UCISA Digital Capabilities

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking about the Digital Student project at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities.  What I enjoyed most about the event was how the sessions dealt directly with the realities of supporting and embedding digital practices. There was no abstract waffle about ‘identity’ or hard-sell techno-solutionism. 🙂

(Side note – the event was based at Media City in Salford so I naturally went right up to the window of BBC6music and got a lovely wave from RadMac which made my day…)

I had a 40 minute slot to tune people into the history of the project and, importantly, some of the lovely pragmatic outputs Helen Beetham has put together including:

  1. Highlighting some of the use cases which illustrate the 7 ‘challenge areas
  2. The Enhancing the digital student experience postcards
  3. The ‘Listen to students’ posters

I’ve been in sessions where a mix of the above have been used to great effect.

I also discussed the various pulls there are on the technology we provide, specifically the different aspirations behind the drive to deliver curriculum and the keenness to support the student experience. I suggested that we often don’t explicitly discuss what the value of the tech we employ is supposed to be for the various groups within our institutions. This can lead to people claiming it’s ‘not fit for purpose’ even though a ‘purpose’ hasn’t been discussed…

Towards the end of the session I got everyone to do a very simple mapping of the tech they provide on this grid:


A slight re-working of my Visitor & Resident mapping grid for UCISA
A slight re-working of my Visitor & Resident mapping grid for UCISA

Initially I was just going to have the horizontal axis but having thought through the ‘curriculum delivery’ vs ‘student experience’ tension I realised a vertical axis bringing in these contexts might be useful.

Given the size and shape of the room we couldn’t get into a detailed discussion of the mapping so I asked people to feedback on what they had mapped on the cusp of the expect/enhance line, this included:

  • Introducing a new ‘more modern’ VLE (Canvas was mentioned)
  • Better systems for students to receive notifications
  • Institutional ‘for life’ digital provision (email, ePortfolio or blog for example)

One of the things that struck me most about the conference way the range of people in the room. It’s clear that ‘Digital Capabilities’ is a theme that cuts across many sections of university provision and it’s really racing up the agenda.

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