Influencing strategy is impossible unless senior managers can be convinced that your vision has merit.
University of Plymouth Seedpod project
Strategic aspirations about digital literacy, if they exist, are usually expressed in different written statements and strategies such as digital, e-learning or learning and teaching strategies. For some institutions, these strategies focus on specific ‘digital’ objectives while for others these are normalised across a range of statements. Either way, digital literacy aspirations need to be clearly articulated and words turned to actions through strategic planning.
This is different to developing a digital literacy framework or model which has a different purpose although it can be useful in guiding plans and activities. Activities that are currently happening need to clearly align with existing strategies for them to be supported and prioritised.
Engaging senior managers
Balancing resources and prioritising activities is a key concern for decision makers.
Decisions will be influenced by a number of factors such as how closely strategic objectives are connected, costing and resourcing and evidence gathered through a review and audit process. Short briefings and hard evidence around efficiencies, cost savings and enhanced student satisfaction are a useful way of convincing senior managers.
Case study: Plymouth University
Like many higher education institutions, Plymouth has been through a rapid process of change. This has resulted in a number of key opportunities that allowed the SEEDPoD project to make a significant impact on embedding digital literacy in many key areas of the institution through new institutional strategies.
These strategies contribute to faculty/school plans which, through a Performance Development Framework, create a focus for staff digital literacy development needs. These are then fed through to appropriate support services, a significant part of which is offered through a new department – Academic Support, Technology and Innovation (ASTI). The aim is to better coordinate support for digital literacy through a ‘hub’ model. ASTI is made up of 35 staff including e-learning specialists, learning technologists, information specialists and digital skills developers.
ASTI supports students and staff in the use of digital technologies and resources. By influencing strategic change, support for digital literacy development has become a core part of the institution’s infrastructure.
Communication and engagement
Underpinning all successful strategic activity around digital literacy is effective communication and engagement to ensure staff, students and other stakeholders are informed and actively involved in ongoing dialogue around change. The term ‘strategic conversation’ is sometimes used to describe this process and although there are tools and approaches which can help make these more effective, the organisational culture and environment will ultimately influence the nature of these (see section on culture and change).