Even today’s students need support with some areas of digital practice, particularly in an academic context, so it’s important to make sure that these needs are met.
While employability is an obvious driver, the potential for developing students that can learn and thrive in a digital society is being recognised as a key role for universities and colleges.
Consider digital literacies in your context
We simply define digital literacies as the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society. That is intentionally broad, and provides more of a starting point for discussion than a final answer.
Discussion is absolutely key in this area. Managers, staff and students need a chance to think through what digital literacies mean to them. This will depend on role, discipline, and the university or college’s mission, values and priorities. To help with thinking about this, we have outlined seven areas of digital literacy for consideration.
Review your current support for digital literacies
You may find overlapping support for some areas of digital literacies, and gaps in others. A review is a good way of finding out who’s already working in this area and starting productive conversations with interested staff. Further guidance is available within our detailed guide to digital literacies.
Link to other key priorities
To avoid digital literacies being ‘yet another thing’ for staff and students to work into their busy lives, it is useful if they can be linked with other initiatives and woven into existing processes. These might be work on graduate attributes, employability, or transferable skills, or a complete course redesign.
Create a buzz
In any large organisation, there will be all sorts of interesting digital practice. Surfacing these is useful for putting experts and innovators from different areas in touch with each other and for sharing approaches and tips.
Encouraging discussion about supporting students with digital skills and practices and the associated impact on staff roles helps to widen awareness of digital literacies across the institution. You might be inspired by the community of practice developed by University of the Arts, London.
Provide support in the curriculum
The curriculum is the main focus of students’ attention and driver of effort so is therefore the best route to showcase and develop digital practices.
Students will see how digital affordances have shaped research in their discipline as well as practice in the workplace, while assignments which draw on digital practices will help them demonstrate their understanding and improve their employability skills. The curriculum change section of our detailed guide provides further guidance on this.
In order to embed digital literacies in the curriculum, teaching staff need to be engaged, and may need continued support and development.
Engage students as change agents
Digital literacies is a particularly productive area for student-staff partnerships, using students as advocates, mentors, trainers and researchers. The students involved don’t need to be technology experts when they start; communications skills, flexibility and an eagerness to learn and share are much more important. Guidance and peer support in this area is available from the Change Agent Network.