Digital discovery tool launched today

Universities, colleges and independent providers that have signed up to pilot the Digital discovery tool will receive their access codes today. On this page you can learn more about the new Discovery tool, the platform, the different assessments available, and the guidance that will help you put it all into practice.

Where we are today

The open pilot is taking place in 101 organisations (57 HE, 35 FE and 9 ‘other’) between now and the end of May 2018. You can find out more about the pilot organisations and their different approaches in this blog post.

log-in screenThe version launched today:

  • is based on a new platform from
  • offers completely new, user-tested questions + feedback for staff
  • links to a host of new resources, all openly available
  • offers further specialist questions + feedback for staff with a teaching role (in HE or in FE and Skills)

The new platform is working with Jisc on the development of the new platform for the Digital discovery tool. The team has experience of delivering an accurate personality indicator to help students understand their strengths and ‘stretch’ areas across twenty-three traits and to prepare for employment. Their platform offers a clear visual interface for the Digital discovery assessments and feedback report.

Digital capability resources are available through the dashboard in an attractive, accessible style. This screenshot shows the browse view. Answering the assessment questions creates a personalised report for each user, with recommended resources to follow up.

Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 09.28.22

The new design

The Digital discovery tool is designed according to the following principles:

  • Practice based: users start with practical issues as a way in to digital capability thinking
  • Self-reported: we trust users to report on their own digital practices. The scoring-for-feedback system means it is pointless for users to over-rate themselves.
  • Nudges and tips: the questions are designed to get users thinking about new practices and ideas, before they read a word of their feedback report.

Broad relevance: we have tried to avoid referencing specific technologies or applications to make the content relevant across a wide range of roles and organisations. Sometimes we use familiar examples to illustrate what we mean by more general terms.Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 12.19.58All users are offered an assessment called ‘digital capabilities for all’, based on the 15 elements (6 broad areas) of the Jisc Digital capability framework. There are very few differences in the questions for staff in different roles or sectors, and students answer many of the same questions too, though the feedback and resources they get are a bit different.

Some users are also offered a specialist assessment, depending on the role they choose when they sign in. At the moment we are offering additional question set for teaching staff – ‘digital capabilities for teaching’ – as this was the priority group identified in our pre-pilot consultations. We will shortly offer another specialist set for learners, and one for staff who undertake or support research. More may follow, depending on demand. Users can choose to complete only the general or only the specialised assessment, but they must complete all the questions in an assessment before they get the relevant report.

The questions

There are questions of three kinds.

confidence question

Confidence question: rate your confidence with a digital practice or skill, using a sliding scale. The opportunity for self-assessment triggers users to be reflective and helps them to feel in control of the process.

depth question

Depth question: select the one response out of four that best describes your approach to a digital task. This helps users identify their level of expertise and see how more expert practitioners behave in the same situation.

breadth question

Breadth question: select the digital activities you (can) do, from a grid of six. We have tuned these so most users will be able to select at least one, but it will be difficult to select all six.

At the moment we know that some elements are harder to score highly on than others. Once we have a large data set to play with, we will be able to adjust these differences. But it may just be the case that some areas of digital capability are more challenging than others…

The feedback

Once all the questions in an assessment have been completed, users receive a visualisation of their scores, and a feedback report. The report can be downloaded to read and reference in the user’s own time – alone or with a colleague, mentor or appraiser.



The feedback report includes, for each element assessed:

  • Level: this is shown as one of ‘developing’, ‘capable’ or ‘proficient’. Some text explains what this means in each case.
  • Score: this shows clearly how the user’s responses have produced the level grading
  • Next steps: what people at this level could try next if they want to develop further
  • Resources: links to selected resources for exploration

report detailed

The resources

All the resources available through the Discovery tool – whether they are recommended in the user’s personal report, or browsed from the desktop – are freely available, quality assured, and tagged to different elements of the digital discovery framework.

Screen Shot 2018-01-15 at 10.42.39

Making it better

This is a pilot, which means we are still learning how the Digital discovery tool might be useful in practice, and making improvements to the content and interface. For example, there may be some changes to users’ visual experience during the next weeks and months.

  • End-users are asked to fill in a short feedback form once they have completed one or more assessments.
  • A smaller group of ‘pilot plus’ institutions are going through the process with additional interventions and monitoring from the Jisc Building digital capabilities team, to help us learn from them more intensively.
  • All institutional leads are being asked to fill in an evaluation form and to run a focus group with staff to explore the impacts and benefits of the project.

These interventions help us to improve the Discovery tool and the support we provide for digital capabilities more generally.

What next?

In another post we will explore how to understand and use the data returns to organisational leads. We are also developing, for launch in March 2018:

  • A version for students studying in HE institutions, and for students in FE and Skills
  • A prototype for the Building digital capability website, to bring all our digital capability services and resources together
  • Four institutional case study videos
  • A senior leaders’ briefing paper
  • A study into how HR departments are supporting the development of staff digital capabilities (see for more details)

Key resources

Digital capability community continues to grow

The second network event for our digital capability community of practice took place in Birmingham on 30 November 2017 with around 100 participants from over 54 colleges and universities coming together to share practice, exchange ideas and work together. The presentations, resources and Periscope recordings are available from our event page.

The strong interest in this community of practice signifies the centrality of digital capabilities to all aspects of educational practice and a recognition that digital capabilities are not only vital for the employability and future career prospects of our students but also have the potential to enhance institutional reputations and aid organisational efficiency.

Sharing practice

The contributions made on the day, by our presenters and by collaborative engagement in workshop sessions were greatly valued.

“I wanted to hear examples of other institution’s approaches to developing digital capability, and there were plenty of examples.”

Developing a holistic institutional approach

Our keynote speaker, Karen Barton, director of learning and teaching at the University of Hertfordshire, shared their approach to developing a holistic institutional approach to digital capabilities development. The formation of a digital capability steering group has been a key enabler, engaging senior stakeholders and sponsoring wider participation with their teams.

The Jisc digital capabilities framework proved useful in getting dialogue going and helping others to get to grips with the language and vocabulary used to describe digital capabilities. Karen also talked about the University of Hertfordshire’s model for staff development at different stages of their careers and the work on mapping where digital capabilities fit into their broader CPD framework and learning landscape.

Ongoing work includes the establishment of a student experience academic research group with a sub group focusing on technology enhanced learning and exploring whether the academic CPD model can be applied to other role profiles.

Watch the Periscope recording of Karen’s session or view the slides on our event page. See also their institutional story on their participation in the first stage pilot for the discovery tool.

Community-led discussions

Group work at digital capability community of practice 301117

Participants at the first digital capability community of practice event in May 2017 requested time for community-led discussions and topics identified by those registered for the November 2017 event included:

  • Effective staff development strategies – how to upskill staff with digital capabilities
  • Developing organisational approaches to digital capability and getting buy-in from senior managers
  • Measuring the impact of initiatives, tools and strategies on staff/student capability
  • Student digital capability, embedding digital capabilities into the curriculum and student/staff partnerships

Facilitated by community members, participants were tasked with identifying critical issues and sharing experiences and solutions – the outputs are captured on our padlet. A variety of strategies were used – in one group, participants were challenged to come up with 20 ideas/potential solutions in just five minutes with most achieving the target before being further challenged to identify one thing they could action the following day. This proved a very effective way of moving from general discussion to action-focused solutions in a short period of time.

Strategies for engaging staff

Community members cited staff engagement in digital capabilities as one of their most critical issues and so the opportunity to hear from four community members on their differing approaches was informative and insightful.

Non Scantlebury and Jo Parker both shared innovative techniques they’d used to engage staff in conversations around digital capability. Non asked participants to share their favourite apps and reveal their digital superpowers mapped to the framework; Jo used the ‘love letters and break up letters’ approach which elicited deep and more emotive feedback about the digital discovery tool.

Randeep Sami and Delon Commosioung shared strategies and practical examples of how they are engaging staff in their respective colleges.  Randeep explored the concept of the digital classroom and shared details of their 21st century teaching programme; Delon outlined how working as part of the quality team has helped to position effective use of technology as integral to teaching, learning and assessment.

One of the highlights of the meeting was a series of five Pecha Kucha sessions from community members willing to share their experience, practice and strategies. These short seven-minute presentations shared journeys so far, outlined institutional approaches and transformative ambitions, bringing the day to a well-paced end.

Video recordings and presentations are available to view on our event page.

Looking ahead to 2018

Building digital capability project update

A lot has happened since the first digital capability community of practice event in May 2017:

  • Tabetha Newman96+ institutions have signed up to take part in the second phase of our pilot of the digital capability discovery tool which runs from December 2017 to May 2018.  See Helen’s Beetham’s blog post Digging deeper with the discovery tool which provides a useful analysis of the motivations and aims of those signed up to pilot the new tool. See also Helen Beetham and Tabetha Newman’s update on the digital discovery tool including a succinct and entertaining guide on the differences discovery tool and the student experience tracker – complete with appropriate hats!
  • New for 2018: senior leaders briefing and video case studies – Recognising the strategic importance of digital capabilities, Jisc will be producing a senior leaders briefing in March 2018 along with four institutional video case studies. A study of how HR departments are supporting the development of digital capabilities is also underway with a report and case studies available in April 2018 – see Lou McGill’s blog post for details of how you can take part.
  • Visioning the new building digital capability service – Jisc is also working on the development of a new web-based portal designed to provide organisations and individuals with clear routes through the wealth of information, support options and resources available to support digital capabilities development. Keep up-to-date by signing up to the digital capability mailing list and the project blog.  As the prototype of the digital capability service is being developed we are looking for volunteers to get involved in some short online user testing activities (30 minutes or less). If you would like to take part, please get in touch with Alicja Shah.
  • A series of training events and webinars on curriculum confidence, digital well-being and identity, and digital leadership is also running over the next few months.

Shaping the next agenda: your take-aways and thoughts for future events

While Jisc has founded this community, the focus is very much on building a sustainable network and in facilitating participants to share the collective wealth of experience. Feedback from the event is very positive and naturally reflects the different stages people are at in their own personal and institutional journeys.

Participants valued the opportunities to hear the developmental journeys of others and highlighted other areas they would like to see more focus on at future events.

“It was good to be able to discuss issues and ideas with like-minded people as a small group”

“It has given me some ideas to try out.”

Suggestions for the next event include creating time and space for:

  • Discussion on the changing landscape around learner expectations and needs, societal views on education and the effect of this disruption and how digital capabilities feature in this
  • Feedback and case studies from students and their experiences in digital capabilities development
  • Networking with colleagues

What did you take away from the event?

What would you like to see on the programme for the next event?

Use the comments below or share your thoughts via the digital capability mailing list.

Save the date

We are delighted to announce that the next digital capability community of practice event will be hosted by the University of Leicester on 22 May 2018.

Do join us for what promises to be another rich exchange of ideas, approaches, strategies and resources.

Digging deeper with the discovery tool

We now have almost 100 organisations signed up to pilot the new Digital capability discovery tool. The new platform and content will be available to trial with staff from January to May 2018, and a student version will also be available in the trial period.

If you’re not part of the pilot, you can still follow the progress of the project from this blog and on the new dedicated Discovery tool pages (launching early December).

I’ve been digging through the undergrowth of the sign-up data from all 100 pilot sites, trying to get a clearer picture of who is leading the project and what their motives are. This is a brief report from my explorations.

  1. Job roles

Lead contacts for the discovery tool have a wide and interesting range of job titles.

Sign up data job roles

Job roles – click for more detailed chart

The largest category work in Digital education/e-learning/TEL (39) followed by Education/learning without a specific digital component (18). A separate cluster can be defined as specialists in Digital, IT or information literacy (8). These job titles included ‘Head of Digital Capability’, ‘Manager, information and digital literacy’ and ‘Digital Skills training officer’. Library/Learning Resources specialists accounted for another 8 sign-ups, Student experience/student services and IT/tech for 7 each, and HR/organisational/staff development for 5. There were also 5 subject specialist staff, of whom 3 were in English – a slightly surprising result.

These totals suggest that the bias of intended use is strongly towards teaching staff and learners.

  1. Sector

Nearly 60% of sign-ups came from HE providers and 33% from FE. The ‘other’ responses (9) came from work-based, professional and adult learning, combined HE and FE institutions, and routes into HE.

Screen Shot 2017-11-14 at 10.58.48

  1. Reasons for using the Discovery Tool

Users selected a mean of 3.5 different responses, with almost all selecting the motive to ‘Help staff to improve their own digital capabilities’.  Eighty-three percent were using the discovery tool to support a strategic change agenda, and there were also high scores for identifying and monitoring staff digital capabilities overall, and for raising awareness.

Sign up data reasons

It’s interesting that 37% of respondents hope to use the discovery tool to ‘monitor individual staff’, a feature that is not offered currently. We included this option to assess whether our original aims – to produce a self-reflective tool – match with those of institutional leads. It is these tensions that our evaluation will have to explore in more detail (more under ‘next steps’ below).

  1. Current approaches to supporting staff

There were 104 responses to the question: ‘What approaches do you currently have in place to support staff with development of their digital capabilities?’

Sign up data support

  • 43 (41% of) respondents mentioned voluntary staff development, especially of academic or teaching staff.
  • 14 (13% of) respondents mentioned some form of mandatory support for staff i.e. at appraisal, PDR, or induction.
  • 27 (26% of) respondents said provision for staff was currently insufficient, declining or ‘ad hoc’: Institutional support for staff to develop digital capabilities was removed about 6 years ago’; ‘[Staff training] has been very stop, start in recent years due to changes in management’; ‘There is no overall institutional approach to digital capabilities.
  • 20 (19% of) respondents mentioned IT or similar training, and a further 13 (12%) mentioned TEL support
  • 20 (19% of) respondents mentioned online materials, of which 15 were using subscription services such as and 5 had developed their own
  • A sizeable number (14) had a specialist digital capability project under way, though often in the early stages.

Nine respondents mentioned the Jisc Framework or (in two cases) another digital capability framework. Frameworks were being used: to support curriculum review; in teaching staff CPD; to design training (with open badges linked to the Jisc framework); and to identify gaps in provision. Two institutions mentioned the earlier pilot of the discovery tool as a source of support, and three were using alternative self-assessment tools.

  1. Current collection of data about staff digital capabilities

Asked ‘Do you already collect any data about staff digital capabilities?’ 58 respondents out of 101 (57.4%) said ‘no’ or ‘not at present’ or equivalent.

Among those who responded ‘yes’ (or a qualified ‘yes’) a variety of processes were used. These included:

  • Anonymous surveys
  • General feedback from staff training
  • Feedback from appraisal or CPD processes
  • Data from staff uptake of training or online learning
  • Periodic TEL/T&L reviews (inst or dept level)
  • Use of the discovery tool (n=10 – though in some cases this was prospective only)
  • Use of the digital student tracker (n=1)
  • Teaching observations


  1. Numbers involved and approaches to engaging staff

Organisations had very diverse ambitions for the pilot, from user testing with 6 staff to a major roll-out in the thousands. Strategies for engaging staff were also very different in the different cases. There were 104 responses to this question, and a lot of overlap with responses to the previous question about staff support in general.

Some 27 respondents decided that communication was key, and described the channels and platforms they would use. Strategies for gaining attention included having senior managers initiate messages, engaging students to design arresting visual messages, and involving a professional promotions team.  Timing was sometimes carefully considered e.g. to coincide with another initiative, or to avoid peaks of workload. In addition, 9 respondents considered the content of communications and the majority of these planned to focus on the immediate benefits to end-users: the opportunity to reflect, develop confidence, find out more, get advice and feedback, identify existing strengths. Other incentives were digital badges (2), support for an HEA fellowship application, and chocolate!

In all, 46 out of 104 or over 40% proposed completion of the discovery tool in live, shared settings, either at existing events such as meetings or at specific events designed for that purpose. Although we have emphasised the personal nature of the discovery process, it may be that shared, live events of this kind will prove more effective at developing trust, and providing on-the-spot support at a moment when users are receptive to it. One said:

‘Institutions that took part in the previous pilot of this tool identified the value of providing face to face support possibly as a lunch time ‘Digital Capabilities’ drop in to help staff complete the tool, explain those questions that staff didn’t understand and to discuss digital capabilities.’

  1. Planned support for the Discovery Tool

Users selected a mode of 3 different kinds of support (mean 2.8) – so there is a clear understanding that users will have contextualised support of various kinds. All but 3 were planning to offer users the ‘opportunity to share and discuss their results. Almost as many proposed to offer ‘links to local resources/development opportunities, in addition to the resources provided as an outcome of the discovery process. Around half expected to offer support through a staff network or community of practice, and slightly fewer expected to offer accreditation or badging.

Less than 3% chose to tell us about ‘other’ forms of support, suggesting that the support activities we identified in the last pilot still cover most of the sensible options. The main form of support noted in the ‘other’ responses (not already captured in the closed options) was the offer of tailored training opportunities mapped to the discovery tool content.

What next?

Information from this report is being used to inform the guidance for pilots of the discovery tool, and to identify issues for further exploration. A following post will have more detail about both the guidance and how we will be evaluating the pilot.

An important issue for institutional leads to consider is how much they can expect – and what they would do with – fine-grained data about staff capabilities. Data such as staff take-up of training opportunities, the quality of VLE materials, or student assessments of their digital experience, may be more reliable than self-assessments by staff using the discovery tool. This information could be obtained using the digital experience tracker, also available from Jisc.

We know from the earlier evaluation that the discovery tool can help staff to become more aware of what confident digital practice looks like, and more self-directed in their professional learning. And organisations will be able to collect aggregate data about the number of staff who complete the discovery process, and other information to be determined during the pilot phase.

We will be exploring what data is really useful for planning interventions around staff digital capability, how can this be generated from the discovery tool, and how  it can be reported without compromising staff willingness to engage.

For more information about the discovery tool please contact

Participate in our study into how HR departments support staff to develop their digital capability?

Would you like to contribute to a new Jisc study and shape future developments in this area?

Jisc want to find out what HR departments are doing to support staff in dealing with the challenges and making the most of the opportunities offered by technologies? We are also keen to find out how confident HR teams are of their own digital capabilities to support staff in their institutions?

We have just started our short study and hope to find out from HR staff how their activities link to institutional strategies and activities around digital capabilities.

By participating in the study HR staff will have the chance to inform future developments and to highlight the good practice that is already happening.

We have produced a short (5 minute) online survey to help us create a snapshot of current practice in the UK and to find out about HR staff levels of confidence around digital capability.

Please let your HR teams know about the study and ask them to complete the survey.

Designing for digital capabilities in the curriculum: what’s new?

When we launched the digital capabilities community of practice, a whole number of people signed up for a session on developing the curriculum. I noted some of the ideas that came out of that session, and I’ve been using it as a handy reference ever since.

It’s no surprise that session was so popular – we’re in the business of learning and the only outcome that really matters is our learners being able to thrive in a digital world. And while they gain many valuable skills informally and outside of the curriculum, the evidence is that complex, specialised digital practices need the support of subject specialists – people who understand their value and can introduce them in a subject context. So: how can we embed those digital capabilities into courses of study, in ways that engage both students and staff? What have we learned from previous conversations and programmes?

Some principles

I’ve been running workshops on embedding digital capabilities into the curriculum for some years now, dating right back to a Jisc workshop series in 2011/12. If you’re interested in some of the resources Jisc has developed since then, there is a good summary of curriculum resources on the Design Studio from the Developing Digital Literacies programme, and the Curriculum Change section of the Jisc Guide to Developing Digital Literacies (2014) is a more up to date selection. There are a few principles I’ve learned over the years.

Digital capabilities are subject specialised. Even the use of generic tools such as a spreadsheet or annotation app are highly dependent on the task at hand. But we know that students really value subject specialist technologies such as data analysis software, design tools and digital instrumentation, and specialist resources such as e-journals, reference management software and subject-specialist networks.

Every student brings their own personal digital practices to their subject, just as they bring their own literacy and numeracy practices, and their own preferences for different media. This variety of digital skills, experiences and preferences can be treated as a resource – for example through group exercises that allow students to learn from one another, or by offering different routes to assessment. They can also be discussed openly, rather than letting students feel their digital practices are not approved or not relevant to effective learning.

Staff need to be confident in their subject, their teaching, and their digital practice as part of those other forms of expertise. Digital confidence is an important quality. Students need to feel that their preferred learning practices are being supported and developed, and that staff are up to date with their professional skills. But they don’t need staff to be creating amazing digital content, to be as proficient in media production as they are, or to be engaged in all the same social media.

Digital capability is not a separate aspect of learning but integral to being effective in a subject area, or a vocation or profession. Nor is it separate from other agendas such as employability, sustainability or internationalism. Our world is digital, and global issues have a digital aspect. So look for digital activities that are complex enough to address several agendas. Introduce approaches that are genuinely used by digital researchers or professionals, not for the sake of being digital, but for the sake of achieving meaningful outcomes.

So yes, think about learning outcomes (the big picture conversation about what learners need to know) before thinking about methods and means (the technologies learners need to encounter). Digital technologies are changing every subject we teach. There are new research questions and methods in scholarly subjects, new approaches and ethical issues to consider in professional subjects, whole new branches of knowledge and qualifications that did not exist fifteen years ago. Change in the subject of study is interesting – for staff as well as students. Think about how the digital world changes the purpose of the course, and you will naturally be led to interesting activities that involve digital technologies in a meaningful way.

Using the digital capability framework in the curriculum

Many curriculum teams are already referring to the Jisc Digital Capability Framework – and especially the learner profile – to support their thinking. This can be helpful, but the profile is both too generic for detailed planning, and too specialist to be easily used by teaching staff who do not have an e-learning or digital capabilities background. If you do want to use the Framework to support curriculum design, here are some suggestions.


  1. Don’t start with ICT proficiency or productivity, which creates a technology focus too soon.
  2. Also, don’t start with digital identity and well-being. Many aspects of this will be defined at the organisational level e.g. in terms of graduate outcomes/attributes, learning contracts, fair use policies and so on. However, it can be helpful to consider any digital aspects of the overall course outcomes, and to have those in mind while focusing on the four areas of practice.
  3. Focus curriculum conversations on the four ‘situated practices’ in the centre of the framework. Of these, the most productive and straightforward conversations with teaching staff are usually in the area of digital creation, problem-solving and innovation. This is about how problems are raised and solved and new knowledge or artefacts are created by subject specialists (‘scholarship’ may be a useful term in academic subjects).
  4. Next, think about information, data and media. Your conversations about method should have already raised issues about how these are created, managed, shared, visualised and used. It can be helpful to involve specialist staff e.g. from the library, learning support, or research support to think about what information, data and media literacy mean in this curriculum. This is an important place to discuss critical thinking and judgement.
  5. The other two areas of practice – communication, collaboration and participation, and learning (development) – are more generic across different subject areas. They include issues such as how learners make notes, record their achievements, set goals, organise their time and tasks, collaborate and so on. But it is still important to ask where in this  course of study these digital aspects of learning will be practiced and progressed.
  6. Once learning activities have been proposed to reflect these four areas of practice, then we can ask what technologies learners will be using – their own, or the organisation’s – to support the practice. And at that point learners’ proficiency and productivity may need to be addressed. If there are subject specialist systems that learners need to master – e.g. for data analysis, design, project management, instrumentation, administration etc – they need time to do this, and they need regular opportunities to practice and review. If learners are using generic systems, they will have to learn the specialist ‘rules’ for using them in scholarly or professional settings, rather than in personal or social ones.
  7. Finally it’s important to consider learner differences. How will you support students whose general digital skills need improvement? Do you know where to signpost them and how to do this without embarrassment? Schedule in an activity early on that will allow students to identify for themselves if they are under-prepared. Also think about students whose general digital capability is higher than average. They will be frustrated if they have to sit through scheduled sessions that introduce skills and systems they already have or can quickly master on their own. Allow them to progress quickly using self-paced support, and think about how their skills could be used to everyone’s advantage.

What’s new from Jisc for curriculum design?

Because of the importance of curriculum design for the digital capabilities agenda, Jisc has been offering short sessions at ConnectMore events to explore the framework in the light of curriculum concerns.

ConnectMore 1Resources from those sessions are now available from the links below, as many people have been asking how they can embed these ideas into curriculum practice at their own institution.

Sarah Knight, Head of Change (Student Experience), has this to say:

ConnectMore 2What I valued from running the Curriculum confidence workshops was the opportunity for us to re-focus on learning. Having conversations with staff about what they care about – their students and how best they can support them to acquire the knowledge and skills required to follow their career pathway. We are often led to focus on the technology rather than on the principles of what makes an effective learning and assessment experience. So for me its back to first principles and then seeing how we can utilise the affordances of technology to add the enhancements in order to prepare our students for a digital workplace.

Recognising that those sessions were not long or detailed enough for most participants, Jisc is now offering a one-day workshop entirely devoted to curriculum design for digital capabilities. Curriculum confidence: designing for digital capabilities in the curriculum will be running initially on 16 November 2017 in Birmingham: more details and a sign-up form are here. If you  join us you can be sure of opportunities to share ideas and practices with experienced curriculum staff from other universities and colleges, as well as an introduction to all the Jisc resources and current development projects.

Curriculum confidence resources mentioned in this post

Current Jisc resources:

Earlier resources (collated links):

How are HR departments supporting staff digital capability?

We are about to start a short review of how Human Resources (HR)  departments in educational institutions support staff with the development of their digital capability.

HR departments in universities and colleges increasingly recognise the need to contribute towards supporting staff to respond to challenges and opportunities offered by technologies. In 2016 their annual conference focused on the  The Changing Face of Work where they explored ‘How can we best equip our organisations to respond to our increasingly digital world and to meet the needs of our Generation Z employees?’  Helen Beetham presented at the conference about the Jisc digital capability work.

HR teams have a range of roles that require an understanding of the impact of technologies on staff:

  • recruitment
  • induction
  • staff health and wellbeing
  • conflict management
  • CPD support

HR staff also need to effectively use technologies and tools to deliver services. They need to ensure that their own digital capabilities are sufficient to make the best of available data and metrics and be aware of how social media and other technologies can impact on the changing relationships between students and staff. It is timely to find out how far HR departments are engaging with these challenges and to identify new and interesting practice.

Organisational approaches to developing digital capabilities

Jisc has been working with educational institutions to consider organisational approaches to developing digital capabilities and produced a supporting guide earlier this year. We hope that this work will build on those relationships we have already established with some HR teams and help us generate new links.

The work will review practice of HR departments in colleges and appropriate professional associations, and will also include an exploration of the role of trade unions in digital capability discussions and identify opportunities for developing strategies for their involvement.

Contribute to this review

The review will be carried out by Lou McGill and Tim Gray. If you are interested in contributing to this study, or know someone who may be interested, please contact Lou McGill. We will be launching an online survey soon to capture a snapshot of current practice.

Autumn update

Now the summer holidays are over and the start of a new academic year is upon us, our thoughts are turning to new developments with the Jisc digital capability project over the coming months.

Firstly, for those of you attending ALT-C this week, the digital capabilities team will be running a workshop exploring organisational journeys towards digital capability, in collaboration with two of our pilot institutions, the University of Hertfordshire and Cardiff University. Please do join us if you are there, the session is on Tuesday 5th September, at 13.30 in the Mandela room (session number 1852). The team will also be on the stand throughout the conference so do come and find us.

Discovery tool – what we learned, hear from pilots and sign up to pilot the next version of the tool
The initial pilot of the digital capability discovery tool which ran from February – June 2017 is now complete, and the feedback and responses from our 14 pilot institutions has been analysed. You can find out more about what the feedback told us in a new post from Helen Beetham on what we learned. You can also read more about the journeys towards digital capability using the tool taken by six of the 14 pilot institutions in a post from Clare Killen on our six new ‘institutional stories’.

The next few months will be a busy time redesigning the tool in the light of the feedback, enhancing the question sets with more tailored options (as a starting point offering different question sets for teaching and non-teaching staff), and moving the tool to its new home (the platform).

The new tool will be ready for December 2017, and we’re now looking for institutions who are interested in working with us to pilot the new and improved tool and associated resources with staff from December – May 2018 so that we can continue to learn from your experiences. If you would like to get involved please complete this sign up form to register your interest, by 31st October 2017. Please note a student-facing version of the tool will also be available for initial testing as part of this pilot, from early 2018.

Community of Practice event – date now confirmed
We’re pleased to announce that our next digital capability Community of Practice event will be taking place on the 30 November 2017 at Maple House, Birmingham.

We would welcome any thoughts on what you would like to see on the agenda for this, our second community event. If you have insights you’d like to share on approaches that are working well for you, developments that you’re taking forward or issues that you’d like to see discussed please let us know at In particular, if you would be interested in running a short 5 minute ‘pecha kucha’ style presentation on an approach you are undertaking please get in touch (by the 31st October). We’ll be in touch in the next few weeks with details of how to register for the event.

For more information on what happened at our first event, see a previous post.

Piloting the digital capability discovery tool: six new institutional stories

Earlier this year 14 universities and colleges took part in a pilot of our digital capability discovery tool (beta). The discovery tool has been designed to support individuals and managers in a range of roles by helping them to identify and reflect on their current digital capabilities and make plans to improve these using a customised playlist of resources.

A collection of institutional stories is now available that show the approaches taken by six of the participating pilot organisations, the outcomes, key lessons learned and the next steps that they intend to take.

Image depicting institutional stories

Discovery tool institutional stories

What does a digital college or university look like?
The pilot has highlighted the fact that digital capabilities impact on, and are relevant to, all areas of university and college business. Supporting the development of digital capabilities is therefore vital as the vision, ambitions and expectations of organisations, staff and students evolve in line with the changes technology makes on both working processes and the nature of work and knowledge practices (H Beetham, Deepening digital know-how: developing digital talent. 2015).

Digital capabilities are an integral element in building a digital workplace at Coleg y Cymoedd and to realising their digital vision. The college wants to ensure that learners achieve beyond their core learning experience, gaining transferable skills that will equip them as digital citizens.

The Open University is currently engaged in a ‘radical redesign’ process with a focus on digital innovation as a means of transforming teaching and achieving organisational efficiencies. The pilot process has raised awareness of how central digital capabilities are to more agile ways of working.

Using data to inform strategic interventions
The ability for institutional leads to view anonymised data based on the self-assessments of individuals for analysis at organisational and departmental levels was valued by those participating in the pilot (although please note this isn’t automated in the current version of tool but is being explored for the future).

Participants from a wide range of roles took part in each institution highlighting differences in confidence and capabilities across the six elements of the digital capabilities framework for individuals.

At The University of Derby, the pilot of the discovery tool complemented a range of other initiatives already underway including the launch of a new technology enhanced learning strategy and participation in the student digital experience tracker in 2016. The data from all the initiatives is being gathered and analysed to identify target areas where dedicated support is required and the development of additional resources.

Participation in the pilot helped to raise awareness of the importance of digital capabilities at The Hull College Group and provided an insight into the current capabilities and confidence levels of staff and their training needs. Staff felt the questions were good at encouraging reflection and liked the visual overview of their individual capabilities along with suggested areas for action and links to resources.

Starting the conversation … creating new opportunities
The discovery tool provided an opportunity to engage staff at all levels in discussions about the importance and relevance of developing digital capabilities.

Establishing a collaborative approach for investigating the appetite for digital capabilities development across the was the focus of pilot activities at The University of Hertfordshire. A digital capabilities scoping group helped to engage as many people as possible across the university at a strategic level and engaged staff from 14 subject areas, professional services personnel and senior managers.

“Using the discovery tool is a great way of starting a conversation around digital capabilities”
Matt Smith, eLearning project manager, Wales Centre for Pharmacy Professional Education, School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University

The pilot process at Cardiff University has opened up communication channels with individuals and teams, creating opportunities to discuss digital practices that can be embedded in new courses, raising awareness of the expertise available within the Wales Centre for Pharmacy Professional Education and reaching out to staff beyond the ‘usual suspects’.

Some innovative and creative strategies were used to engage staff including the writing of love letters/break up letters by The Open University which elicited some very reflective responses and library and computing staff at the University of Hertfordshire took part in a buzzy ‘speed dating’ exercise post-pilot to find out what ‘digital superpowers’ their colleagues had as well as share their favourite apps.

Hitting the ground running – the value of a ready made tool
The value of participating in a national pilot, contributing to the co-design process and having access to a tool developed using the expertise of Jisc colleagues and associates was acknowledged by all six organisations.

“I found the discovery tool really well put together. It is clear and concise and arguably has more traction and weight having been developed by an external organisation. It would have taken weeks or months to engage staff with something similar had it been devised in-house.”
Richard Fullylove, strategic ILT manager/rheolwr TDG stretegol, Coleg y Cymoedd

Get involved

Stay up-to-date

Discovery tool – what we learned and where we go next

From February until June this year, fourteen institutions ran a pilot of Jisc’s digital capabilities discovery tool (beta) with members of staff. If you are interested in joining an open pilot of a new version of the discovery tool, you can sign up on behalf of your institution here.

A quick recap on the discovery tool (beta) pilot

The discovery tool allows individuals – working under their own initiative – to reflect on their digital confidence. Through a series of questions they explore different areas of the Digital Capability Framework. Through their answers they are made aware of digital skills they already have and new ones they might try. screenshot1

Feedback includes a digital capability profile, a summary of suggested actions to build confidence further, and links to more detailed resources.


In this pilot version, users were asked to provide their own feedback on the experience at different points in time: immediately after completing the survey, after receiving their results, and two weeks later.

Organisations receive summary data about the number of staff in different areas completing the discovery tool, and broadly about their capability scores (remembering that these are self-assessed and so reflect confidence rather than competence). Individual staff are never identified, but pilot sites have been giving their staff opportunities to share and talk through their results, and to identify further development needs they have or interests they want to develop. We have also been helping organisations to take a broad approach to developing the digital confidence and capability of their staff, with resources such as the digital capability profiles and organisational guide. Many pilot organisations attended our community of practice launch and shared their experiences there. CoP-launch-3We have also been following up with contacts in the pilot institutions and evaluating their experience with the discovery tool.

Findings from the pilot evaluation

Overall we collected 907 responses from a pop-up question completed immediately after the reflective questions, and 265 responses to a more reflective survey completed at the end of the process (about half were completed after a two week delay). Feedback from the survey was very positive, with over 70% choosing to ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ with all six positive statements suggested to them. The closing summary of their personal digital capabilities was rated the most positive element overall. From qualitative feedback, the three benefits most often cited by users were:

  • Analysis of personal skills (‘strengths and weaknesses’)
  • Better understanding of digital capability as a concept or group of concepts
  • Targeted feedback/resources for development

However, there is considerable room for improvement in some areas of the user experience, especially the interface through which the questions and feedback are delivered. Many users found the discovery experience ‘somewhat useful’ but had suggestions for improvement. Only 36% followed up the resources suggested to them at the end of the process, although these users found the resources to be useful (90%) and relevant to their personal needs (80%). Around a third of users said they were planning to do something new or different as a result of the discovery experience.

Organisational users were positive about the way the discovery tool had raised awareness of digital capability, encouraged conversation, and help staff to understand the range of capabilities they might need in their digital practice.

  • The great benefit for us in being involved in the pilot is that it has increased awareness of the need to engage with these capabilities.
  • Using the diagnostic and the other resources helps grow the understanding around the topic
  • Provided opportunities for digital discussions which can then lead on to more engagement
  • Using the pilot as a ‘fun’ way into digital capabilities and getting the conversations going with key influencers

However, organisational contacts were less convinced that the process had allowed them to identify staff strengths and weaknesses clearly enough. Some wanted to be able to customise the questions and feedback to suit their own systems, while others wanted a finer-grained discrimination of staff in different roles. There are clearly some difficult trade-offs between generic and specific digital skills, which need to be managed in any tool of this kind. There are also tensions between personal engagement – a tool that is self-directed and rewarding to use –  and organisational development – a tool that can help identify the development needs of staff. These are questions we have shared and discussed with the pilots.

Some unanticipated benefits were identified, such as:

  • Saves us time and effort rather than having to develop our own materials
  • Offers the credibility of Jisc’s backing and support
  • Signposts high-quality resources (there were only positive comments about these)

There were a wealth of useful suggestions from the pilot organisations – both through the evaluation process and through engagement in webinars and the community of practice. These are summarised in the following section as recommendations, many of which we are following up already, and all of which will be put in place as the pilot continues.

In July we also tested a specific set of questions for FE & Skills Teaching, which received a positive response from our pilot institutions. Feedback from this evaluation is informing the development of teacher-specific questions and feedback for the open pilot version.

Recommendations for further development

We can see that there is a demand for a discovery tool, but that we need to build and improve on the first pilot if it is to be really beneficial. We are therefore running a second, open pilot with a completely new platform and further development of the content and concept. You can sign up for the open pilot here.

Discovery tool

Discovery tool

  • Clarify who the discovery tool is aimed at and how it can be of value: the tensions between personal self-reflection/self-development and organisational planning need to be worked out. This being addressed in how we explain and contextualise the tool in the future.
  • Modern design interface with better chunking of content, visual design, navigation etc. This has already been addressed with the decision to use as the platform for delivery.
  • Develop a version for students. This was an overwhelmingly popular recommendation and is being pursued in the open pilot.
  • Work on an institutional data dashboard with advice on how to use the discovery tool for organisational development.
  • Provide a coherent framework of guidance and resources for institutions, including quick links to the capabilities framework and other background material found to be valuable.

We are also reviewing and updating the questions, feedback and resource links in the light of the detailed comments we have received. if you are one of the people who has been interviewed, surveyed or asked for your opinion, we’re very grateful. Some of the changes we are proposing – though not all will be available immediately – are these:

  • offer different, role-specific versions – to include teaching staff in HE and FE, possibly also research staff and professional staff in student-facing and other roles.
  • focus on ‘the capabilities I need for work’ with less emphasis on personal and social uses of digital media
  • revise and fully user test the feedback, considering more finely-grained feedback depending on responses to specific questions
  • provide feedback more progressively

Some of these changes will already be available when you sign up for the open pilot: others will be made available over the coming months. Please consider joining us on the discovery journey and having a say in its future.

Next steps

Sign up for the open pilot (more details available from September)

Hear more from six of the fourteen pilot institutions about their use of the discovery tool

Join the Jisc digital capabilities JiscMail list and via the list, get involved with the community of practice (next meeting 30 November 2017 – details to follow)

Review some of the digital capability resources available on the project page.

Get involved in shaping the Jisc digital capability service

Would you like to help shape the digital capability service that Jisc will be launching in late 2018? We would love to hear your views on what would make the service most useful to you and what you would expect to find there.

As the various strands of the Jisc Building Digital Capability project are progressing we are looking at the best way to bring them together into a service for our members. We are currently doing some visioning work trying to imagine what the Jisc digital capability service might look like and what other strands of work we need to take up to deliver the service to our members.

Apart from the work we are doing internally (such as a cross Jisc workshop for staff to develop ideas and prototype the service) we are very much interested in hearing the voice of our members to ensure their requirements are met.

We have been asking:

What is the one key thing that you would like Jisc to provide you and your institution with in relation to digital capability? What would it look like and what you would do with it?

The answer that came up again and again was a student facing version of the discovery tool. This would be useful throughout the student journey – on entry for students to self-reflect on their digital capabilities and later on at various points to see how they are progressing.

Another part of the service that was recognized as important was the work that is taking place already around the framework but with the addition of practical ways and stories on how people have implemented it at strategic level. See our case studies of institutions who are developing their own approaches here. It would be useful to have a template or an action plan with what worked well and what steps were made to implement practice: key people you need to speak to, where you get the funding from, how you evaluate your progress. See our digital capability audit tool and curriculum checklists as a starting point for supporting discussions at a strategic and curriculum level – see these linked from this page.

Some respondents, envisaged the digital capability service as a one stop shop for all the range of Jisc resources, case studies and well researched content. Others included training materials and online workshops on how staff  can learn and keep up to date with digital capabilities both independently and through institutional support.

While we cannot promise that each and every single requested feature will be delivered it is crucial for us to hear your ideas and be steered by our members. We would love to hear your views on what the Jisc digital capability service should provide for you.

You can  fill in a short survey or get in touch directly with me ( or via Twitter @alicja_shah).  Follow us on Twitter #digitalcapabilties and join our community of practice.

We are also looking for volunteers for a focus group to provide feedback on the initial vision for the service in the autumn 2017 and would be delighted if you would like to get involved!