Tel Tales

Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Category: Digital literacy

Digital Capabilities?

Adrian Sharkey

Why do digital capabilities matter?

In 2015 the House of Lords published a report on the need to improve the country’s digital capabilities, Make or Break: The UK’s Digital Future. It was an eye opener and didn’t pull any punches. Among the findings, the report stated that 35% of existing jobs would be automated over the next 20 years and that higher education had not responded to the urgent need for re-skilling. The report goes on to outline that digital skills are all encompassing, affecting all areas of the economy including industry, agriculture, health care, financial services as well as public and consumer services.

Added to this is the expectation of students now paying £9,000 a year in tuition fees. Higher education is seen as much more of a transaction and students expect to be given the skills that make them employable. With expectations from government and students, higher education has a large responsibility in providing the relevant skills for a successful digital economy, to both staff and students.

What are digital capabilities?

Higher education agencies like UCISA and Jisc have come up with a definition and a framework for digital capabilities:

‘Digital capabilities are those that fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society.’

 

 

Digital capability covers a wide range of areas and is embedded in all teaching and learning. There is a big assumption that students these days are computer ‘savvy,’ and while they may spend a lot of time online and be comfortable with different applications and devices, that doesn’t necessarily translate to being able to evaluate information, analyse data, having a credible online identity etc.

The six elements of digital capability:

ICT Proficiency

Be comfortable using different devices, applications and services and know which ones to apply to particular tasks. An ability to keep up to date with ICT and deal with problems when they occur.

Information, data and media literacies

Being able to evaluate information, analyse it and present it in different settings, use data in applications like spreadsheets and databases to query it and run reports. An understanding of laws around data, like copyright and data protection. An ability to interpret and a critical approach to media messages.

Digital creation, problem solving and innovation

Present work and ideas using blogs, web pages audio and visual tools etc. Understand different digital research tools, analyse and present the results. Use digital tools in different settings to present ideas.

Digital communication, collaboration and participation

Effectively use forums, social media and other digital communication tools. Collaborate on projects and work with people from different organisations and backgrounds using productivity tools like G-suite. Use digital tools, social networking etc. to participate in online learning, professionally and personally online.

Digital learning and development

Be able to learn online, monitor progress and showcase achievements. To teach and design online learning opportunities.

Digital identity and wellbeing

Be able to project a positive digital identity across different profiles and understand the reputational risks and benefits of participating online. Use digital tools to pursue personal goals, manage work life balance online.

What next?

  • Digital capability needs to be seen as an institute wide responsibility, across all departments.
  • One of the first steps is to assess your own digital capability, this can be done using the Jisc Digital Discovery Tool, while this is aimed at staff, some institutions have used it with students also. There should be a student discovery tool in early 2018.
  • All opportunities should be taken to embed digital capability into the curriculum, staff and students should be encouraged to co-create digital resources.
  • Example digital capability profiles for staff (including support staff) and students. Jisc have made a start on this.
  • Make digital capability part of everyone’s Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and Performance Development Review (PDR).
  • Look at certification and accreditation.
  • Encourage digital good practice, offer rewards for innovative digital teaching and for student achievement.
  • Provide the digital infrastructure and university wide tools to allow students and staff to develop digital capability.

Further resources

Technology Enhanced Learning Team in DCQE

The IT Training Team in IS

Jisc – Building digital capability

The 2017 UCISA Digital Capabilities Survey Report

Jisc – Student digital experience tracker 2017

Dame Martha Lane Fox – Richard Dimbleby Lecture

@adrianjsharkey

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MOOC Experience

Mandy Harcup

Encouraged to enrol on a MOOC, and then write about my experience, I decided I had better first find out some information on what MOOC stands for and what a MOOC is. For those of you unfamiliar with this turn of phase, MOOC stands for a ‘massive open online course’ – originally designed to make distance learning available to the masses, where courses were intended to be free of charge.

So after doing an initial internet search on MOOCs and finding searches advertising ‘Free Online Courses’ – great I thought, free courses, I want to know more. So I searched Wikipedia where I read about background information and discovered how MOOCs have increased with popularity since 2012. MOOCs main appeal was that its online courses could have unlimited participations with open access via the web.

Although each MOOC has its own unique structure and style, I discovered that students on a MOOC were to learn from each other, by sharing knowledge through discussion and experiences.

Interestingly, there are two types of MOOCs: ‘xMOOC – Focuses on scalability’ and ‘cMOOC – Focuses on community and connections’ (illustrated in the image).

George Siemens (2013), co-creator of the first cMOOC, reported that they were‘based on the idea that learning happens within a network, where learners use digital platforms such as blogs, wikis, social media platforms to make connections with content, learning communities and other learners to create and construct knowledge.’ Whilst xMOOC are based on a more traditional classroom structure with a lecturer in control of the learning process, along with quizzes and assignments to monitor student learning.

So after researching MOOCs I decided to register with FutureLearn – a provider of free online courses. I found creating an account and choosing a course was nice and easy. I decided I would start off with a short course and chose one that said it was two hours a week for two weeks – short and sweet, I thought.

Disappointingly, a few days into my free online course, I received an email from FutureLearn stating that I would need to upgrade, at a cost, to experience the full range of benefits the course offers. The upgrade would costs between £24 and £69 – the actual price would not appear until I had almost completed the course.

During the first week of the course I felt like I spent longer than the recommended 2hrs per week working through course content and exercises – perhaps this was just because this method of study was a new experience to me. I enjoyed participating in online discussions, however, I would of liked to see more discussion from other participants, this could of been an idea time for the ‘lecturer’ to encourage train of thought and direct should the discussion stray off course.

Due to illness I was unable to participate in the second consecutive week of my course. Although I hadn’t upgraded I knew I still had access to course materials for another 14 days after the course had finished – if, however, I had upgraded I would have had unlimited access to course content for as long as the course exists in FutureLearn.

I successfully worked my way through the second week content until I reached the assessment section which was titled ‘Assess your Understanding – Test’.  If I wanted to take this test and receive a Certificate of Achievement I would have to pay £39, this I didn’t want to do. The last step of my course introduced the next course in the series, asked me to complete a questionnaire and showed a promotional video on the University of Leeds.

Did I enjoy the course, did I learn anything from it and would I do another?

The course covered managing identity online, the objective was to consider our online presence and how what people say online can have major implications on people’s real lives. We looked at defining and applying a personal code of practice for online communication, history of glossaries and enhancing our online identities using social media tools.

Would I do another course? Yes, I’d probably do another one in this series. I did enjoy the course and have put some of the practical skills into use, I’ve tried to tidy up what can be found if you searched my name and in doing so found it’s not so easy to remove everything.  On social media I’ve changed quite a few settings so I don’t receive so much unwanted advertisement and I’ve put security steps into place so that other people cannot see information on my Facebook page, should they type my name in the search box. One of the setting I’ve put in place is, if other people want to upload photos onto my page instead of happening automatically, I now receive notification and have to give permission, however, this doesn’t stop the photos appearing on their page.

On a more critical note, I did feel that, perhaps due to the shortness of the course, there was a real lack of discussion from other participants and a lack of presence from the online course leader to encourage direction and dialogue. I never did know if my contribution to the course was correct or not.  My main disappointment was, if I wanted to complete the course and receive a certificate then I would have to pay for it… so the course wasn’t entirely free!

References

MOOC poster (March, 2013). What is the media & cultural studies of the MOOC?Retrieved from:
http://blog.commarts.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MOOCbetterwordbubble.png (Assessed: 11th April 2017)

Massive open online course (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 30, 2017 from:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course

Mathieu Plourde (2013). MOOC poster (by licensed CC-BY on Flickr). Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mathplourde/8620174342/ (Accessed: 29th March 2017)

Touro College Online Education for Higher Ed (August 2013). What is the Difference Between xMOOCs and cMOOCs? Retrieved from: http://blogs.onlineeducation.touro.edu/distinguishing-between-cmoocs-and-xmoocs/ (Accessed: 30 March, 2017)

Siemens, G. (2012). MOOCs are really a platform. Retrieved from:  http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/2012/07/25/moocs-are-really-a-platform/

 

Lynda.com

Adrian Sharkey

Lynda.com is an online learning platform that offers thousands of e-learning courses (mostly video, but it includes downloadable materials, exercises and manuals). The vast range of courses cover business, software, technology and creative skills. The courses are delivered by recognised industry experts and are of the highest quality. Lots of the courses offered map directly to courses offered by the University, for example, programming, 3D design, photography, digital marketing, video production software and many more, as well as general software and business skills for employability and continuous professional development.

Having worked in training for a number of years, Lynda.com is a tool I’ve been aware of for a long time. Whenever I’ve had a chance to look at it and compare it with similar tools I’ve always been impressed with the range and quality of courses available. What was difficult, was justifying the cost of buying Lynda.com licenses to support the role of a relatively small IT Training team.

The last couple of years has seen ‘digital capabilities’ rise on the agenda for Higher Education (to be covered in a future blog post). The government and agencies like Jisc and UCISA have been emphasising the role universities have in meeting the digital skills gap and conferences have been promoting the digital capability framework and methods of meeting its requirements. One topic kept recurring and was the subject of a few presentations – the use of Lynda.com by universities. With increasing numbers of universities (now 70% in the UK) using Lynda.com, it suddenly seemed a viable option.

After gathering some interest from around the University I was given the go-ahead to submit an investment proposal in 2016 and aimed to match up the benefits of Lynda.com with the University and Education strategies. This meant showing how Lynda.com could be used to help provide a flexible digital environment, accessible anytime from any device, develop employability skills and support Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It also supports distance learners and can be used to extend and enhance the use of other digital resources by raising awareness and providing training for under-utilised tools such as Webex.

At this point, pre-launch, a number of us from around the University are working to get Lynda.com ready for students and staff to use in the new academic year. It has great potential to make a difference and enhance teaching and learning. It gives students and staff:

  • Unlimited access – more than 5000 video tutorials covering business, creative and technology topics.
  • Relevant recommendations – explore the most in-demand skills based on your interests.
  • Expert instructors – learn from industry leaders, all in the one place.
  • Convenient learning – access courses at your convenience, from any desktop or mobile device.

To be really successful, staff and students need to be engaged and using Lynda.com embedded in the curriculum. The ability to share playlists and publish courses through Moodle helps with this, with the potential for flipping the classroom and changing the way contact time is used makes things very exciting. Independent learning and opportunities for students and staff around employability and CPD are greatly increased.

Around the launch there will be articles on UoP News, you’ll see posters in the open access areas and briefing sessions will be organised. The aim is to have Lynda.com available for staff early in August and for students when they start the new term. There will be ongoing support from DCQE and IT Training. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me.

Lynda.com Google Community
@adrianjsharkey

Adrian Sharkey has recently joined the TEL Team from IS for a 12 month secondment. Adrian is working with TEL, the Library and other stakeholders to support digital literacy of staff/students around the university. A particular focus will be on how to make best use of Lynda.com, for which we will soon have a site license.

Welcome to the team, Adrian! 🙂

 

SoloLearn – Learning where you want, when you want

Becky Holman

 

We all learn in different ways and personally I’m a hands on learner. I need to be learning and doing at the same time, otherwise it’s not going to stick.

Currently I have dipped my toe into the world of coding. This is something I’ve tried my hand at over the years but each time I pick it up, without practise I lose what I’ve learnt. So I started to search for apps that could help me learn and practise basic HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) throughout my typical day.

So what did you find?

After a few clicks and swipes I came across SoloLearn – a free mobile social platform that offers coding courses which can be completed via the Web on iOS, Android or Windows.

The aim of the game with SoloLearn is to learn through playing. The courses consist of bite-size guides and quizzes to keep you engaged and your progress is saved each time you reach a ‘checkpoint’. To practise and play with what you have learned, there is the ‘Code Playground’ where learners can experiment with what they have learned so far and save for future reference. This is excellent for when life gets in the way and you need to put the app to one side for a while, making for a easy return when you pick it back up. Another benefit is regardless of what platform you happen to be using, Sololearn will sync up, so you can access your course in a range of situations via your mobile device and the app will know where you left off from.

A very important part of SoloLearn is that although their name suggests otherwise, you are in by no means ‘solo’ in your learning. On each course there is a space for comments at the bottom of each page from the global SoloLearn community to ask questions or find handy tips from other learners taking part in their course. Many learners also share code they have written to be used by others for practise.

This is all well and good, but why should I learn to code at all?

Many people wouldn’t bat an eyelid at being told by a friend that they might be learning a spoken language such as French, but telling them you’re learning a digital language? That can get you a few funny looks. Although a genuine interest in the first place doesn’t hurt, there’s no harm in learning a new skill and adding another string to your bow. There’s no escaping that we live in a digital age and learning to code can only benefit you in the long run. Having a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS can help your career, such as being able to improve your employer’s website, or quickly publish your own content on your own website or digital platform.

You can find out more and join up by visiting SoloLearn here.

 

JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker

Stephen Webb

Back in spring 2016, JISC piloted a tool – the JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker – intended to allow institutions to gather evidence from learners about their digital experiences. The motivation behind the Tracker was to enable institutions to make better-informed decisions about the digital environment, to target resources for improving digital provision, and to demonstrate quality enhancement and student engagement to external bodies and to students themselves. Portsmouth was one of 12 universities chosen to deploy the Tracker.

We chose to gain a snapshot of our learners’ digital experiences at Level 4, and many of the findings were in close agreement with the national picture. Students – both here and at the other pilot universities – said they wanted universities to stop sending irrelevant emails and to stop “death by PowerPoint” in lectures.

Students said they wanted universities to offer recorded lectures; to make better use of digital learning environments; to offer more activities online; and to provide access to more computers. Just under three-quarters of students (74.4% at Portsmouth; 72% nationally) believed that when technology is used effectively by teaching staff it enhances their learning experience.

A particularly pleasing result for us was that 97.1% of Portsmouth students found Moodle either very useful or quite useful in supporting their learning.

If you would like to read about the results of the 2016 JISC Tracker pilot in more detail, please contact the TEL team. And be on the lookout for results from a second iteration of the Tracker, which was delivered in February and March of 2017. We hope JISC will allow the Tracker to become an annual event: that way we will begin to understand changes in the student digital experience, at both local and national level, over time.

Image credits: Jisc logo – https://www.jisc.ac.uk

 

Why Blog? Good question, why blog indeed?

Marie Kendall-Waters

As you can see the TEL Team have a brand new, shiny blog! We’re hoping to share all our news and exciting discoveries with you all and we would like you to contribute too by leaving comments and feedback to our blog posts that interest you. With this in mind, I’ve started thinking about blogs and blogging.

Blogs are a great platform for communicating to a wider audience, sharing good practice and building up a community amongst others who have similar interests to your own. Blogging is a great way of learning, it challenges you to sit down and write and reflect on your experiences on a regular basis, which can often be scary putting your thoughts out there for all to read! However, by embracing this, you learn and grow as an individual, perhaps even become an expert in a certain field and in turn you are helping others to learn too! For some people having an opinion and voicing that opinion online comes as a natural process for others it can be a terrifying prospect, and by overcoming that it can become empowering – so perhaps it’s worth thinking about, even if it is a little scary!

So what makes a successful blog?

Okay, so here are a few things that I think are important to remember when blogging…

  • Purpose: so why blog? What are you trying to say to your audience? By giving a blog a purpose, a reason for its existence, you are giving your readers something memorable to grab onto. They have something to engage with, comment on, and share.
  • Audience: who are your lovely readers? Are you talking to a specific group of people? If so, do you need to tailor your posts to their needs? Also, do you need to think of the wider audience?
  • Tone: conversational tone – blog posts tend to be more informal and chatty.
  • Structure of blog posts: as with any writing, structure is very important. Writing a blog post is no different! Organise your thoughts and ideas before embarking on the task. Use headings to signpost your readers. Include a clear introduction so that the reader knows what is going to be discussed. Break down your post into well structured paragraphs and always finish by adding a conclusion.
  • Length of posts: It shouldn’t really matter – keep the content to the length that it is required to discuss your chosen topic. However, keeping content clear and to the point will help to keep the word count down and keep your content focused and your reader engrossed.
  • Unique content: write something with a different spin/take on it, rather than writing something that someone else has already written. Include punchy headlines and humor to grab the reader’s attention – doesn’t always have to be serious!
  • Media: include videos and images in posts – why?  It makes it more interesting and engaging for our readers rather than reams of text.
  • Frequency of posts: by blogging on a regular basis you will keep your readers’ interest!
  • Internal linking: linking related posts within a blog by #hashtags is a great way of enhancing the learning experience for readers. It not only provides themes throughout but also searchable keywords which are useful for when reflecting and also for the reader when searching.
  • Documenting and reflecting: a way for you and your readers to have a learning experience through blogging.
  • Spelling and grammar: there is nothing worse than reading a blog full of mistakes and typos. Have a process in place. Write the post, go back and edit and then get someone else to proofread with a fresh pair of eyes and only then publish!

Sounds good, right?

Yes it does, however, blogging has never come naturally to the TEL Team and to be honest this isn’t the first TEL Team attempt at having a blog – we’ve tried and failed in the past – we’ve just never seemed to get it quite right – why? Well, how can I put it, we are pretty good at setting up a blog but we’re not so great at blogging, which is pretty crucial when owning a blog, I think you’d agree!

So as a team we have decided to give blogging another go – yippee I hear you cry – and this time it’s going to be different! Please wish us all the best with our little blogging adventure and I’ll reflect on how we are doing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any experience of blogs or are a keen blogger yourself and have any useful tips then please share them with us 🙂

Image credits: Background image created by Valeria_aksakova – Freepik.com