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The Digital Department


Developing digital literacies for teaching administrators


Archive for the 'Events' Category

Webinar: UCL working with the new change agents

By Clive Young, on 3 June 2014

webinarClive Young (ELE) and Stefanie Anyadi (UCL Division of Psychology and Language Sciences) led an ALT webinar today on work UCL has been doing with our community of teaching administrators (TAs).

We described the now-completed JISC Digital Department project that supported these staff in developing their digital literacies and in working more systematically and strategically with them as change agents. This had led directly to the establishment of our supported programme leading to the Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT). We also introduced the E-Learning Champions initiative and explained why we had included TAs to work in partnership with academics and ELE staff. Although very much a work in progress this has proved effective and has already helped benchmark e-learning activity, develop local plans across two of our schools and has led to the emergence of active faculty-level e-learning groups.

The slides and recording are available on the ALT Repository at http://repository.alt.ac.uk/2351/

Summer school: Technology and Change in Higher Education

By Clive Young, on 20 July 2013

summer_schoolLast week with colleagues Martin Oliver and Cat Edera from the Institute of Education (IoE) Stafanie Anyadi and I ran a very successful summer school entitled ‘Technology and Change in Higher Education’. Both the IoE and ourselves have related projects under the JISC Digital Literacies programme and we were keen to explore some of the issues around emerging practices, roles and identities related to the changing technological environment.

On the first day Stefanie and I focused on the issues that had been highlighted by our The Digital Department project and the work we had done around the CMALT programme. We were fortunate to have a very lively group of participants; academics, support staff and administrators who were very happy to share ideas and experiences.

We first explored the notion of changing identities, how rapid technological and institutional change resulted in a fluidity of job roles, often expanding quite extensively from the standard job descriptor. Individuals seemed to be creating their own ‘operational space’, often moving flexibly between ‘academic’ and ‘administrative’ or support roles. This was not exactly the ‘third space’ professional enviroment that Celia Whitchurch [link to Celia’s paper] described – although some of our participants identified themselves as such – but a more adaptive professional environment in which previous academic/support boundaries were blurred. This fluidity was not without its problems. Several challenging issues were discussed.
  • Authority had to be self-generated instead of being inherent in the job role
  • Individuals had to create their own networks of influence.
  • Professional development and career progression routes were less clear
  • The boundary-jumping aspect may be ‘transgressive’ and challenge institutional ideas of identity and affiliation
  • It might be difficult for colleagues and the institution to relate to fluid roles and recognise individual expertise
  • This may result in border or ownership issues of issues that can be manifested as barriers
  • Recruitment and induction into these ‘personally-constructed’ roles can be another problemThe group noted that restructuring if well implemented could be way of providing a ‘snapshot’ of these dynamic changes and route for the institution to accommodate them.
summer_school_groupThere were many positives. Such adaptive roles could help students navigate though existing ‘chains of support’. The importance in this respect of the Teaching or Departmental Administrator was mentioned several times. Technology could play a large role in providing a breadth of support for students and staff but often a human ‘broker’ was still much appreciated.

We completed our session by exploring the important role of new pedagogies in this process, how as e-learning had become mainstream it needs a wider group to support it. More communicative designs (using forums especially) also encouraged changes in the types of e-learning support needed and this was particularly evident in distance learning and high-tech blends of campus learning, which often took on aspects of distance learning anyway. Indeed the complexities of the increasingly rich digital environment needed skills in how to ‘signpost’ students, how to engage students in communication, how to ‘align’ their activities with the learning outcomes, but also how to support them in the wider range of digital literacies required.


Emerging hybrid staff roles in the new e-learning environment

By Clive Young, on 21 June 2012

Keynote for ICA Network Educating the Net Generation in the Life Sciences, 21 June 2012, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy


Two types of digital literacies?

By Clive Young, on 16 May 2012

As part of TDD Alison and I attended an interesting JISC workshop on ‘digital literacies’ yesterday. There was much emphasis on how skills and practices contributed to both academic and personal online identities. However the literacies supporting each might be different. A distinction emerged from discussions with programme ‘synthesis consultant’ Helen Beetham.

  • Professional/academic literacies and identities, characterised by specialist tools like SPSS, CAD/CAM, LaTex, GIS tools and the academic tools Moodle/Lecturecast/Turnitin. They tend to have  a steep learning curve but the literacies are usually quite well integrated into modules and ‘owned’ by the department and/or the institution.
  • Personal/social literacies/identities  – characterised by cloud-based web services such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube –  designed/promoted as ‘easy to use’ and not usually integrated  unless  part of the academic subject itself (investigating digital technologies etc) and therefore not ‘owned’ by anyone (…should they be?).

There is significant possible overlap, however, where cloud-based services could be used directly in to support academic study (blogs, media etc), to engage in discipline-based ‘research 2.0 activities’, to develop portfolios for employability and establish a professional online identity.

This seems the area where the institution may be able to take more ‘ownership’ – the academic application of web service tools. Some universities (or academic departments) reported they had set up wikis covering technologies and techniques that students themselves can contribute to. It was suggested such wikis could be ‘seeded’ by student volunteers or interns.

Workshop at AUA Conference

By Stefanie D Anyadi, on 24 April 2012

The Digital Department team offered a workshop at the recent AUA conference in Manchester, which was an excellent opportunity to meet and talk to colleagues from other universities and colleges.

The workshop led to interesting discussions on what constitutes digital literacy.  Creativity and innovation were seen as important aspects of the digital literacy. Digital literacy needs to be considered at individual and group level, and relates to a range of literacies needed for a person’s job roles. It was noted that many students have very high expectations and assume they have very good digital literacy skills when this is often not the case.

Organisations should get the message out to employees, “this how we work and why we work this way”. A number of organisations try a top down approach to influence what tools are used and how. Colleagues observed that people will always try to find a way around restrictions although it was agreed more autonomy in choosing tools can also cause problems.

It was interesting to get a glimpse as to how the administrative support for degree programmes and modules is organised in a range of universities with some much more centralised than others. The role of teaching administrators varies widely with regard to digital literacy and digital skills support: in some universities they play an important role in supporting staff and student digital literacy while in others this area is the sole responsibility of lecturers and/or a central service.

We are planning to keep in touch with our workshop participants – their input will help us ensure that our project is relevant and useful beyond UCL!


The Guardian Digital Literacy Campaign

By Clive Young, on 10 January 2012

The Guardian newspaper has just launched a campaign to improve IT and computer science teaching in schools and universities. They are running a series of live  Q&As this week with teachers, lecturers and experts from technology companies such as Google and Microsoft…and want input from as many teachers, lecturers, pupils, parents and developers as possible. Throughout the week, in the paper and online, the Guardian “will be looking at how employers feel about the scarcity of digital skills among the UK workforce, going to schools to talk to them about how they teach IT and computer science, hearing from ministers such as Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey and visiting the Bett education technology show in London“. An interesting initiative to follow, supported by Google.

TDD meets Heads of e-Learning

By Clive Young, on 29 November 2011

At the Driving Internal Change: internal approaches to digital literacies seminar at the University of Bath last week, organised by the Heads of e-Learning Forum. Several excellent presentations from projects the JISC Digital Literacies programme, including of course The Digital Department. Spotted this unusual photograph of me doing my presentation on the blog of Digital Literacies as a Postgraduate Attribute, another DigiLit project.

Martin Oliver took the photo and explains: “In case you’re wondering, the odd “over-the-shoulder” gazes are because there are screens on two sides of the room, with an elliptical table in the middle. That in itself is interesting; it makes doing a talk really hard, because if you stand up so you’re visible, you’re always behind someone”. Indeed an odd layout but a very interesting event.

I was reminded though how innovative and maybe challenging The Digital Department really is. Some colleagues were certainly sceptical of the advisability or even capacity of their administrators to take on more proactive roles but others were much more supportive and had noted similar changes in their institutions.

Second TA workshop

By Clive Young, on 9 November 2011

In the second of our TA meetings over a dozen attendees explored the AUA professional behaviours and how they relate to both the day-to-day work of participants and the digital literacies identified in the first workshop. A full report will follow. Clive also introduced various certification options and the idea to start the certification process early in 2012, rather than wait until the second half or the project. Lorraine discussed the eight case study areas we wanted to concentrate on and asked for volunteers to participate and even lead these ‘mini-projects’. The eight areas are;

  1. Support of UCL students overseas
  2. Distance Learning .
  3. VLE e.g. Moodle / Moodle 2
  4. Assessment and feedback
  5. Quality Assurance
  6. Student tracking from student to alumni
  7. Communications and social media
  8. Internal operations – e.g finance.

In addition we want to look at the whole issue of CPD, what kind of certification is appropriate and how CPD can be integarted into workloads and review processes.

The AUA’s ‘professional behaviours’

By Clive Young, on 20 October 2011

At the AUA CPD Pilot Group Networking event in Manchester today among a lively group of CPD ‘champions’ who are implementing the AUA’s ‘professional behaviours’ framework in a range of projects to aiming to develop professional services staff.

The framework derives from a HEFCE-funded AUA programme that started in 2008 which attempted to build on a number of existing professional and management standards to develop a ‘common language’ that could be used to describe the CPD needs of university  administrative staff. After a sector-wide consultation the framework emerged as a range of nine ‘professional behaviours’ such as ‘delivering excellent service’, ‘embracing change’ and ‘working with people’, usually displayed as a circle.

The behaviours aim to describe how a person does a job, so conceptually sits between the job description and the person specification. Each behaviour has a definition describing how it influences the individual, her relationship with others and in the context of the wider organisation.

The AUA projects, some in their second year, were using the framework in a variety of ways; as part of the recruitment process, for CPD planning, and frequently as part of a reorganisation process. The Digital Department is looking at the AUA framework as a way of ‘unpacking’ the skills of our teaching administrators, to suggest a development path and to help alignment with the AUA portfolio certification process.  Although funded by JISC, we were invited to join the wider AUA network initiative and we met representatives of at least one project who was trying something similar, although with a different group of staff.

To familiarise ourselves with the framework we used the behaviours as a ‘coaching wheel’, to rate our confidence against each, which we wanted to develop and (especially revealing) what our respective institutions expected of us. A useful and engaging tool and we look forward to using it with our TAs to identify their activities and skills.

Digital literacies and identity

By Clive Young, on 12 October 2011

In the second leg of our JISC Digital Literacies tour last week our TDD team went to Bristol for the Developing Digital Literacies workshop. Again a very interesting event, with all the workshop materials available online.  The main emphasis was on why digital literacies are important  – mainly impacts of digital media on knowledge and the new demands on education. We discussed ‘ways of knowing’ , ‘graduate attributes’ and how universities are investigating this strategically.  There was an excellent presentation  by Charlotte Fregona of London Metropolitan University on their SLiDA case study. The surprisingly-overlooked link between staff literacies and student literacies was explored and I was impressed by London Met’s Minimum Standards for Digital Learning and Teaching and their excellent Elearning@LondonMet  pilot portal.

One area I thought fascinating from a TDD perspective, though, was the link between digital literacy and identity. From the initial stages of TDD we understood that for our colleagues the project framework could consolidate the idea ‘Teaching Administrator’ as an accepted professional support role with some level of status. Individuals and organisations would recognise and identify with the job description. The framework itself would describe a development path to a desired set of professional attributes. We hope the framework becomes a  benchmark for both self-evaluation and aspiration. Helen Beetham presented the digital literacies ‘stages of development‘ model (right) she had developed with Rhona Sharpe. She had intended it as a Maslow-style hierarchy but came to realise the flow wasn’t always upwards. If people could self-identify as wanting a set of professional attributes that make up a professional identity they could ensure access acquire skills and develop practices. We are hoping that will happen with our TAs.

As the discussion developed we also wondered if some academic identities actually excluded digital literacies i.e. “as a professional academic I’m simply not interested in that online stuff”. As identity is deeply important to people it may explain why some have in the past reacted so strongly against apparently innocuous uses of technology.