What you need to know
For today’s students, proficiency in the skills of a specific discipline is not the only outcome they need from their courses. For their future employability, students also require a wider skill set that will enable them to thrive in an increasingly digital world.
We refer to this skill set as ‘digital capability’, a broadly based concept covering media and information literacy, digital research and problem-solving, creativity with digital tools as well as routine management of communication and social media tools.
Why digital capability matters
For learning designers, this means building in opportunities for students at all levels and in all disciplines to acquire a wide range of digital skills – this is just as essential for mechanics and beauty therapists as it is for research historians and medical professionals.
Educators equally need to consider what their students will need in the future. Today’s students will have to respond with agility over their lifetimes to shifting labour market requirements and fast-changing developments in technology.
This is a far cry from thinking of employability as a fixed set of skills delivered to students on vocational courses!
What the experts say
"We need to be asking questions such as 'What does it mean to be a nurse?' Being a healthcare professional will mean something completely different in five years’ time. Increasingly nurses are becoming educators and showing people how to monitor their own health and respond to it.”
Helen Beetham, educational consultant
Be inspired: case studies
University of Huddersfield – introducing employability into learning design
The University of Huddersfield sees digital literacy for students as a strategic priority. However, as not all staff were motivated by the term ‘digital literacy’ to change their course designs, the university focused instead on the impact digital capability has on student employability, active learning and retention.
Knowing how important employability skills are for graduates, the university adapted the cards it uses in learning design workshops based on the Viewpoints toolkit model to encourage staff to integrate employability skills into their learning designs. On the back of each card are ways of exploiting digital tools for the development of skills such as teamwork, problem solving and digital identity management.
“So far 250 people have undertaken the curriculum design workshops and the evaluation has been universally positive.”
Liz Bennett, school of education and professional development, University of Huddersfield
Basingstoke College of Technology – becoming digital professionals
As well as making learning more effective, Scott Hayden’s embedded use of social media on the college’s creative media courses helps students become digital professionals long before they go on to employment or higher education.
“My students go on to university and apprenticeships and paid work with the skills employers want - creativity, collaboration, communication, building up a digital reputation.”
Scott Hayden, digital innovation specialist, Basingstoke College of Technology
Edinburgh College of Art - developing 21st century career-ready graduates
Edinburgh College of Art, an early adopter of the employability agenda, has embedded opportunities for its students to develop career-ready skills and graduate attributes in three ways: through assessed learning outcomes, the design of learning activities and a student-centric approach to curriculum design.
For example, by the third year of a four-year honours degree, students define and lead their own thematic project within an external real-world context. For some, this could mean a placement or study abroad. In the final year, students propose and direct their whole year of study under supervision, an approach to curriculum design that provides seamless acquisition of workplace skills and attributes.
Abertay University - building digital and employability capabilities into the curriculum
While completing work placements, students of sports and exercise at Abertay University develop a range of additional skills and capabilities at the same time as improving their understanding of the curriculum by working on reflective e-portfolio-based tasks.
The assessment framework emphasises for students the importance of these e-portfolio elements – for example, 50% of the credits awarded on the second year placement module are for the webfolios students assemble while out on placement.
With such a weighting applied, students place value on assignments that enhance their employability by enabling them to develop the reflective and professional capabilities employers are looking for.
“It is only by integrating [e-portfolio] use in the curriculum and supporting that with 50% credit in the modules in which it is used that we made a difference to students’ capabilities as reflective professionals.”
Andrea Cameron, dean of school of social and health sciences, Abertay University
- Check your learning designs with our digital capability checklist for curriculum developers
- Encourage new ideas: try our digital capability activity cards
- Adapt or adopt the cards and mapping template for the University of Huddersfield’s D4 employability curriculum design workshop, which follows the Discover, Dream, Design, and Deliver format
- Take a look at iDEA, The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, a programme of badged awards designed to help you develop digital and enterprise skills
Watch our video from Digifest 2017 on digital skills:
- Developing organisational approaches to digital capability
- Develop your students’ employability skills through technology
- Technology for employability toolkit (pdf)
- Technology for employability case studies - HE (pdf)
- Technology for employability case studies – FE and skills (pdf)
- How to enhance student learning, progression and employability with e-portfolios