Case studies: journeys towards digital expertise

New and updated resources in this post:

Case studies:

Summary report

Digital capability is an agenda for organisations across the sectors of education. But how best to take it forward in your own setting? Time and again we hear that examples from practice are what people need to turn inspiration into action. There is no substitute for learning from people who have tried and succeeded, and although we can’t bring you those people directly, we have done the next best thing. Through interviews with key players and a look at the background evidence for each case we have produced a series of written reports on organisations that are making a difference.

You can explore the full list of case studies from the links above and from the Digital capability project page. Each one starts with a general overview so you can judge how relevant the lessons might be in your own setting. Some of the ideas, though, will be relevant to everybody. We have drawn these together in a summary report, Journeys towards digital capabilities, which lists the lessons learned at the different case study sites. These cover: frameworks and definitions; other strategic approaches; development strategies (personal and curriculum change); motivation and reward for staff; and ideas for working with students.

In the next post we hear from some key change agents whose stories feature in the case studies, and who also presented their experiences at Digifest.

Follow #digitalcapability for updates over the next days and weeks, and beyond.

Digital capabilities: a whole-organisation approach

New and updated resources in this post:

In 2009/10, through its Learning Literacies for a Digital Age (LLiDA) project, Jisc first flew a flag for what has become ‘digital capabilities’ today. That project focused on the skills and mindset needed to become a digitally capable learner. It concluded that there is no one way of being digitally literate. Instead there are a number of interlocking practices that individuals express differently depending on their settings, on the aspirations they have, and on the opportunities and constraints they experience.

LLiDA prepared the ground for the more ambitious Developing Digital Literacies (DDL) programme. Twelve universities and colleges were supported to put in place different strategic approaches, and together they explored what difference they could make to staff and student digital practices over a two-year period. Once again, DDL showed that there was not one ‘right’ way of doing development around a digital capabilities agenda. What one university or college needs to succeed and what its opportunities are for development are not the same as for the university or college down the road. Jisc also worked alongside a wide range of professional bodies to consider how digital technologies were changing practice across educational roles.

Since those projects reported we have seen the launch of the UCISA Digital capabilities survey (more on this in a following post), been through several iterations of the FELTAG agenda, and responded to the QAA Higher Education Review theme. Digital literacy, or capability (or fluency, or confidence, or skills) have become a mainstream concern for strategies and organisational leaders to address. Digital technologies have continued to reshape organisations – for example by enabling the collection and analysis of learning data, by opening up new kinds of student market, and by unbundling roles and functions. No-one who works in education has been untouched by these effects.


Six elements: organisational lens. Click for hi res version.

This is why I feel it’s important not to focus on people’s digital capabilities without considering the organisation they study or work in. Tools such as the Digital capabilities (‘six element’) framework and the profiles might help individuals to identify skills they have that are valuable  in their work, or to consider what areas they would like to develop further. But the responsibility for development has to be shared. We know from those earlier projects, for example, that the digital environment and infrastructure play an important role. People are more likely to develop advanced skills if they have access to a personal device and web services, robust classroom technologies and connectivity, specialist software, and rich digital media to hand.

Individuals also need support to keep acquiring and updating their skills. Online, just-in-time materials are fine for those who have some confidence, but fall down when people are anxious about their basic skills, or are trying to master complex and challenging practices. Time and freedom to experiment, especially with peer support, are necessary for deep, embedded learning. More important still are credible forms of recognition and reward.

What is Jisc doing to help organisations?

Developing digital capability: an organisational framework is a new resource, covering the six elements from an organisational perspective. It looks at what enables individuals to thrive and develop in their digital practice. It is designed to be used by digital leaders and change agents in whatever roles they are working.

From a highly practical point of view, the Digital capability case studies synthesis report describes what 15 organisations are doing to support digital capability and what they find works for them. It is a taster for the case studies themselves, which we will be launching tomorrow alongside our session on the same theme at Digifest.

We are also launching a brand new Guide: Developing organisational approaches to digital capability. Clare Killen will be blogging about the Guide at its launch, but you can catch a preview right now in this Briefing paper and Poster.

Follow #digitalcapability for updates over the next days and weeks, and beyond.

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.


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.

Follow #digitalcapability

Digital capability profiles for different roles

This is the second post in our rolling update on the Building digital capabilities challenge and associated resources from Jisc.

New and updated resources in this post:

In the first post I explained that the generic Framework has its limits when it comes to considering the specialist skills needed by staff in different roles. We have removed much of the detail from the high level framework, and it is now explored in a series of role-specific profiles or mappings. Each profile is an example of how the six elements can be interpreted and implemented in role-specific ways.

What does it mean to say that they are ‘examples’? Although they are more detailed, these profiles or mappings are still at a very general level. They don’t include any of the digital specialisms that we see emerging in different roles. They aren’t organisationally specific. They  don’t include any indication of level. Why not? Well, we are not trying to create competence frameworks, standards, or role descriptions. Those already exist and are quite rightly owned by the relevant professional bodies. We are – working with the relevant bodies where we can – providing examples of how digital expertise is emerging in different roles.

There is no suggestion that individuals should be able to do everything that is in the relevant profile. The profiles show how new areas of practice are emerging, and how individuals might use their digital skills in different areas of their designated roles.

byod-bannerThe profiles might be used:

  • by individuals to review their own development, and/or to ensure their digital capabilities are fully recognised and credited e.g. in appraisal and review;
  • by teams and team leaders to assess collective strengths and priorities, and identify areas in which new skills need to be developed or recruited;
  • as the basis for a local version, with language and examples relevant to local requirements;
  • to develop or curate resources relevant to people in specific roles.

Working on the profiles

I’m very grateful to have input from the members of several professional bodies and expert working groups on these resources. That doesn’t mean that the professional bodies overall have approved the content – unless it says so on the tin!

  • Teacher profile for further education and skills, with thanks to Jisc’s Digital Launchpad Working Group and Jisc subject specialists for accessibility and inclusion, for their comments and improvements
  • Teacher profile for higher education, with thanks to the Higher Education Academy for their comments and for supporting the mapping to the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF)
  • Library and information professional profile, with thanks to Jane Secker and the Information Literacy Working group of Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) for their comments and improvements
  • Learning technology mapping, developed in collaboration with the Association for Learning Technologies (ALT), with special thanks to Maren Deepwell for coordinating this
  • Leader profile, with thanks to participants on the Jisc Digital leaders course for their feedback
  • Learner profile, with thanks to members of the Association for Learning Development in HE and especially to Debbie Holley, Bournemouth University; also to student members of the Change agents’ network (CAN) network)
  • Researcher profile , with thanks to Vitae for supporting and enabling the mapping to their Researcher Development Profile (RDF)

We look forward to hearing your views about these resources – about how they could be useful or are already being used. Please come and discuss how you are developing digital capability in your organisation with us if you are attending Digifest on 14/15 March.


In the next update we look at some new organisational resources for planning and developing digital capability.

Follow #digitalcapability

News from the Building digital capability project team

Although it has been quiet on the blog recently, we have been busy behind the scenes with some new developments. We will also be starting a series of blog posts in March 2017, to launch a suite of resources to support colleges and universities with the development of digital capability of their staff and students. So bookmark this site and look out for the series of blog posts from Helen Beetham over the forthcoming weeks. We are pleased to be presenting on this work at DigiFest together with colleges and universities who are taking forward their developments on digital capabilities. We will also be launching a Digital Capability community of practice at an event on 9th May in Birmingham – more information will follow.

Piloting the discovery tool

We are delighted to be working with 14 institutions on a closed pilot of a beta version of our Discovery tool aligned to the digital capability framework.

Discovery tool

Discovery tool

The 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 capability and make plans to improve their capability through a set of recommended actions and resources.

The following institutions are working with us over the next 6 months to pilot the discovery tool and our wider set of digital capability resources:

  • Coleg Y Cymoedd
  • Derwentside College
  • Hartpury College
  • North Lindsey College
  • Hull College Group
  • School of Pharmacy, Cardiff University
  • University of Derby
  • University of East London
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • University of Hull
  • Institute of Education, University of Reading
  • The Open University
  • University of Southampton

The findings from the pilot will be informing the further development of the discovery tool which will move to a more sustainable platform for a roll out of an open pilot in Autumn 2017.

Developing organisational approaches to digital capability

6 Elements of digital capabilities model

6 Elements of digital capabilities model

In March we will be launching a suite of resources to support colleges and universities with the development of the digital capability of their staff and students. We are creating an online guide on ‘Developing organisational approaches to digital capability’ authored by Clare Killen and Helen Beetham, which will be launched late March. The online guide aims to support organisational leads with responsibility for developing staff and student digital capabilities in FE and HE by offering a structured approach showing how our digital capability framework can be used alongside a suite of tools and resources to help you to build a contextualised model for developing digital capability in your organisation.

The guide will link through to the following resources which have all been updated following feedback from an extensive consultation with practitioners and managers across further and higher education:

  • Updated digital capability framework
  • Organisational lens on the digital capability framework – which will provide guidance on how to approach digital capability across four key areas within an educational organisation of teaching, research, content and communications.
  • Strategic steps towards organisational digital capability – a 4 step model
  • An audit tool and checklist – a valuable starting point for conversations within the organisation
  • Seven digital capability ‘profiles’ outlining the digital capabilities required by different roles, including HE and FE teacher, learner, library and information professional, learning technologist, researcher and leader
  • Series of case studies highlighting how universities and colleges are developing staff digital capability

These resources will all be published in March and linked from the Building digital capability project page with supporting blog posts here.

If you have any queries please contact us at

We look forward to your feedback on these forthcoming resources.

Lisa Gray, Heather Price and Sarah Knight

Digital Pedagogy Lab

Province House, Grafton St, Charlottetown (471342)

Over on a domain of his own, Lawrie has been posting about his attendance at the Digital Pedagogy Lab on Prince Edward Island and has written a series of blog posts about the event and what he learnt and experienced and the relevance to digital capability.

Red Roads and Connectivism

Digital Pedagogy Lab: Prince Edward Island, a conference for 60 delegates working across schools, further and higher education. A highly interactive event that generated over 6000 tweets in over three days, and involved remote delegates across 4 continents. This initial post from Lawrie frames the event, discussing nature of connectivism and rhizomatic approaches in education.

Connectivism and the tyranny of print

How much does our notion of content drive our learning environments. Dave Cormier wrote: Content is a print concept. It requires replication in the form of the printing press. It requires authority/power in the form of a government/agency/publisher deciding what is ‘required’ to learn. It is a standardization engine for learning, both to allow for spreading of authorized messaging and to allow for ‘uninstructed teachers to teach almost as well as an experienced one.’ Education, learning, should be a process– it sounds obvious, but when we look critically at the learning environments we have developed thus far, there is strong element of students engaging with content, not people. This is especially true in digital contexts. This post as already generated debate on both twitter and “the comments on the blog!”

Open Analytics?

The water cooler discussions are a key part of any conference, at #DigPed they were built in and reported upon. This was one of those discussions, led by a leading proponent of Open, Robin DeRosa. Underpinning the question was the issue of the data being open to each of the individual students, and the transparency of the algorithms associated with the analytics being used. If we make data open to each student, can we give the students the tools and the space to develop the capabilities to understand the data they are presented with? Could this be a way of framing a conversation with institutional staff about their learning processes?

Vulnerability in the Curriculum: No one cares about your soup!

Developing a digital identity is arguably a key element of working in the modern world. In this piece Lawrie links vulnerability and authenticity as being a part of developing that identity and asks the question how can we model vulnerability for students and integrate it into the curriculum.

Image Credit: Province House, Grafton St, Charlottetown by Robert Lindsdell CC BY 2.0

Effective digital leadership


There is an opportunity to take part in our new four-day Jisc digital leaders programme.

Become a digitally-informed and empowered leader and learn how to help your organisation respond more effectively to technology-driven change.

4 – 5 October and 17 – 18 October 2016
Burleigh Court Conference Centre, Loughborough
Booking now open

Over two residential workshops, we will equip you with the tools, knowledge and skills to:

  • Become a more effective digital leader through your own personal and professional development
  • Explore how organisations can engage more effectively with the digital technology at their disposal – at both strategic and operational levels
  • Discover and reflect on how digital technology is changing the way your organisation operates – creating new leadership challenges and strategic opportunities
  • Learn to lead, manage and influence digitally-driven change across organisations, departments, services and teams.

Aimed at current and aspiring leaders and managers working in higher and further education, our programme is suitable for both individuals or organisational teams.

Further information about the Jisc digital leaders programme and booking information can be found on our web site.

I hope you can join us and look forward to welcoming you in October

Leveraging change through digital capability

At the recent Jisc Connect more… event in London I facilitated a session on digital capability and introduced the topic by exploring the work we have done in this area. The session was filmed and can be watched on YouTube.

We also had contributions from Kingston University and Lambeth College.

Talking about digital capability

Presenting at the SDF

I recently delivered a short presentation to the Staff Development Forum London Regional Group meeting on the Jisc work that is taking place around building digital capabilities.

I first started discussing what we understand by digital capability and how important it is to have a shared understanding. I find it interesting how different individuals and groups have different ideas what digital capability is. Within the project team, we call it the capability to live, work and learn in a digital world.

I like to bring up some examples of what are digital capability issues, such as how using the Twitter gives me a range of skills that are transferable to other communication tools and functions within other platforms such as VLEs. I also talk about the HIV clinic e-mail “mistake” which I have discussed before on the blog.

I then came round to the service we are building at Jisc and discussed the four key areas, the framework which we have already published, the discovery tool and online offer, we are planning to make a beta version available this summer, and the digital leaders programme which is running this October.

There was some interesting discussion about what we are building, and the role of staff development in using and rolling out the tool in their own institutions.

One aspect that was identified as important was about motivating staff to take that next step in building their capability. It is one thing to know where you are in terms of capability, but also being motivated to start doing something about it, gaining new skills, asking for support and help, understanding what it means to be able to build capability and to go through self-directed personal development.

It was also interesting to discuss the unknown unknowns in regarding to personal development, if people don’t know they don’t know something, why would they try and then develop in that area?

We did discuss the use of styles, that’s always an interesting way of getting people to think about self-assessment of digital skills.

Chris Rowell on his blog provides his perspective on the session.

A very good session and lots to think about.

Taking Pinipa for a drive


One of the things we like to do in Futures is try new things out to see if they can make a difference to how we manage and present our projects.

We have been looking at how we can provide a better view of progress of our project to our key stakeholders, the steering group and engage the user group in the development of the final service.

One service that we recently tried was Pinipa. This is an engagement tool for projects, which aims to make collaborating with stakeholders easy.

Before we trialled Pinipa we had three main channels for the project:

  • We had regular steering group meetings and reports.
  • For the user group we used a mailing list, this was mainly for announcements, there was some discussion, but not much.
  • We also had the project blog, which we have used mainly for event reports and articles, such as reporting on ALT- C or the importance of data literacy when it comes to working with personal data.

In addition to those main channels externally we used Twitter quite extensively to engage with users and share news. Internally we have been using Yammer to share internal project updates and news. This was aimed both at the staff within the directorate of Digital Futures and the Jisc Account Managers.

What we wanted to do with Pinipa was to provide one site for all our key stakeholders to find out more about the project and to engage the user group in discussions.

We wanted to show the different workstreams of the project we were working on, not so much the detail, but high level workstreams. We did feel that Pinipa was able to give an overview of the project, however as with any kind of new tool or service there was a learning curve in how to use the tool from an user perspective and we didn’t feel that we were showing clearly the progress of the project and how it was broken down into the different workstreams. We do know that Jisc members want to have an insight into the project, so we are reflecting on how we can embed this into existing channels.

One feature of Pinipa was the ability to ask stakeholders to make key decisions about the project, what we struggled with this was what would be a meaningful key decision about the project that we would expect the stakeholders to make. Most of those key decisions had been made much earlier in the project lifecycle. So we liked that feature, but didn’t use it. For projects in an earlier stage, with more options open, that key decision feature might be really useful.

One aspect that did work well, was demonstrating all the different events and conferences where the project team were presenting on the topic of digital capabilities. Although the tool didn’t offer an ideal way of presenting these events within the timeline, it was useful to be able to bring them to the attention of stakeholders. We know that the Jisc members would like to know when the project is going to be talked about, so we are going to ensure that future events can be easily found.

We also wanted to use Pinipa was to make it much easier for Jisc members to provide feedback and engage in discussion around our projects. Pinipa had a useful discussion function that we wanted to use to elicit input. Though we did attempt to engage Jisc members, the participation was very low or non-existent. While we recognise that this is always a challenge, we will redouble our efforts to use our existing channels to effectively engage with Jisc members and give them the opportunity to input into the project.

Overall Pinipa is a great tool for oversight and communication and would work really well for a range of projects, particularly if used from the outset. From the building digital capability project perspective it wasn’t the right tool for us at this stage.