Are we ‘Digitally Ready’ yet?

At 10am on Monday the JISC funded Digitally Ready project group, which broadcasts its progress via a blog and Twitter, met for an evaluation of project progress.

A new emphasis for future JISC funding is likely to be student engagement however there is no open call at present.  A move towards micro funding perhaps of £5-10k may be the future approach.  Sustainability is seen as essential to all future funding.  The JISC website has a sustainability toolkit available to help with this.

Maria Papaefthimiou introducing our work on Digitally Ready

Maria Papaefthimiou introducing our work on Digitally Ready

Maria delivered a review of the microfunded projects supported under the Digitally Ready project.  Julian Park then invited some of the staff and students to reflect on the projects they had been involved in including student blogging, recording of lectures, student engagement in placements via a Blackboard Wiki (Simon Hyslop), development of online information for overseas students, and three UROPs including the Construction Chat portal, online/offline student communication channels, and enhancement of the online counselling support delivery to make this more online presence positive.

Pat Parslow reported that the project had helped foster a community consciousness on digital literacy.  Introduction of industry standard software in Systems Engineering has helped students to be prepared for industrial placements and this has gained positive feedback. In addition, Derby University have approached Reading University to use our digitally ready experiences.  There have been numerous dissemination events including several conference papers from the project.

Peter Chatterton giving his overview of JISC expectations.

Peter Chatterton giving his overview of JISC expectations.

Peter Chatterton delivered a presentation on his evaluation of the project including an introduction to the evaluation toolkit, reminding us that today’s workshop will feed in to the project evaluation.  The review falls into three major parts: serendipity, …..  Benchmarking impact is crucial to the process.  Benchmarking is part of an iterative process including what we should achieve in the project.  The initial stage has been to evaluate the mini projects against a series of standard questions via a closed Wiki.  The value as students as partners is very powerful and energizing to the T&L experience and this should be encouraged more widely.  Digital literacy among staff has increased and spread, a community of practice has been developed to reduce siloing of experience and knowledge, increase in recognition of student extra-curricular activity on student transcripts is developing.  Microfunding has been exceptionally effective and has offered good value for money.  We are preparing graduates for a world of constant change, novel and ill-defined problems, technology disrupting every facet of business, and increasing complexity.  We need to promote self-directed critical thinking, peer review, application of skills to tackle ill-defined problems.  We should be teaching a combination of blended and flexible approaches.  We should be linking our T&L to good principles.  We need to link senior managers, IT staff and employees effectively.  We need to refocus on digital enquiry, digital innovation and digital influence including horizon scanning skills,  influence IT managers and use IT tools as an opportunity rather than a challenge.  The Practicing for Entrepreneurship module in the Business School is now approaching this.  To succeed in digital learning activities there needs to be engagement at all levels of the University hierarchy.  The industrial approach of ‘Plan, do, check, act‘ works in spreading good practice and activity.

Beyond direct funding, the Digitally Ready project has generated an institution wide acceptance that digital innovation in teaching and learning is of prime importance and this has facilitated further staff engagement with digital tools and approaches.  There is a difference between digital literacy (general knowledge of digital tools) and digital scholarship (subject specific expertise).

Julian Park suggested that we need to focus on two key questions: what do we need to sustain (e.g. the Digitally Ready blog), and what is coming out of the project we wish to build on.  There is now a high level Technology Enhanced Learning strategy group to develop plans and documentation to develop this.  Six major strands were identified: 1) Wifi across the university needs to be increased in terms of both coverage and bandwidth; 2) development of our learning platform to make better use of Blackboard; 3) institutional-wide cultural and staff engagement change; 4) audio and video learning capture (potentially linking to more flipped learning); 5) e-assessment and feedback (online submission, online marking, online feedback as well as in the wider context), and 6) use of MOOCs (in the Future learn project)

Our Digitally Ready lunch discussion in full flow.

Our Digitally Ready lunch discussion in full flow.

Over lunch we addressed the key issues for discussion:

  1. Micro funding seems effective at a local scale – how do we generate more?
  2. We need to look more at setting students tasks  that are inherently flexible
  3. Link microfunding to local/subject champions
  4. Keep communicating
  5. Keep adapting to change
  6. Are there parallels with the Clean & Green team project such as the University Green Awards?
  7. The Digital Development forum will absorb some of the activities including the Digital Heroes approach
  8. Continuation of the Digital Digest
  9. Coordination of digital media training (a digital training matrix to coordinate experience and communicate University policy and Support)
  10. We must continue with senior management engagement
  11. We need a buddy scheme to mentor staff in new techniques
  12. A set of resource/infrastructure should be brought together to provide a Digitally Ready toolkit for future use
  13. Development of a skills matrix would be valuable
  14. Graduate employability skills must be maintained
  15. A ‘Real Jobs’ (Typography) equivalent for digital literacy would be useful.

About Alastair Culham

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