Learning, teaching and assessment is arguably the core business of education. Making sure staff have the digital capabilities to make appropriate decisions on how to incorporate technology into curriculum activities and that students are developing the skills they need to operate in a digital workplace is therefore essential.
“Changing demands from firms, consumers, students and communities mean that apprenticeships, vocational qualifications and degrees need to deliver more general - and also specific - digital capabilities.”
Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future (2015) House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills (pdf)
Our editable digital capability checklist for curriculum developers (Word) can be used to assess how well a course of study is preparing learners with the kind of capabilities and practices described in the learner profile.
We also offer a range of guides to support different elements of learning, teaching and assessment including enhancing the student digital experience: a strategic approach covering the curriculum, inclusive practice and accessibility, the environment, bring your own device (BYOD), engaging and empowering students, and supporting students and staff to work successfully with digital technologies.
In addition, we offer guidance on using technology to enhance curriculum design, transforming assessment and feedback with technology, scaling up online learning and developing student employability.
Accessibility and inclusion
Digitally capable staff should have the capability and confidence to create inclusive learning opportunities, to embed digitally inclusive practices into strategy, policy, quality assurance processes and into every day practice.
This will facilitate staff confidence in their ability to evaluate and assess the accessibility of content and resources and to identify and share with learners the strategies, skills, practices and tools that allow them to personalise and adapt technology to meet their specific learning needs and support productive and personalised learning experiences.
"The reason I am so passionate about using technology is that it helps everyone … You tend to find you have a lot of learners with dyslexia and other difficulties. If you use an appropriate tool it can remove or reduce their difficulties, and allow learners to achieve far more than they could [otherwise].”
Deborah Millar, director for digital learning and IT services, City of Salford College
Read the case study on how the City of Salford College is working to develop organisational digital capability (pdf).
Establishing digital capabilities within curriculum experiences
Learners need to understand the digital environment they are entering and the kinds of learning practices expected of them as they prepare for employment. These expectations and requirements should be embedded into induction processes as well as the curriculum and the wider learning experience. Our technology for employability toolkit (pdf) provides effective practice tips on incorporating technology-for-employability.
Several universities have adopted digital capability, digital citizenship, or similar as a graduate outcome. Others have required digital activities and outcomes to be discussed during course design and review.
“The use of digital technology tools can set you apart from others. it's about time and training. The more prepared you are at uni, and the more you know, the more you stand out at interviews and employment. They don't have to train you to do it.”
Melissa, events management BA, University of Lincoln, currently an MA student
Read Melissa’s digital learner story (pdf) in full.
Sometimes co-curricular support is needed from learning support teams, digital champions and IT training teams. Where e-learning or digital specialists are involved in curriculum design it is more likely that students will have their digital capabilities assessed and developed through authentic digital activities delivered as part of their curriculum. Learners also need to evolve a set of personal digital practices that support their learning: note-taking and curating, finding and managing information, reviewing and showcasing outcomes, producing digital assignments and attending to feedback.
All staff have a responsibility to their own learning and professional development and so need the same digital practices as successful learners.
As individual staff and students take on more responsibility for their own use of technology, skills that were once confined to digital learning and teaching specialists have to become more widespread.
Digital safety and wellbeing
Every organisation has a duty to guard the health, safety and wellbeing of its members, and that includes protecting them from digital risks. Cyber-bullying, trolling, hacking and other damaging online behaviours are on the rise. Universities and colleges are putting in place advanced data security measures to protect personal and organisational data and are developing policies on safe internet use and respectful behaviour online.
“Of course in the classroom you're safe with a professional that you know who can guide you in the right direction; how you behave professionally on social media and to safeguard yourself. A youngster should learn about social media with a trusted professional who they know and like.”
Pepieter, second year student, University of Bournemouth, formally at Basingstoke College of Technology.
Read Pepieter’s digital learner story (pdf) in full.
Digital safety and well-being is a one of the six elements of our digital capabilities framework (pdf). Ensuring learners know how to behave safely and responsibly in the digital space can be a challenge for colleges and universities and their staff.
Some of the most successful approaches have been developed in collaboration with students, for example, around safe online practices and the values agenda. Digital practices can change how people relate to one another, their work-life-learning balance, the stresses they face, and how much time they spend at a screen. All of these can impact on wellbeing and reduce satisfaction. Developing a digitally healthy organisation means considering the impact of digital technology use on a range of issues such as the environment, equality and diversity, and of course individual health and wellbeing.
“We have created a number of exhibitions, events and activities in the learning lounge and across college [to support Safer Internet Day]. We use interactive technologies, QR codes and augmented reality in a very creative way.”
Vikki Liogier, head of digital literacy, voice and innovation, Epping Forest College
Read the case study on how Epping Forest College is working to develop organisational digital capability (pdf).
Supporting the development of teaching staff
Most organisations that have developed a digital capabilities definition or framework have gone on to embed this into teaching staff development.
“So for example one student [in Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice] in his assessment showed how he had referenced the framework in each of his taught sessions. He was using it very positively, and we’ve taken that forward as a case study in course design.”
Elaine Swift, digital practice manager, Nottingham Trent University
Read the case study on how the Nottingham Trent University is working to develop organisational digital capability (pdf).
In universities, this usually means mapping the framework to the requirements of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), whether accredited courses or fellowship applications. To support staff, we have collaborated with HEA to provide a digital lens on the UK Professional Standards Framework (pdf).
In colleges, it may mean providing a structured workshop timetable, or bite-sized sessions - perhaps with digital badges as an incentive.
Specialist skills and appropriate pedagogies are needed for teaching online (see our scaling up online learning guide), designing authentic digital activities, managing e-assessment, and supporting learners' own digital practices. However, digital teaching should not be seen as a special interest but an element of mainstream practice.
Peer and collaborative support mechanisms
Through a variety of roles, students and staff are taking on responsibility for developing others, for example, by designing learning or training materials, mentoring or coaching, acting as champions, facilitating learning groups or networks. Our work through the change agents’ network shows that students and staff working in partnership is an effective way of co-developing digital capabilities and driving forward change in the curriculum.
“Our two student partners were great, they went round doing talks to classes and blogging, and they … provided wonderful energy to the project. Their enjoyment and ambition was infectious, they were wonderful to work with.”
Mark Kerrigan, director of learning and teaching, faculty of medical science, Anglia Ruskin University
Read the case study on how Anglia Ruskin University is working to develop organisational digital capability (pdf).
Once staff have a basic level of proficiency, most digital skills are acquired through informal contacts with colleagues and by 'just trying things out'. An online resource bank such as Lynda.com works well for staff who are independent digital learners, freeing up more intensive training resources for those who lack that level of confidence.