Digital capabilities framework: an update

This is the first in a series of posts to bring you up to date with developments on the Digital capabilities Framework and associated resources from Jisc. Each post will start with a list of resources so you can go straight to those links if you prefer.

New/updated resources in this blog post:

From now through Digifest and beyond there will be plenty of resources coming your way, with further developments promised through the spring and summer 🙂 So if you are into digital capability (literacy, fluency, confidence or skills) you might want to get your party bag ready.

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Jisc Digital capabilities framework: the six elements

This post focuses on updates to the Digital capability framework for individuals. If you don’t know the framework already you can get a quick refresher from this blog post: framing the digital capabilities of staff (November 2015).

The aim of the framework is to provide a high-level, general account of the digital capabilities that we (in post-16 education) aim to develop, in our staff and in our learners. For the first time in this update we have evidence of how the high level framework is being used in practice. Drawn from survey evidence and consultations, and from case study interviews, these include:

  • To support discussion and build consensus about the capabilities needed in an organisation (described as ‘a common language for development’)
  • To inspire a local version
  • To plan, ‘benchmark‘ or review staff/educational development
  • To plan or review a curriculum, or to develop new learning materials, with digital capability as an outcome (there more on curriculum uses in a later post)
  • To structure and signpost development opportunities – videos, content playlists, workshops, communities of practice
  • To design digital badges or ‘missions’ for staff and/or students to evidence their digital capability
  • To map digital expertise across different staff roles within a team, department, or the organisation as a whole, identifying gaps and recognising where digital expertise adds value

Updates since 2015

The 2015 Digital capabilities review produced a framework that is now well recognised and used (the UCISA 2016 Digital capability survey will provide more evidence of this). However, we know that the original descriptions for the six elements were too complex. They have been cut down and simplified, and organised into 15 sub-elements for ease of reference. You can download the updated Framework and descriptions here.

If you are very alert – or know the original very well – you will notice some minor changes. There is no problem with continuing to use the 2015 version! But you might be interested in why these changes were made, especially if you have been involved in any of the professional body consultations or have given feedback on resources. (Yes we have listened!) This is what we were asked to do, and why.

Clarify the difference between proficiency and productivity
The first element of the Framework is now more clearly split in two parts, the first (‘ICT proficiency’) meaning functional access to digital technologies, and the second (‘ICT productivity’) meaning the choice and use of those technologies to meet personal needs and the demands of different tasks. Proficiency is essentially a set of technical skills. Productivity is the ‘mindset’ and experience to apply those skills in practice. This involves confidence and curiosity, openness, judgement and discrimination, and the ability to deal with technical set-backs.

We have not included a long list of current tools, apps and technologies in this element because they are constantly changing. But we do have a new resource (coming soon!) that maps the six elements to current tools in use. You keep asking for it, and thanks to Jisc’s Subject specialists you can now have it. And you will be able to adapt it and add your own favourites too.

Extend the idea of ‘scholarship‘ to evidence-based problem solving
The framework is meant to apply across professional roles in HE, FE and the skills sector. And one of the big toe-stubbing moments for people in non-HE-academic roles was always ‘scholarship’. We knew there was something important here about using digital evidence and tools. We wanted to keep  that digital capability is about thinking differently and not just doing differently. But it had to be expressed in a more inclusive way. This sub-element now appears as ‘problem solving‘. The Profiles for Researchers and for Library & information professionals show that this element can be interpreted in ways that are highly scholarly and research-based. But other staff (and learners!) also use digital evidence to make decisions, solve problems, and arrive at innovative solutions. Increasingly, practices such as survey design and finding patterns in data are needed across roles. We hope that in making this term more inclusive we have managed to keep that sense of intellectual engagement.

Notice that we do ‘development‘, not just self-development!
The framework was intended to be generic, with the special skills of digital teachers being explored in the relevant teacher profiles. While everyone can learn, reflect and develop in their role – the thinking went – not everyone is a teacher.

Feedback on question sets for the Discovery tool told us that teaching staff did not find enough in the generic framework that addressed their expertise in developing students and the curriculum. At the same time, staff in other roles pointed out that they also develop others, whether that’s supporting students with advice and guidance, contributing their expertise to the curriculum, or mentoring other staff in their team. Learners too can act as mentors and collaborators in the curriculum. So we’ve fixed it. The relevant element is now Learning and development and there is a new sub-element called ‘teaching‘. Just as the original framework implied that everyone should be a ‘learner’ – and have those habits of digital exploration and self-development – so now it implies that everyone in an educational organisation should be able to develop other people. And in the context of our framework that means everyone must appreciate how digital tools can help in this, even if they are not using those tools every day, or as a core part of their role.

We hope that these changes enhance the framework and make it more usable in practice. We look forward to hearing your views! Please come and discuss digital capability with us if you are attending Digifest on 14/15 March.

In the next update we discuss the new and updated digital capability profiles for different roles.

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