Developing staff digital literacies can often be overlooked but it is key that institutions invest in development opportunities for both academic and support staff so that they can support students more effectively and enhance their own professional competences. While many staff are advocates of the benefits of technology to learning and teaching, there are pockets of resistance due to eg lack of confidence, lack of time to engage with new tools, distrust of the academic benefits or cultural attitudes.
Universities and colleges provide a range of services from conventional IT training to more tailored e-learning support which help staff explore technology options and how they can enhance the curriculum. Professional development programmes also offer opportunities to raise awareness of how digital tools can support teaching practice and help staff reflect on their own competences.
Often though it is about engaging staff in change so creating opportunities for conversations is key. Here are some approaches which might help:
Focus on the curriculum
Context is key so focusing on the subject specialism is the best way to engage teaching, support staff and students in conversations about what it means to be digitally literate in a particular discipline. Aligned with that is the curriculum design process. Learning design workshops and curriculum approval processes should help ensure that digital literacies are developed through appropriate tasks and articulated in learning outcomes (see section on curriculum change).
Use frameworks or models as tools for engagement
Focusing on theoretical aspects of digital literacies by developing definitions, frameworks and models of digital literacy can be beneficial as a way of engaging staff. These can provide a reference point going forward or a visualisation of a shared understanding of what digital literacy means but the key benefit is that they provide a focus or tool for engagement and discussion.
Provide timely information, guidance and support
Staff are time-poor and need access to on-demand, highly accessible, bite-sized ICT guidance such as online videos or drop-in sessions (may be mixed with students).
Staff appreciate case studies and examples of good practice particularly those relevant to their discipline but probably need some kind of personal mediation to really make good use of these eg through a staff development event. Examples include the Plymouth guide to digital literacies and ‘Digital tools for busy academics’. See a summary of briefings and guides here.
Develop partnerships, networks and communities of practice
Working in partnership with students (see culture and change) and other staff on focused projects can be an excellent way of developing capabilities and confidence. These can lead to the development of new or existing networks, interest groups and communities of practice which help embed digital literacies in the longer term.
The University of Bath worked with faculty learning communities and workshop resources are available to reuse/repurpose.
The University of the Arts London developed a number of communities of practice and cluster groups to focus on different projects and themes.
Embed digital literacies in CPD and staff development programmes
CPD, accredited routes, award schemes and secondments are all means of encouraging staff engagement alongside giving ‘softer’ but essential incentives such as making time available. Worcester College has developed online digital literacy courses for staff which are accredited at Level 2 by the Open College Network.
The PADDLE project also established an online digital practice for teachers course to encourage digital practices in the curriculum. As part of this the project has also defined a digital competence framework for FE.
Developing digital literacies for teaching administrators - UCL
Digital literacy is increasingly being expressed in different professional frameworks which help map the capabilities, attitudes and values of various professional roles.
In higher education, for example, the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) for teaching and supporting learning is for institutions to apply to their professional development programmes. A guide to Implementing the UKPSF in the digital university developed by a range of professional associations involved in the Jisc programme provides examples and case studies mapped to the UKPSF dimensions.
Focus on digital identity and reputation
Developing a professional/academic digital identity is a powerful motivator for staff to engage with digital issues so using online reputation as a ‘hook’ for staff engagement and development is a useful approach generating open discussion about digital competences and issues.
Digital choices are aspects of personal identity so, as the University of the Arts London has found, staff need time, space and support to assess their individual capabilities, anxieties and needs, and decide which tools are right for them.
Self-assessment and diagnostic tools can also help staff define their own development goals and training needs.