Shortly before Christmas Boris, our doctoral researcher, presented the findings of our student questionnaire to the Project Board and Delivery Group and it made for an interesting meeting. The questionnaire asked students about their use of digital technology and applications as well as testing their attitudes to digital skills as they relate to employability. Since some schools were under represented in the early findings we extended the life of the questionnaire and these additional data brought the total number of respondents to 563.
The headline findings from the total survey are that 87.6% students love digital technology and 81.5% believe themselves to be digitally literate. This latter figure leads us to conclude that any marketing of sessions focussing on digital literacy will need a more sophisticated hook than ” Come and learn digital literacy” if it is to appeal to this significant majority who believe they already have these skills.
Further finding were encouraging:
- Academic staff were considered digitally literate by 64.9% and support staff got a similar rating by 69.2% of respondents
- 92.3% of respondents consider it important for students to develop digital skills
- 55.9% agreed with the statement, “The university has the responsibility to equip me with the digital literacy skills I need”
In terms of ownership/access to digital tools:
- 91.6% own a smartphone
- 93.3% have a laptop
- 79% have access to a desktop PC
- 39.1% have a tablet
- 28.4% have an e-reader
For technology based applications the findings were as follows:
- 97.9% use Blackboard
- 85.8% use Skype
- 85.4% use facebook
- 75.8% use iTunes
There were some variations in attitudes by school, for example:
- Students from the Business School agreed significantly more with the statement that it is the University of Westminster’s responsibility to equip them with the digital literacy skills that are required, than did the students affiliated to the School of Law
- Students in the School of Law felt a significantly lower need for training regarding digital literacy than reported by their counterparts from the School of Media, Arts and Design or Business School
- The difference with the highest significance was found with regard to the statement that the digital literacy skills needed in the courses get more complex as students progress through the course. Students from the Business School agreed significantly more with this statement than did students from the School of Law, Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages or Architecture
Overall, 95.7% of the participants agreed that using technology is essential to their studies, with 90.0% seeing it as essential for teaching and 90.6% regarding it as essential for learning. In terms of assessment, only 5.6% of the participants regarded the use of technology as not being essential.
Approximately 56% of the participants agreed that, in their opinion, most students like to engage with learning material while travelling and 81.9% use their laptops for study/all aspects of their life whilst only 1.6% use their smartphone for study.
We have yet to fully digest the figures and share them more widely with our colleagues both in the Schools and in Corporate Services but we hope they will contribute to a clearer understanding of our students’ current use of technology alongside their understanding of and attitudes to digital skills. The findings will also feed into wider university work such as the Learning Futures project.
On March 21st we are hosting an event of workshops and seminars for students that will further explore the link between digital skills and employability. The marketing plans for this event will draw on some of the questionnaire findings.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Warren Buffett, American businessman
In the online world, the process of reputation building has arguably become quicker, as has the time it takes to ruin it. Think of those tweets people fast regret but even a few seconds after posting it is often too late to retract, due to retweets and favourites.
At a conference last year, I took part in a digital identity workshop, which highlighted the dangers of putting too much, or too little, out in the public domain. I use a variety of social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Blogger, Mendeley and YouTube, and in this post I am going to find out what anyone with internet access can find out about me. To help me with this, I am following a worksheet for an e-reputation course run by Swansea University.
My privacy settings are pretty tight on Facebook and I’ve disabled public search. I had a quick look at 48ers.com to see if I could find any embarrassing Facebook stories relating to the University of Westminster but I’m happy to report there were none!
Simply by typing in my name (in inverted commas), location and job, I get a list of my social network sites, as well as information about things I’ve been involved with professionally e.g. the first London Librarian TeachMeet and my Erasmus trip to Lund University. Hopefully these would go in my favour if a potential employer googled me.
I repeated the search in Google Images, but all that appeared were the photos I have on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, as well as ones I’ve used in my blog.
I use the same Twitter account for professional and personal tweets, so in theory anyone can find out that I have a bit of an obsession with Ancient Egypt. Hopefully, this wouldn’t harm my professional reputation though.
Looking up my Twitter username on TweetReach, I discovered that tweets relating to my username have potentially reached 5,837 accounts in just 6 days, far more than are actually following me. I was slightly unsure about this result, so I tried searching for the hashtag #infolit (for tweets relating to information literacy). I just 4 days, nearly 12,000 accounts had been reached, with an account I tweet for (@infolitgroup) in the top five impressions.
So, I’ve found out what information is available about me in the public sphere and I haven’t come across anything damaging. In fact, some of it could be quite useful in building my professional reputation. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you are invisible on the web, this could also have negative consequences for your employability (unless you’re planning to be the next James Bond!). For a start, by not engaging with social media, how do you know what others are saying about you? Also, Twitter in particular offers a great professional networking platform, to the extent that some people are just as well known by their online username than their real life one (Llord Llama being a prime example). This is demonstrated by the trend to include your Twitter username on conference badges, so that people who know you better by that name can identify you (as well as encouraging new followers, of course). Phil Bradley discussed the dangers of not having an online presence in a recent blog posting:
“A potential new employer, if they have any brains at all are going to be looking at your social media footprint as much as anything in your CV. If you were going to employ someone, and two people had equally good CVs, which would you go for – the one with hundreds or thousands of Twitter followers or the one who didn’t have a Twitter account? The one with lots of contacts on LinkedIn, or the one with none?”
As part of this project, we are planning to offer sessions on the topic of managing your online identity, as this is a key link between digital literacy and employability.
As was mentioned in a previous post, as part of the project we are going to develop a digital literacy policy. I had a look to see what other institutions are doing in this regard and also sent out messages on Twitter and the Lis-Infoliteracy Jiscmail list. Many thanks to all those who replied. I have listed the documents I have found so far under “examples of digital literacy documents” in the project’s Library page. The delivery team will add to this list throughout the course of the project.
My main finding was that this is something quite a few other HEIs have recently developed, are currently working on, or are considering.
If you have any examples that you’d like to share with us, please email me.
Here we will track our progress and document our activities. Several members of the team will record their thoughts via the blog.
So what is Get Ahead all about?
This project comprises several elements:
- Research to establish student attitudes to and take up of technology, the skills required to use it effectively and the relevance of these skills to their employability
- What messages are effective in persuading students of the relevance of the full range of digital literacy skills for employability
- Testing the above with a pilot programme aimed at second year undergraduates to take place in Spring 2013
- Integrating the delivery of such skills through multidisciplinary teams