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

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