The Digital Department (Digital literacy project at UCL)

At lunchtime today the SELC group and other interested staff met to hear a presentation on The Digital Department (Digital literacy project at UCL), a sister project to Digitally Ready.  It aims to develop the professional profile of teaching administrators.  The project is funded by JISC and has delivered a training programme and explored external accreditation.  The project is aimed at all staff who support T&L activities working alongside academics and students.

The Digital Department talk from UCL staff

The Digital Department talk from UCL staff

SO what are ‘Teaching administrators”?  UCL use the Moodle VLE and the training team found that several staff on non-teaching grades were looking after parts of the VLE or had been recruited in to help with VLE work.  UCL created a “Moodle for Administrators” course. It was incredibly popular and helped the teaching administrators in different departments to link up and share experience.  This resulted in an annual teaching administrator conference to share experiences and develop best practise.  UCL moved to a ‘total Moodle’ approach which required all courses to have a baseline Moodle content for every module.  When this decision was circulated there was almost no kickback from staff.  This turned out to be because the teaching administrators dealt with the changes rather than individual academics.

The Digital Department project started by asking: “What do Teaching Administrators (TAs) do?”  TAs help to manage content in Moodle as well as to use a huge variety of other e-learning (in the broadest sense) software from MS Office suite, Facebook and Twitter, to more specialist software for web design and video production.

  • A quick survey showed over 40 different digital tools already in use.
  • “It is almost impossible for the busy academic to keep up to date” SLiDA
  • To maintain currency in digital literacy there is need to horizon scanning, communication and empowerment to utilise the tools that are available and that become available.
  • To give TAs recognition for their work an approach to accreditation was investigated with CMALT
  • To allow accreditation a series of workshops and training was run to help TAs to become fully trained in these media and to gain formal recognition of this.  The training helped TAs to understand more the needs of students in T&L.

UCL has invested in considerable T&L support to try to take some of the time demands from Academic staff to allow them to focus on other activities.

In the future UCL plan to widen the training courses and make them available to other institutions.

Group discussion at the meeting raised the issue of communication and that Yammer is becoming a way of connecting people to share experience within Reading University.

About Alastair Culham

A professional botanist and biologist with an interest in promoting biological knowledge and awareness to all.
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