Framing digital capabilities for staff

Recent consultations by Jisc have highlighted the need for institutions to take a strategic approach to the digital capabilities of their staff. We hear from students – for example at the recent Change Agents Network event – that teachers who are confident with digital tools make a real difference to their learning. We know that world-class research depends on the use of digital data and that researchers need to collaborate virtually and communicate their ideas through digital media. When staff are comfortable in their digital environment they can work more effectively. Their teaching and research has more impact, they are better plugged in to subject networks and they are well placed to take on new challenges.

The Digital Capabilities challenge was scoped over the course of several consultation events, as Sarah Davies explains below. I have been given the task of exploring how institutions and professional bodies currently frame the digital capabilities of their members, sometimes through standards and benchmarks, but often just as a broad aspiration. With my colleague Lou McGill we are looking at about 30 different frameworks. Some of these belong to professional roles – where digital capabilities are just one aspect of what is described – while others refer to digital attributes across roles and contexts. Among this second group are the ‘7 elements of digital literacy‘ developed and used by Jisc, and frameworks developed by the European Commission, UNESCO, the City of Leicester, and by individual universities, as well as by professional bodies such as SCONUL and Vitae. We have recently put out a short survey to find out which frameworks are currently best known and used (deadline 10 April).

‘Digital capabilities’ are defined and valued in lots of different ways – by individuals themselves, by their colleagues and students, by their professional and representative bodies, and by the organisations that employ them. So this work can only go forward in partnership. What I hope we can provide is some foresight into how requirements for digitally capable staff are changing. By working with professional bodies and with pilot institutions, we can then see how these ideas can be drawn down into existing processes – such as professional recognition and accreditation, role analysis, job description, personal development – and reframed to fit different contexts. In the end we want to facilitate discussion among the many different people involved, so that:

  • institutions understand, plan for, develop and reward the digital capabilities that enable them to thrive;
  • professional bodies recognise, support and promote the digital capabilities of their members;
  • individuals develop and achieve recognition for their digital capabilities in the context of their chosen work.

There is plenty of good work taking place, but there could be better articulation across these processes. If you’d like to get involved in the project, as a professional body or pilot institution, or just as an individual with an interest in this area, please use the comments field below or get in touch: helen.beetham@gmail.com or sarah.davies@jisc.ac.uk.

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