Defining organisational digital capability
We define digital capability as the extent to which the culture, policies and infrastructure of an organisation enable and support digital practices.
Our work and understanding of digital literacies for individuals has evolved over the years to now expressing these as digital capabilities.
At an individual level, we define digital literacies as the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society.
At organisational level, we need to look beyond the capabilities of individuals and be concerned with the extent to which the identity, culture and infrastructure of an institution enables and motivates digital practices.
“The digital economy is the economy”
Technological change is not a new phenomenon. In the 21st century we are experiencing an unprecedented and sustained rate of growth in terms of digital innovation and creativity.
“We are in a time of great change. Digital technology is reshaping how today’s society thinks, works, learns and develops. The digital economy is the economy and this presents us with major challenges and opportunities - for productivity, national competitiveness and how individuals participate in society. Our success will be measured by how well we are able to prepare people to keep pace with the rapidly changing nature of technology.”
Liz Williams, chair of the digital skills qualifications review steering group, director of tech literacy and education programmes for BT Group and board member of The Tinder Foundation, (review of publicly funded digital skills qualifications, February 2016)
While ‘the value of digital capability in economic terms for the UK’ is acknowledged as ‘enormous’ (make or break: the UK’s digital future (pdf), House of Lords select committee on digital skills, 2015) the rate at which educational institutions can adopt these technologies and adapt their practices is an acknowledged challenge.
“There are challenges in matching the speed of change in the education sector, for example in changing curricula and training, to the speed of demand, and the rapidly changing skill sets needs in the economy and society.”
Digital skills for the UK economy (pdf), a report by Ecorys UK for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (January 2016)
This is made more complex by the large and diverse communities they support and employ, the variety of professional and vocational specialisms they serve, legal and administrative responsibilities, financial considerations and many other factors.
Why digital know-how is so important
Technology is changing both working processes and the nature of work and knowledge practices. In our report deepening digital know-how: building digital talent (pdf) (August 2015), author Helen Beetham looks at how the digital capabilities of teaching and professional staff are framed in UK HE and FE institutions and the organisational landscape as this influences future requirements.
The report identifies a demand for shared definitions and frameworks for digital capability and signposts some significant findings including:
- - The nature of work is changing and that digital technologies are implicated in changes in the educational environment and in work beyond education
- - The way we record and demonstrate achievement is changing and that this has implications for accreditation and continuous professional development (CPD)
- - There are profound and ongoing changes to the knowledge practices which are the core businesses of our universities and colleges
- - Digital capabilities are both general and specialised - and organisations need both
- - Institutions must recruit, retain, reward and recognise digital talent
- - Organisations need digitally capable leadership and a strategic approach to digital capacity
- - Digital capability is intrinsic to professional practice, identity and learning
- - Digital wellbeing is a critical issue for individuals and organisations
Deepening digital know-how: building digital talent (pdf), Helen Beetham (August 2015)
In their October 2016 Horizon Project Strategic Brief on Digital Literacy, the New Media Consortium (NMC) acknowledge the variety of digital practices that current students need to master and look ahead to future digital literacy needs in fields such as data processing and analysis, coding, robotics and artificial intelligence.
“Gaining cross-disciplinary digital skills is the lifeblood of deeper learning outcomes that lead to fruitful careers”
Digital Literacy: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief (Volume 3.3, October 2016)
While generic, cross-disciplinary digital skills are necessary, it is often the specialised digital skills of their subject area that open up career pathways for students. Looking beyond specialist and subject specific digital skills, the concept of digital entrepreneurialism encompasses the need for those entering the employment market to drive digital forward. Our research into developing student employability found that expectations from employers and education providers in relation to digital entrepreneurialism is low.
To ensure students are developing these skills, their learning experiences need to be embracing these practices.
Our evolving understanding of digital capabilities
“…it is important to acknowledge that digital literacy definitions and models will continue to evolve.”
Digital Literacy: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief. Volume 3.3, October 2016
Our building digital capability project has been exploring how the development of digital literacies is supported at an institutional level. It has involved in collaboration with HE and FE institutions, government departments, sector bodies, professional associations and other stakeholders.
It led to the development of our digital capability framework (pdf) which describes six overlapping elements of digital capability for staff and students.