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What does the digitally capable institution look like? – Digifest session

Jisc and UCISA jointly ran a workshop yesterday at Jisc Digifest: What does the digitally capable institution look like? Gillian Fielding and Rebecca McCready from UCISA presented some of the key findings from last year’s digital capability survey. In addition to the points made in Gillian’s blog post, I was struck by the range of roles in universities that find themselves leading on staff and student digital literacies and skills:

  • Programme manager in digital pedagogy
  • Head of learning technology
  • Academic librarian
  • Deputy director for training and development
  • IT business partner (development)
  • Technology champion
  • Student digital ambassador
  • Head of organisational and learning development
  • Digital practice advisor
  • Chief information officer
  • Digital learning director
  • Digital literacy advisor

This is important for Jisc’s Building digital capability project, as we need to understand the priorities, needs and constraints of the people in these roles, and ensure as far as possible that our outputs work for them.

In the discussion groups, some delegates highlighted a potential danger of nominating a single lead on digital capability: that other staff feel that the responsibility for improving skills in this area lies elsewhere. This echoes one of the responses to the survey, which stated that digital capability was the responsibility of all academic staff and even students.

We looked in the session at some of the ways in which traditional staff roles might be changing in a digital environment, using one of the sections from the Managing change worksheet
in the Development resources section of the Jisc Developing digital literacies guide.

We also asked delegates to consider and prioritise the following list of emerging recommendations to universities and colleges, drawn from the Jisc digital literacies and digital capabilities projects, and the UCISA digital capability survey:

  • Adopt a strategic cross-institutional approach to developing digital capabilities, integrating into areas that may not have previously fully engaged in this agenda such as Estates.
  • Obtain senior management involvement and support for driving digital capability change agendas.
  • Use a range of different approaches to motivate and reward students and staff for developing their digital capabilities and changing their practice.
  • Support staff to embed digital literacies and digital practices in the curriculum.
  • Promote discussion about what effective digital practice looks like in the different disciplines/subject areas and for different professional services staff groups.
  • Encourage effective work practices using digital technologies, providing relevant training.
  • Develop coherent policy guidelines for the use of personal devices. Review how to provide a robust and flexible digital environment to enable personalised ways of working.
  • Make the most of open educational and research resources
  • Collaborate with other universities and colleges, with the help of sector bodies like Jisc and UCISA, to develop requirements and specifications for commercial systems, in order to derive maximum benefits from suppliers whilst reducing the onus on individual institutions.
  • Use partnership working (staff-staff, student-staff, student-student) to co-develop digital capability within the university or college, exploring learning, teaching, research and administrative practices.
  • Embed digital capabilities into key strategies and policies (Learning and Teaching, Quality, ICT) and practices (e.g. course approval and monitoring)
  • Integrate social, personal and institutional technologies more effectively, alongside subject specialist technologies.

Delegates’ top priority was securing senior manager buy-in and, if you already had that, developing a strategic cross-institutional approach. This is something that will be covered by the Digital leadership development strand of our Building digital capability project.

If you’d like to get involved with this area of work, please see the information on the Get involved section of the Jisc website on how to be part of the building digital capability user group.

One reply on “What does the digitally capable institution look like? – Digifest session”

Digital capabilities are also a huge issue in work based learning in the UK. In a sector where apprentices are mainly based with their employer and often never visit their provider’s training centre the potential benefits of digital technologies are huge for providers, apprentices and employers. Many organisation in the WBL sector are medium sized or small, specialise in one or two vocational sectors and lack the infra-structure of typical higher education institutions. Many colleagues in WBL have not come to their current role in education and skills through a full-time university education experience but rather a vocational route. Let’s not forget work based learning because the pay-off from improved digital capabilities could be quick and powerful. 😉

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