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UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities

by Fiona Strawbridge, University College London and Julie Adams, Staffordshire University

Posted by Hannah Oakman | April 22, 2016 | Events

A serious challenge for universities and colleges is to ensure that their staff and students have the digital skills, knowledge and confidence to thrive in new and fast-changing working and learning environments. Students, whilst often proficient with social media, may have big gaps when it comes to more scholarly uses of technology; and staff may not have kept up with advances in the tools and services which could help support their own research and teaching activities. Professional support staff are also required to work with an increasing range of digital technology tools to support their role and help deliver relevant and responsive services to students and staff. 

Several recent reports have highlighted the importance of digital skills for the UK economy. House of Lords committee report (2015) Make or break: the UK’s digital future, noted that the higher education sector “has not responded to the urgent need for reskilling,” and calls for institutions to develop courses to give the students the skills they need.

The Higher Education Commission report, From Bricks to Clicks – The Potential of Data and Analytics in Higher Education, (January 2016) looked at the data landscape across HE and concluded institutions are not making the most of the data available within their systems to improve teaching, enhance the student experience and empower students.  One of the recommendations was that “institutions should ensure that digital literacy, capability and good data management strategies are an integral part of their strategic plans.” (Recommendation 8.)

Meanwhile, training teams within institutions are finding that fewer people are inclined to come to their courses, and as a result some teams are dwindling in size, or being replaced with off-the-shelf online courses, leaving a worrying gap in provision.

UCISA’s 2016 Spotlight on Digital capabilities event will look at how big that gap in provision is, and how institutions are filling it. The event will bring together key people working on staff and student digital capabilities in the sector, and includes speakers from outside HE to share lessons from other sectors. It will consider how institutions can assess their current provision and practice in supporting digital capabilities. Topics to be covered include: digital leadership, pedagogy and effectiveness, assistive technologies, digital identity, branding, scholarship, training.

The programme includes a provocative debate on whether we need training teams at all, a Question Time session which allows participants to challenge a panel of experts, and, threading through it, an online team-based challenge. The event will be of particular interest to those involved in supporting and promoting digital capabilities development, such as IT trainers, learning technologists, library and IT staff and educational developers.

The event will be held at Austin Court in Birmingham on 25 and 26 May. There will be ample time for networking throughout the two days. Dinner on the Wednesday evening will be held in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. 

Further information on the venue and programme, plus the booking form, are available on the UCISA website at 

The UCISA Digital Capabilities Group ran the first sector-wide survey on Digital Capabilities in 2014 (see for the report and more information). Gillian Fielding, the Survey lead said “Feedback from the sector was that overall this was a beneficial exercise, raising the profile of digital capabilities within institutions.” The second run of the survey will be launched later this year. An online meeting will be held on 19 April to gather thoughts from the sector on the use/benefits/implications of the 2014 survey which will help inform planning of this second survey.

To book onto that event go to


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