Tag Archives: digital capabilities

Digital diversity – UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I am currently at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event here in Birmingham. I will be live blogging here on elearningstuff.

Sue Watling from the University of Hull kicks off the second day of the conference.

Digital diversity - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

Her session is titled: Finding and minding the gaps; digital diversity in higher education

She describes the session in the following abstract:

Digital diversity can lead to digital divides. Digitally shy staff are less likely to read the education technology literature, apply for TEL funding or attend conferences on digital capabilities. As interest in blended education increases, promoting digital ways of working for staff who teach and support learning may need to be reconsidered.

Sue initially covered her own background, where she has come from, what she has done, providing a context to her views on digital capabilities.

She did bring up the medieval lecture painting that gets around a bit, but recognises the cultural, historical and social significance of the lecture which is often why we still use and appear to be stuck with them.

The medieval lecture

Maybe after five hundred years of digital it will be embedded into education?

She discussed the fear of change, which is more prevalent in my opinion than the fear of technology.

Fear of change

People like what they like, they like what they like doing. Sometimes change can disrupt this, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. The key appears to be trusting that the change will be positive. The only real consistent in life and work is change.

She reviews Dave White’s 2011 article on Visitors and Residents and decides to extend it to those who aren’t on the continuum. This I have seen before and disagree with, if they aren’t on the continuum then that’s the issue. No need to extend the spectrum. I also wonder if these really exist in a modern university with all their digital systems in place already, even if that is just e-mail and a USB stick?

Sue asks are we finding the gaps in capability and skills. Sue does make the valid point that basic ICT proficiency is a core capability that needs to be addressed. We need to fill those gaps.

She also makes the point about not making assumptions, something I said in my own presentation yesterday.

There is something about spreading the message to all aspects of the university and working partnership.

Building ICT Proficiency – UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I am currently at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event here in Birmingham. I will be live blogging here on elearningstuff.

Building ICT Proficiency - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

In this afternoon’s session, Kathryn Wenczek, and Silke Prodinger-Leong talked about online learning and digital capabilities – the theory and the reality.

How do theory and reality for development of digital capabilities compare? What is important when offering a practical online solution to up skill digitally, particularly for fast evolving ICT skills? This session aims to give a brief theoretical insight and show a practical example of how an online learning solution has enabled a more flexible model of training digital capabilities.

The session covered an introduction to digital capabilities including a mention of the Jisc work in this area. They recognised the importance of building capability in ICT Proficiency in order to build on the wider digital capabilities.

There is already on Lynda.com a playlist that covers aspects of the Jisc Digital Capability framework. They feel the framework provides an easy insightful way of describing the many training videos and resources that are on the Lynda.com website.

Building ICT Proficiency - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

Talking to other organisations I am aware that there are some universities out there that want to point people who have low capabilities in ICT towards their institutional licence for Lynda.com as well as internal IT training. The site now has a lot of training that is appropriate to other digital capabilities as well as ICT.

The talk moved onto Kathryn Wenczek who discussed how they had rolled out Lynda.com and how staff and learners at Oxford have been using it for a range of activities. What I found interesting was how popular Lynda.com was for just in time training.

Building ICT Proficiency - UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I have often thought that the key to effective digital staff development is to provide on demand training or just in time. Often you don’t know you need training in something till the point you need it. The ability to be able to quickly access the appropriate training reduces the frustration that having an issue you can’t solve can have on productivity and workflows. There is also the impact those frustrations can have on take up of digital technologies. If you want staff to be capable in using a range of digital tools and services they often need help and support, but they may not know what support they need until they start using the tool on their own. That’s where a tool like Lynda.com can be very valuable.

The importance of language – UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

I am currently at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event here in Birmingham. I will be live blogging here on elearningstuff.

david walker at #udigcap

After I did my session, David Walker from Sussex University delivered a really good presentation on the importance of a common language.

The discourse of transformation frequently frames discussions around the role of technology in learning and teaching. Change initiatives are often pitched as seeking to ‘transform the staff/student experience’ yet the process of change can feel far from transformative, even if the outcomes represents a marked shift from the previous state. This presentation will consider the impact of our communication strategies on digital initiatives and how, through our use of language and approach to engagement, we can reduce perceived levels of threat and resistance when seeking to deliver changes in practice and/or capability.

I found this a really insightful and informative presentation on the importance of language and the impact it can have. The word transform is one that is often used when it comes to the embedding digital technologies, we talk about transformation and assume staff will be motivated and encouraged to transform. Well if that was the case then I am pretty sure we would all be transformed.

I though that the time and effort taken to understand the impact of the language used was important to the success of the project at Sussex.

So are you considering the language use in your change project?

Keynote at UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

The Stage at #udigcap

I am currently at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities event here in Birmingham. I will be live blogging here on elearningstuff and will probably post a more in-depth reflective piece on the digital capability blog later.

Last year, just before I started as Project Manager for the Jisc Digital Capabilities project, UCISA ran their first Spotlight on Digital Capabilities and Sarah Davies talked about where the project was and where it was going. Now just under twelve months later I am here in Birmingham at the second conference to talk about the project, where we are at and where we may go in the future.

As the opening keynote in front of well informed audience on the subject I have been immersed with over the last twelve months was quite a challenge. I didn’t want to repeat the story that Sarah delivered last year, I knew I want to let people know where we are, but also to get them to start thinking about once the service is available, what else needs to happen at an institutional level.

The presentation covered where we are in terms of the Jisc Digital capability service and what it will offer universities and colleges, but also some of the challenges and thinking behind the work we have done.

Building digital capability for new digital leadership, pedagogy and efficiency

What does it mean to be digitally capable? Not just for an individual, but from an organisational perspective. How will you lead using the plethora of digital tools and channels available to you? The Jisc building digital capability project has been addressing these issues for institutional leaders, for those on the front line of teaching and research, and those who support them.

I also covered aspects of institutional digital capability and what this may cover and what may need to happen. This area is really interesting, but key to helping universities and colleges to build digital capability. I intend to explore these areas in more detail as the work evolves.

Mapping the learning and teaching


During the recent Jisc Digital Leadership Programme, we looked at mapping our use of social networking tools using the concept of Visitors and Residents. We were lucky to have the influential Donna Lanclos and Dave White supporting us.

I like how the mapping exercise makes you consider how you are using various tools and what needs to happen to change that map, how do you become more resident when using a tool such as Twitter for example. Or how do you start using a tool which is currently not on your map, such as a professional blog?

The key thing I like to remind people about when using the mapping that this is a continuum and not a distinction between two groups. Your personal VandR map is not, and should not be a static thing. The mapping changes as new tools are introduced, old ones retire and your role and behaviours change.

In my own professional life, Google+ was a major part of my map in 2014, I would have placed it covering both personal, institutional down the resident’s end of the continuum. Now in 2016 it has shrunk right down and I would say it has moved over to the visitor side of the continuum. In this case the shrinking and movement is out of my control, but what could I have done to mitigate that change? Thinking about how you use tools over time can result in using the right tools in the right contexts. We should also remember that this is not about good and bad, visitor and residents are not about good and bad behaviours, it’s about understanding where you are when online.

The mapping exercise in the main covers digital communication, collaboration and participation. I then started to think about how we could use a similar concept to map teaching practice and curriculum design. This lead onto thinking about mapping the “learning” of our learners. Where are they learning, is that learning scheduled and formalised? Is that learning ad-hoc? Is it individual, group, collaborative? So the next stage was to map this in a similar manner to the Visitor and Residents, but what axes could we use when mapping learning?

On the horizontal axis we have a spectrum from broadcast to engagement. Broadcast could be considered one way, and could be one to one, or one to many. So a formal lecture would be considered broadcast, one way to many students. If lectures have opportunities for discussion and questions, then you can see how that would move down the continuum into engagement. Likewise reading a library book in the library, is also one way, author to reader, but this is more likely to be informal with little potential for engagement.

On the vertical axis we have, well this started me to think. In some respects you could have online and offline. The problem with this feels like the focus is on the tools we use and it’s the tools as well as spaces that I want to place on the map. Also online is really a space in itself. So for me a better choice would be to consider a spectrum of formal and informal. In this instance I see formal as being planned and scheduled, whereas informal is more about flexible, responsive and a matter of personal choice. So what we get is a two axes onto which we can map different activities and behaviours.

Mapping your teaching practice

What I did next was to map a “traditional” course to the map, the type of thing I use to deliver when I was a Business Studies lecturer in the 1990s and what I experienced at University in the 1980s.

Mapping your teaching practice

The use of the library, for example, is a space which is used in the main for informal learning and relatively little engagement. Learners choose when to visit the library and makes choices about what they do there. Most of the activity is consuming content (books and journals). Now in more modern libraries we see spaces for group and collaborative working, so as a result I have extended the library into the engagement side of the continuum.

A seminar has an abundance of engagement, but is more formal. This could be a scheduled session, but this is active learning, no passive listening here.

Study groups could be both formal and informal, those organised by the teacher and those self-organised by the students. I also put in the idea that recreational areas (such as a coffee shop) could also be used for learning.


The next map takes that same map as before but adds digital to the learning.

Mapping your teaching practice

This kind of map is the way in which many institutions digital is added to the curriculum and delivery. The lecturer starts posting links from a Twitter account. They post resources and content to the VLE for learners to use. The VLE used in the main as a repository could be seen as broadcast and informal, learners choosing when to visit the VLE and accessing resources they want or need. They may run the odd webinar or two, mainly using it to deliver an online lecture. The learners may use Facebook to discuss aspects of the course in addition the usual activity of posting pictures of cats and photographs of friends that their friends would rather they didn’t.

One issue that does arise from this kind of approach to embedding digital into teaching and learning is that the previous activities haven’t changed, it’s more of an additionality, a bolt-on to existing practices. You can start to understand why some staff don’t want to engage with digital as they see it as something extra, more work to do.

Now if we draw another map, this time almost starting afresh and rethinking (or redesigning) the entire curriculum.

Mapping your teaching practice

Someone may be using the VLE extensively for content, discussion, chat, assessment and as a result this will look very different to someone who uses the VLE merely as a place for lecture notes and presentations. When the functionality of the VLE is used more effectively, using discussion forums and chat facilities, you can see how this will be more about engagement and possibly planned (so more formal). You can see how this will change the shape of the VLE on the mapping activity and is broken down into two shapes on the map.

The library and use of the library is both expanded and in some cases formalised, putting the library at the heart of the students’ learning.

Twitter can still be used as a informal broadcast tool, but using a Facebook Group with appropriate guidance and advice, suddenly becomes more effective in supporting learners.

Webinars become online seminars, with discussion and engagement.

Notice how there are still lectures and seminars, smaller than in the previous maps, but still an useful medium for teaching and learning.

The mapping provides an insight into how the curriculum is designed and how learners interact and engage with the different spaces, tools and delivery mechanisms.

The next stage following mapping you may want to then consider how you could push or pull certain behaviours, as well as inflating or shrinking them.

What needs to happen to inflate and expand the VLE on the map? How do you push (or expand) the use of the VLE into the engagement side of the continuum? What training or guidance needs to be in place to make that happen?

How do you increase usage of the library and use it for both informal and informal learning?

What does the library need to do, to increase engagement? Is there changes they can make to how the space is used, or do they need to engage with curriculum staff to enable learners to make more effective use of the resources and staff within the library?

What does the institution need to do to informal spaces to increase learning activities taking place there? A coffee shop may have groups of learners engaging in various activities related to their course, but it may not be the best kind of environment for this to happen, there’s no wifi or power sockets for example. How could learning be encouraged in informal spaces?


As well as mapping your own teaching practice, you could use the concepts to map the curriculum design for the whole course.

You could even think about the teacher mapping their practice and then the learners in a separate exercise mapping their experience. Then compare the two maps!

Mapping is an useful exercise to think about practice and though any such map may not be accurate or complete, it does allow you to consider and think about actions and training required to change behaviours or how spaces and tools are used.

Thank you Lawrie Phipps for your valued input and comments on this blog post.