This week Henry Chapman talks about staff and students using digital technologies
effectively for learning, teaching and research

The term ‘digital capabilities’ refers to the abilities of staff and students to use digital technologies effectively for learning, teaching and research. In a recent pilot study by Jisc and several UK universities (See ‘Further Reading’ below), six elements of digital capabilities were identified:

The first is ICT proficiency; this includes proficiency in the use of devices and software, as well as the productive use of digital tools, platforms and applications.

The second is a critical approach to information, data and media – this includes understanding copyright restrictions and permissions, analysing digital data, and responsible use of information provided by the media. Digital technologies provide access to almost limitless information, but students often need help to use these technologies critically in an academic context.

The third element is digital creation, problem solving and innovation, which is about using digital media to create and share knowledge, not just consume it. Modules can be designed to encourage students to learn and solve problems imaginatively, using appropriate digital technologies.

The fourth element is digital communication, collaboration and participation, for example learning or sharing research findings via social media. Many students already use social media in their personal lives, but may need guidance for transferring those skills to their learning.

The fifth element is digital learning and teaching, which goes beyond using the VLE, and includes the use of online networking sites, apps and platforms. For example, students could be asked to view a video online, to follow a Twitter hashtag and then to answer a short quiz on the VLE, and these activities could be integrated into the module assessment. An initial investment of time and effort by module leaders can save time in the long run and lead to better engagement by students.  

The final element is digital identity and wellbeing, which focuses on managing one’s online identity, participating responsibly in digital communities, and staying safe online.

If you are like most academics in the UK, you will have different capabilities across each of the six elements of this framework. The links to resources below can help you to reflect on your own digital capabilities and develop them further. Please contact the Digital Education team for your college if you have questions or would like additional support.

Further Reading

Building Digital Capability  A website by Jisc, containing the Digital Capability Framework mentioned above and related resources.

Digital Capability Discovery Tool  A self-assessment tool developed by Jisc, which aims to help you to reflect on your overall digital capabilities, and provides feedback with recommended resources for development. The anonymous data generated from the completion of this survey will be used as part of the JISC project to generate benchmarking data associated with staff digital confidence and competence. Staff from UoB completing the survey should use the following institutional code: dcap17!

Weller, M. The Digital Scholar: How Technology Is Transforming Scholarly Practice. Basingstoke: Bloomsbury Academic. Available at:  This book by Martin Weller of the Open University discusses the shift in the practices of academics through the adoption of digital technologies. Although it was written in 2011, it is still highly relevant. The book can be read online at the link provided.