held on 21 November 2018

Photo of Non Scantlebury

Non Scantlebury

For those that were able to attend the Jisc building digital capability community of practice event held at the University of Hertfordshire last month, we were treated to a veritable feast of activities going on across our further education (FE) and higher education (HE) sectors on the theme of ‘digital skills and capabilities’!

The insightful and challenging keynote, delivered by Professor Sal Jarvis and Dr Karen Barton, illustrated how impactful the experience of working in partnership with Jisc had been at a local level and how great our collaborative working has contributed to our strategic engagement with digital capabilities development at the University of Hertfordshire.

Our participation in the Jisc student digital experience insights service (previously known as student digital experience tracker) and discovery tool pilots happened to coincide with a major transition to a new Canvas based Learning Environment implementation and they shared how all these initiatives had come together to influence our thinking and inform our evolving vision and aspiration to becoming a fully ‘digitally capable organisation’. Like many in our sector we have much existing excellent practice to celebrate, whilst we also acknowledge the challenging nature of supporting scalable and flexible digital capabilities development options as we move forward.

Local findings from our insight survey results chimed with those highlighted in the national 2018 digital experience insights reports. In particular, student feedback at the University of Hertfordshire, when asked about their experience of digital technologies used on their course responded:

Student responses when asked about their experience of digital technologies used on their course

Figure 1: Student responses when asked about their experience of digital technologies used on their course

This showed how much they appreciated the use of these in their course experience, but this was also balanced by a finding that they didn’t always see the link between the use of these technologies and their impact on their employability skills:

Bar chart showing student perceptions of importance of digital skills to future career

Figure 2: student perceptions of importance of digital skills

The implementation of a new Learning Environment system had also provided a refreshed opportunity to review academic staff training and development in relation to course design and digital capabilities development.

Dr Barton outlined the ‘Learning Landscape’ approach, developed by staff working in the Learning Technology and Innovation Centre, to support the delivery of academic training.

The method and approach have now been adapted and extended to meet the needs of all our staff professional development and will include digital capabilities development in the future.

Diagram showing university of Hertfordshire's learning landscape approach

Figure 3: University of Hertfordshire Learning Landscape approach

Specific approaches to training academic and academic support staff in the effective use of digital technologies for learning and teaching are delivered through our Guided Learner Journey module developed on the Canvas platform.

To engage academics, we have formed support teams of expert staff aligned to each school which deliver workshops, presentations and literally ‘knock on doors’ and ask if anyone wants any help! These teams comprise educational technologists, learning design champions, student technology mentors and librarians and have proven very effective in supporting the embedding and sharing of new practice!

Gillian Fielding shared what the benefits were to organisations participating in the UCISA digital capabilities survey. By benchmarking local provision across the broader sector, it had helped members to prioritise and stimulate strategic thinking. Most recent results point to the need to reflect digital capabilities inclusion at strategic planning level, increase engagement by other departments such as human resources, and the need to stipulate digital capabilities more clearly within job descriptions and the recruitment process for staff and prioritising the delivery of digital skills for students as a key employability outcome.

As well as being treated to an update from Jisc related to their digital wellbeing project and plans for their building digital capabilities services, we were then offered a full ‘smorgasbord’ of intriguing PechaKucha presentations and were dazzled by the awesome time keeping abilities of those presenting against the clock!

The format was particularly praised as a method to share excellent practices happening everywhere.

Dr Fiona Handley, University of Brighton, shared the research she had led on investigating staff student partnerships highlighting the types of activities which students get involved in such as digital content creation (videos), teaching digital skills training sessions, giving technical advice and presenting at conferences. She highlighted the fact that there was still some way to go in that most current projects are led by professional staff rather then led and driven by students. This highlights a need for us to consider how we might redress this balance and increase opportunities for more equal or student driven partnerships.

Joe Wilson, City of Glasgow College introduced us to the City Learning 4.0 initiative aimed at preparing students for citizenship and industry. Creative initiatives such as the introduction of ‘Digital Mondays’ and Google Educators were important initiatives to stimulate engagement with staff and students.

Image of presentation title page

Figure 4: PechaKucha presentation from City of Glasgow College

Terese Bird, Leicester Medical School, touched on the importance of adopting creative and considerate digital practices when designing and delivering digital learning.

Image of board game

Figure 5: Step Change: the game of organisational digital capability

Clare Killen and I then delivered an interactive board game session based on an adaptation of the Jisc framework for organisational digital capabilities and the four-step model of strategic steps combined with a range of community-based case studies. The activity aimed to stimulate groupwork and problem solving whilst participants explored the 4 key steps of the framework through conversation, shared practice and reflective dialogue. We certainly got great feedback and you can now download of a copy of the game resources yourselves from the University of Hertfordshire Open access repository!

We rounded the day off with more stimulating PechaKucha’s delivered by Sarah Sherman, Bloomsbury Learning Environment and how they had adopted a consortium-based approach to developing a brilliant Moodle course to prepare both staff and students to be ‘digitally ready for learning’ and teaching. Piloting in 2019.

Finally, James Duke, Bishop Grosseteste University, shared the work they had delivered on building their organisational model and Alicia Wallace, Gloucestershire College, showcased how by engaging with the Jisc framework at critical points in the staff induction and annual review process in order to set goals, targets and deliver focused training and development.

Image of slide from Bishop Grosseteste University PechaKucha presentation

Figure 6: Bishop Grosseteste University organisational mode

Slide from Gloucestershire College PechaKucha presentation

Figure 7: Gloucestershire College PechaKucha presentation

All the presentations, resources and outputs from the day are available from the Jisc building digital capabilities events page!

Non Scantlebury
Academic Engagement Manager
The University of Hertfordshire