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Delivering digital change

Sarah Knight

Digital used to be an add-on to core business but those are days behind us, now. It’s time for universities and colleges to stop treating digital as an accessory and to integrate it fully within all aspects of their business activities.

We’ve just produced a briefing paper for senior leaders called delivering digital change: strategy, practice and process (pdf) offering practical approaches to integrating digital in your key organisational strategies. A powerful message emerges that digital capabilities are critical to success.

We have also just finished a new suite of case study videos as part of our work on building digital capability. Two universities and two colleges describe how they are ensuring that all staff and students have the digital skills and the confidence to make best use of existing and emerging technologies. 

You can watch a playlist of the films below:

Together, the briefing and the films offer some useful pointers for other organisations to follow. Here’s a taster...

Institutional strategies

“It’s only by understanding the motivations of all parties that you can develop a digital vision that has purchase and buy-in across the whole institution. This is something that every institution has to embrace and engage in”
Professor Malcolm, Todd, pro vice chancellor, academic and student experience, University of Derby

Now that staff and students have access to technologies that enable them to work when, where and how they want to, they’re far less reliant on organisational infrastructure and tools. While this offers rich opportunities for learning and attainment it also presents risks that your university or college must plan for.

We’re working across the sector to support strategic planning and to ensure that the motivations and needs of stakeholders are factored into future strategy.

“We’ve managed to embed digital in traditional teaching, learning and assessment and we no longer call it digital learning – its just learning”
Kelly Edwards, director of professional development, Harlow College

Because learners take digital for granted, it must be integral to other strategies such as the research and student experience strategies. Digital is at its most effective when it’s deployed within core strategies rather than treated as a bolt-on.

Digital practices

“Over the next five years we’re working to develop digital practice and digital capabilities as a core goal. At the executive level we’re understanding that the digital experience is critical for students and for staff”
John Hill, TEL manager, University of Derby

Often, reluctance to adopt potentially valuable technologies and tools is down to a person’s lack of confidence in their digital skills or their fear that new methods will undermine their existing practice or professional identity.

We’ve created tools such as the Jisc digital capability framework (pictured below) to help organisations address these fears and identify skills needs.

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Digital capabilities framework
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“The success of digital is down to people and that’s something that we have to keep in mind when we’re developing our approach”
Karen Phillips, deputy principal, Coleg y Cymoedd

We’ve developed a ‘digital lens’ approach to strategy, practice and process to help senior leaders and staff think about how they deploy digital. The lens can help staff to understand their capabilities, assess their confidence and identify new digital goals. You’ll find it in the briefing paper.

Platform and tools

“We offer a range of support for staff including five cross-college staff development days, CPD sessions and 15-minute digital drop-in sessions where staff can look at apps and tools and think about how to use them. Staff are happy to be innovative and try things out”
Kelly Edwards, director of professional development, Harlow College

Every university and college has its key platforms and tools that staff are required to use; it’s vital to support staff to use them efficiently.

“Our student digital ambassadors work with an academic to develop some kind of digital use within teaching and learning. They get paid and they take part in a shared practice event”
Christine Percival, digital fluency manager, Lancaster University

Digital technologies develop fast and often disruptively, so staff and students should be encouraged to experiment and decide which tools they need.

More and more often, students and staff are working in partnership to co-develop their digital skills and this is driving change in many colleges and universities. Join the change agents’ network, a national community of practice supporting student staff partnerships.

Digifest sessions

Look out for Digifest sessions exploring digital capabilities, which include:

  • A lightning talk on supporting staff and students’ digital capability with the digital discovery tool1
  • A debate on defining digital leadership
  • A workshop looking at how HE and FE are approaching digital capabilities
  • A talk on the digital skills requirements for the FE Skills Plan reforms, and
  • A talk on supporting digital capabilities in a health facility