UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities – Part Two!

Following on from Part One, here’s a few more recaps of talks from last week’s UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities.

Meeting and challenging student’s expectations of digital engagement

Dave White, Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the Arts London

Presentation slides

Dave White has worked on a number of Jisc-funded projects including a model of digital participation called Visitors and Residents; this is a really interesting model to explore in relation to your own digital behaviour. Like many models of digital practice, it’s contextual; you might be a visitor in many contexts, just popping into the digital environment to complete a task or retrieve a piece of information, while in other contexts you might have developed a digital social presence, or become a participant in a digital community.

I saw Dave speak at i2c2 last year about Visitors and Residents, he’s a really engaging speaker. This video is a really good introduction to the V&R concept if you are interested.

Dave was speaking today about the findings of Jisc’s Digital Student Project (full project webpages here).

A couple of interesting findings in relation to student expectations:

  • Students expect their institution to provide all the resources they need for their studies (hardware and software) even if they also own these resources themselves. So while students have an expectation that they can bring their own device, they also expect the institution to provide for them.
  • students expect “explicit instruction in using institutional systems (library catalogue, VLE, assessment system) and specialist technologies required for their course” – good to hear!

And a couple of interesting points from the student experience part of the report:

  • “Students are so used to seamless access they do not understand when they are crossing boundaries e.g. between institutionally-paid-for to free-on-the open-web services”. I think this would be a familiar scenario to many librarians  – how many students googling academic papers notice that Provided by Lancaster Library note at the top of the screen?
  • “Students want more guidance on academically credible sources and academically legitimate uses of online content” – Again, this is encouraging, librarians certainly can have a role in this.

The executive summary of the report is nice and concise and is well worth a read.

Leading on from the report, Dave focused on the idea of Entitlements versus Enhancements. Would students consider access to certain resources, systems or services an entitlement, or just something nice to have? And would their ideas match up with the priorities your institution or department holds?

We were given a little time to discuss this amongst ourselves – I think this would make a really good workshop activity as I imagine many staff (and students) would have different ideas about what services/resources are essential.

It’s pretty common sense but I wonder how many institutions are sure that they have all of the essentials right before focusing on the entitlements?

Dave also spoke about how technology in universities is deployed to either deliver the curriculum, or to enhance the student experience – but it’s not always clear which of these priorities the technology is addressing. In recent years the priority of student experience is taking up more and more resource – but do universities in the UK have the capacity to deliver on both fronts?

This was a really interesting talk that covered a wide range of topics relating to student expectation, experience and the use of technology. There was a whole section on graduate attributes and digital literacies that I haven’t really managed to capture the jist of – some of the #udigcap tweets might be helpful there!

Here comes everyone: digital literacies across staff roles and boundaries

Helen Beetham, Educator and Consultant

Presentation slides

The title of this talk was a reference to mass amateurisation and Clay Shirkey’s Here Comes Everybody; are we are all journalists, photographers, film-makers (and librarians) now?

Helen’s talk looked at the work Jisc have been doing recently as part of their Digital Capability Codesign Challenge and unveiled a draft image of a revised Jisc model of Digital Literacies/Capabilities.

We’ve been looking at adapting the Jisc 7 elements model as a basis for a Lancaster Digital Skills/Capabilities framework. These revisions to the Jisc model fit with some conclusions we had made about IT/technical skills being a fundamental part of each element, rather than an element in their own right – and that issues of health, wellbeing and work-life balance are an issue of concern for both students and staff.

Helen summarised why these revisions had been made, and why models and frameworks such as this are valuable to institutions.


A couple of key findings from recent interviews as part of the project:

  • Digital Capabilities are not currently well embedded in strategic planning
  • Individuals value recognition of their digital skills, practice and development – but institutions and professional bodies do not recognise and reward this development as well as they might
  • Digital Capabilities can be very general and very specific, and institutions need to do more to develop these capabilties in their staff and ensure they retain and embed certain knowledge and practice.

Helen highlighted Digital Copyright as a particular area of knowledge where universities needed to invest in and develop expertise, as well as making sure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities and how they can get help and support.

(The “Man in the print room” was the expert in Digital Copyright and Intellectual Property identified by one of the interview respondents in their organisation – I wonder how many people in that university know about his expertise?)

This was a really interesting snapshot of the work Jisc are doing in this area. Institutions can get involved with the Digital Capability Codesign Challenge – you can keep up with the project at http://digitalcapability.jiscinvolve.org/wp/. There was an interesting part of the talk about Digital Literacies as situated practice, but I think I’ll return to that in another blog post.

Part Three of the conference coming soon!


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