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Spotlight on Digital Capabilities I: What are Digital Capabilities?

Digital Capabilities, can be defined as the skills and/or competencies required for living, learning and working in a digital society. The Jisc Digital Capability Framework provides a structure to help individuals understand what skills are needed and supports the development of staff and students. Jisc have produced an initial model of the framework which describes digital capability as six overlapping elements (below).

 “Effective use of digital technology by university and college staff is vital in providing a compelling student experience and in realising a good return on investment in digital technology.” (Jisc, 2015)

Even today’s students need support with some areas of digital capability, particularly in an academic context, so it’s important to make sure that these needs are met. The curriculum, as the main focus of students’ attention and effort, is potentially the best route to showcase and develop digital practices.

Framing Digital Capabilities

Digital Capabilities: The Six Elements
Digital Capabilities: The Six Elements
ICT proficiency The capacity to use ICT-based devices, applications, software and services via their interfaces (mouse, keyboard, touch screen, voice control and other modes of input; screens, microphones, haptic feedback and other modes of output); to use basic productivity software, web browser, and writing/presentation software; to use digital capture devices such as a camera. At higher levels, the capacity: to choose, adapt and personalise ICT applications and systems; to critically assess the benefits/constraints of ICTapplications and approaches; to design and implement ICT solutions; to recover from failures; to stay up to date with ICT as it evolves; to adopt computational modes of thinking (coding, algorithms etc)
Information, media and data literacy Information literacy The capacity to find, evaluate, manage, curate, organise and share digital information, including open content. At higher levels a critical awareness of provenance and credibility. Capacity to interpret information for academic and professional/vocational purposes. Ability to act within the rules of copyright and to use appropriate referencing.
Media literacy The capacity to critically read communications in a range of digital media – text, graphical, video, animation, audio, haptic etc. At higher levels, the capacity to appreciate audience, purpose, accessibility, impact, modality and to understand digital media production as a practice and an industry. To act within digital copyright law.
Data literacy The capacity to collate, manage, access and use digital data in spreadsheets and other media; to record and use personal data; to ensure data security and to use legal, ethical and security guidelines in data collection and use. At higher levels the ability to interpret data by running queries, data analyses and reports.
Digital creation, scholarship and innovation Digital creation The capacity to design and/or create new digital artefacts and materials; digital writing; digital imaging; digital editing of images, video and audio. At higher levels the ability to code and to design apps/ applications, games, virtual environments and interfaces.
Digital research and scholarship The capacity to collect and analyse research data using digital methods. At higher levels to discover, develop and share new ideas using digital tools; to undertake open scholarship; to design new research questions and programmes around digital issues/methods; to develop new digital tools / processes; to evaluate impacts of digital interventions.
Digital innovation The capacity to develop new practices with digital technology in organisational settings and in specialist subject areas (professional, vocational and disciplinary); digital entrepreneurship. At higher levels the ability to lead organisations, departments, teams and practice/subject areas in new directions in response to digital challenges and opportunities.
Digital communication, collaboration and participation Digital communication The capacity to communicate effectively in a variety of digital media and digital forums; to communicate in accordance with different cultural, social and communicational norms; to design communications for different purposes and audiences; to respect others in public communications; to maintain privacy in private communications.
Digital collaboration The capacity to participate in digital teams and working groups; to collaborate effectively using shared digital tools and media; to work towards shared objectives; to produce shared materials; to use shared calendars and task lists and other project management applications; to work effectively across cultural, social and linguistic boundaries.
Digital participation The capacity to participate in, facilitate and build digital networks; to participate in social and cultural life using digital services and forums; to create positive connections and build contacts; to share and amplify messages across networks; to behave safely and ethically in networking situations.
Digital learning and personal/ professional development The capacity to identify and participate in digital learning opportunities; to use digital learning resources; to participate in learning/teaching relationships via digital media; to use digital tools (personal or organisational) for learning; to use digital tools to organise, plan and reflect on learning; to record learning events/data and use them for self-analysis, reflection and showcasing of achievement; to undertake self-assessment and participate in other forms of digital assessment; to manage attention and motivation to learn in digital settings.
Digital identity and wellbeing Digital identity management The capacity to develop and project a positive digital identity or identities and to manage digital reputation (personal or organisational) across a range of platforms; to build and maintain digital profiles; to develop a personal style and values for digital participation; to collate and curate personal materials across digital networks.
Digital wellbeing The capacity to look after personal health, safety, relationships and work-life balance in digital settings; to use personal digital data for positive wellbeing benefits; to use digital media to foster community actions and wellbeing; to act safely and responsibly in digital environments; to manage digital stress, workload and distraction; to act with concern for the human and natural environment when using digital tools; to balance digital with real-world interactions appropriately.

In addition to the general definition provided above, Jisc have also created four example Digital Capability profiles for students, academics, researchers and leaders, and we’ll look at each of these in more detail over the next few blog posts.
Working in partnership and collaboration with Schools, Directorates and other stakeholders, we hope to identify what digital skills are required of our staff and students, provide advice and guidance on meeting these needs, and ensure we are equipping students and staff with the tools and resources they need to improve digital capability at a local or institutional level through on-going consultation and development.
To avoid digital capability being ‘yet another thing’ for staff and students to work into their busy lives, it is useful if they can be linked with other initiatives, woven into existing processes, and reflected in strategy. For example, existing work on Graduate Attributes, Employability, Internationalisation, Information Literacy, HR/Staff Development, Inclusive Teaching and Learning, Retention, Engagement, Research Development, Marketing and Recruitment, or Curriculum Design. Developing successful staff-student partnerships will also be paramount to the successful embedding of the Digital Capability Framework.
In order to embed digital capabilities in the curriculum, staff need to be engaged and will need continued support and development as the practices they model will become examples for students. Through engagement with this Framework and active consideration of what and how staff use technology to facilitate learning and teaching, they will also be aligning their practice to the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) and elements of the Vitae Research Development Framework (RDF).
Staff and students involved don’t need to be technology experts; communications skills, flexibility and an eagerness to learn and share are much more important as we seek to widen awareness and develop communities of practice.
Developing staff digital capability will also support an expanding range of study and research options, and will enable our students to further develop skills for learning in a digital society. Finally, addressing digital identity and digital wellbeing not only promotes personal and professional development, but also the health and wellbeing of our staff and students.
What do you think of the 6 elements outlined above? What do you think are the main opportunities and/or challenges when it comes to developing digital capability? Let us know in the comments below…
For help, information or advice about Digital Capability, or to discuss any questions, comments or concerns you might have, please contact TEL@yorksj.ac.uk.
Jisc: Building Digital Capability https://www.jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/building-digital-capability


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