Reflections on the project

Posted on: 21 August 2013
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As the project comes to an end members of the Delivery Group reflect on our shared journey and what we’ve learnt:

Sarah Field: Digital Literacy: The beginning and the end

Digital literacy is a hot topic in further and higher education with many deliberating on its importance to the professional life of graduating students as well as its impact on academic scholarship. It was with this in my mind that I volunteered to be part of our JISC funded DigitISE project looking at digital literacy and its relationship to employability. That was last summer and now, as the project reaches its end I have, naturally, been reflecting on what we have achieved and how we ought to go forward.

Well we have conducted some really important research with our students through our survey and subsequent focus groups. This allowed us to discover that students rate their digital literacy capabilities highly but that they are not necessarily used for academic and/or professional use. The positive to take from this is that students are generally, well disposed to utilise digital technologies for these spheres but there is a space for us (academics, skills support, library staff, IT trainers) to provide help/support/guidance on honing these skills.

We also realised from our research that how and where we place any support for developing digital literacy crucial. Support we currently provided has often gone unnoticed and underused, whilst practice within the curriculum is varied and dependant on a module leader or department’s approach to using technologies in teaching and learning

Our event, Get the digital edge helped us explore the type of capabilities that might be needed by students and road test them. Feedback on the day illustrated that attendees really valued this type of provision. The discussion panel at the end was a really interesting place to examine what we thought digital literacy means and what attributes a digitally literate graduate should have to compete in the professional environment.

This event had enough success to warrant repeating the sessions next academic year. Albeit with some useful lessons learnt on the organisation and promotion so that it reaches a wider audience at Westminster. However we recognise within our delivery group, that embedding the development of digital literacy within the curriculum is the most appropriate place. Not an uncommon view for us librarians and, I am sure, other skills advisors. Embedding has the following advantages:
• locates skills development within a specific disciplinary context, making it directly relevant.
• elevates the usefulness and importance when delivered by academic and linked to assessment
• eliminates the issue of time and resourcing for support staff to deliver (although they can certainly be involved through guest teaching or an advisory capacity)
• greatly improves opportunity amongst students to develop these skills

But how exactly do we embed digital literacy? It is not necessarily a straightforward exercise. Academics need to identify the appropriate way to incorporate digital literacy into what is often an already crowded curriculum. First of all, they might need to be convinced as to the relevance within their own discipline and may also need to develop their own digital skills before they can use them in their practice.

JISC’s Developing Digital Literacies, thankfully for us, provides many useful examples of what other universities have done before this and we have plundered these resources for relevant and useful ideas in this area. Examples I found particularly relevant to our experience are; the University of Salford combining bottom up and top down approaches to embedding digital literacy with the development of a digital literacy policy from a cross department team whilst using an ‘innovations cell’ of academics who already use digital technologies to share and advice on curricula developments elsewhere in their teaching community. Also is the PriDE project at University of Bath that used “creative think tanks’ within faculty communities to identify disciplinary definitions of digital literacy. This seems to me , great way for academic participation or ‘buy-in’ as well as using their expertise of teaching and learning for disciplinary context.

The DigitISE project brought together a cross-department team in its board and delivery group who have an input into our future digital literacy strategy. Although the project is reaching its conclusion, our research will be feeding into the Learning Futures program and they can continue from our initial findings in their strand on blended learning. It is under this program that two workshops we devised on defining the attributes of a digitally literate graduate, will take place for academics in October.

The project has been a positive and comprehensive beginning to developing and incorporating digital literacy into the portfolio of attributes we can offer our students. Its been a real buzz to share views and ideas with my colleagues on this topic and its both exciting and affirming to the work we have done, to know it is going to be carried forward in future.

Emma Woods: Reflection on Project DigitISE

DigitISE has been an interesting and rewarding project to be involved with and has led to a wide range of opportunities. The members of the delivery group worked well together and I am proud of what we have achieved. Collaborating with colleagues from across the University has led to increased understanding of each other’s work and how we can best support students to improve their digital literacy capabilities.
One of Jisc’s requirements is that findings are shared and this gave me experience in submitting proposals to conferences, which was something I hadn’t done before. I was accepted to three conferences, LILAC (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference) at the University of Manchester, CLT at Edge Hill University and Creating Knowledge VII at Lund University in Sweden. As a result of presenting at LILAC, I was invited to speak at a southern university libraries event at the University of Winchester. Improving my confidence in presenting at such events, two with Federica Oradini and two by myself, has been a fantastic development opportunity. It has also been very satisfying to see the interest there is in our work externally, particularly in our one day student conference, Get the Digital Edge. With this in mind, Ellie Murphy and I have sent a case study proposal about the day to the User Skills Group of the UCISA – USDG (University and Colleges Information Systems Association – Digital Skills and Development Group). We are also submitting a project report about it to the Journal of Information Literacy.
I am delighted to have been involved in such a collaborative and dynamic project. If you’re offered the chance to get involved with something similar, take it!

Efie Bilissi: An academic’s view

Participating in the delivery group of the DigitISE project was a fulfilling experience. It was a cross disciplinary environment which I found inspiring. One of my interests as an academic is student employability and the skills students need that will support them in their career development. The student survey that was carried out as part of the project gave an insight into how students see themselves in terms of using technology. For example, one of the findings of the survey was that 81.5% of the students who participated in the survey considered themselves digitally literate. The Get the Digital Edge event was held in March 2013 as part of the DigitISE project aimed at showing the students how to hone these skills to improve their employability. I found the presentations and discussions held during the event informative and stimulating. The topics presented included the use of social media for job hunting, the importance of on-line reputation in employability and how to use the internet to find information on employers prior to attending a job interview. I enjoyed participating in the organisation of the event and working with the other members of the delivery group. I was also very pleased to see that there has been a lot of external interest in the event at conferences where the findings of the project were presented. It was a rewarding experience and it gave me the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between digital literacy skills and student employability.