Adventures in Technology Enhanced Learning @ UoP

Tag: Jisc (Page 2 of 2)

Digital Skills Certificate

Earlier in the year I went to Digifest 2018, the biggest conference for Education Technology in the UK. As well as a chance to meet fellow professionals the conference presents a wide range of inspirational, thought provoking ideas. These can be from large solutions like an Augmented Reality band from Edinburgh playing live on stage with an orchestra in Birmingham, that tests the limits of the Janet Network, to suggestions on simple teaching techniques.

One of the presentations I saw was from the IT Training Team at the University of Lancaster, who set up a ‘Digital Skills Certificate’ for students and staff mapped to the Jisc Digital Capability Framework, it offered online courses in a range of topics under the six elements of digital capability. When participants completed the course it gave them a ‘certificate’ that could be posted on LinkedIn, for students it also went on their Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) transcript. It’s a great way for students and staff to develop digital and employability skills and also be able to clearly demonstrate those skills to potential employers for placements and work beyond university.

I like to think I know a good idea when I see one and began thinking how this could be adapted for use at the University of Portsmouth. The Jisc Framework is a great tool to use in order to develop student and staff Digital Capability. In the last year we have also implemented, an online resource of over 10,000 courses. The University of Portsmouth version of the Digital Skills Certificate combines the use of these tools.

Click on this link to see the video.

The University of Portsmouth Digital Skills Certificate is on Moodle and available for both students and staff to self register onto. Participants choose at least one course from each element of the Framework:

  • IT Proficiency – Word, Excel, Google Drive, SPSS
  • Information, Data and Media Literacies – Excel Statistics, Data Driven Presentations with Excel and PowerPoint, SPSS for Academic Research
  • Digital Creation, Innovation and Scholarship – PowerPoint: Designing Better Slides, Introduction to Screencasting, Google Sites
  • Communication, Collaboration and Partnership – GMail, Twitter, Webex
  • Digital Learning and Self Development – complete the Jisc Digital Discovery Tool
  • Digital Identity and Well Being – Computer Security and Internet Safety, LinkedIn for Students, Digital Citizenship

The courses are from and can be completed at participants’ own pace, anytime, anywhere. Once the course is completed, Lynda provides a certificate of completion that can be added to LinkedIn, it also needs to be uploaded as a PDF to the Moodle assignment for that section. The next step is to complete a quiz based on the topic that has just been studied and if passed a certificate for that element of the framework is issued.

Participants can study as many of the courses as they like, but one from each element is required. When all six have been completed an overall ‘Digital Skills Certificate’ is issued, for students this will be shown on their HEAR transcript.

For further information go to:



The Portsmouth Moodle – Accessibility Snapshot

In January 2018 we were lucky enough to host a visit from Alistair McNaught, a JISC subject specialist on accessibility and inclusion. Alistair spent a day at the University as a “mystery shopper”, playing the role of a student with disabilities who was trying to access various digital resources and services. He looked at the full range of services – prospectus, website, Library platforms and Moodle – but here I’ll focus on his observations about the VLE.

The first thing to note is that Alistair had difficulty logging on to a PC in the morning: it took more than ten minutes for the desktop to appear. The student sitting next to him confirmed that, after the initial boot, it often did take a long time before a public PC was in a state that allowed work to take place. Not good for a student with ADHD!

Alistair confirmed that tab order (for keyboard navigation) works well in Moodle and the visual tracking of focus is good. There’s easy navigation with breadcrumb trails and a navigation side panel; this is important because good navigation assists all users, especially assistive technology users. The Moodle accessibility block is available and obvious on all pages, and Equality and Diversity information is easily discoverable. The self-enrol E&D course has lots of very good, easily accessible, generic awareness-raising resources; and there are easy-to-find PDF resources on equality data – these have good reflow and colour change possibilities. All this is good news and it allows us to build on – in Alistair’s words – conscious competence.

However, there are some things we need to think about. For example, some of our third-party resources have accessibility issues; we are to some extent a hostage to fortune in these cases, but at least now we are in a position to raise the points with the suppliers. Another issue was that some of our generic units have poor colour contrast; Alistair pointed us to a tool – the Colour Contrast Analyser from the Paciello group – which will help us identify these problems more readily. And once we are aware of them, it’s easier to fix.

Alistair also took a look (with the consent of the academics involved) at a couple of teaching units from ICJS. He was highly impressed with the pedagogical approach taken in these units, and he praised a number of aspects. A “lovely human [video-based] introduction adds value for many students” – but he added that it “would be even better with transcript or captions”. It was “great to see active use of rich media and a nice visual key to resources”; the “direct links to reading resource and final assessment” were useful; and the “impressive range of resources” were “well organised” and had “clearly scaffolded teaching with explanations and pointers to the purpose of the resources”. Where resources could cause access issues this has been recognised and a genuine attempt made to remedy it with a PDF alternative (however, the PDF had its own accessibility issues and so does the ‘Click here’ link text). Finally, a Useful News and Information block showed “great currency, with tie-in to contemporaneous issues”. So, again, there is a lot of conscious competence on which we can build.

These units had some issues; fortunately, they are easily fixed. For example, hyperlinks need unique and meaningful link text so that assistive technologies that gather page links together can give users meaningful information. If an author writes “Click here to browse an interactive timeline of key events” then the result from assistive technologies might be a long list of “Click here”s – which is entirely uninformative. Much better to write: “Click here to browse an interactive timeline of key events”. Another problem came from an interactive Articulate resource that failed to load; even if it did load, Articulate generally produces output with limited accessibility. And some structures had untitled navigation elements, which would cause problems for some users. (This last issue might be down to an underlying Moodle template issue; Alistair pointed us to another tool – the HTML5 Outliner plugin for Chrome – that will help us investigate this further.)

All in all this was a tremendously useful visit. We know there are areas of good practice we can build on, and there are issues we can fix.  And it truly is worth pursuing this: if we take an inclusive approach to Moodle and the content on it, all learners will benefit.

Feature image title:  Web Accessibility Word Cloud by Jill Wright is licensed by CC-BY 2.0 on Flickr

Digital Capability Discovery Tool

In a previous blog post we looked at Digital Capability – what it is and why it’s important. The work that Government and organisations such as Jisc have carried out highlights the fact that digital capabilities are relevant to all areas of university business. Supporting the development of digital capabilities is vital in meeting the vision, ambitions and expectations of all HE institutions, and it is ingrained in our University and Education Strategies. In order for students and staff to evolve with changing technology, to live and work in a digital society and to meet new challenges, competencies in a number of areas need to be developed.

Digital Capabilities Framework

Although the term ‘digital capabilities’ includes the notion of being proficient in IT skills, it is far broader than this. It includes being able to manage information, recognise ‘fake news’, evaluate sources, present ideas in a variety of different digital formats, analyse information, and manage one’s online identity and safety.  All these areas are explained in the Digital Capabilities Framework.

Digital Discovery Tool

The Jisc Digital Discovery Tool – which is now available for use – is designed to help all staff realise their digital potential. (A student discovery tool will be available soon.) The tool asks for department and role, and there should be a category to suit all members of staff – everyone needs to be aware of their digital capability. After all, at the very least staff need to use digital tools to book leave, check payslips, take part in the University community, and communicate with other staff and students.

The Discovery Tool asks quiz-style questions in a non-judgemental way, and provides realistic examples. The process of answering the questions should make staff aware of their digital confidence and provide ideas for new skills to develop.

Once they have completed the form, staff get a comprehensive profile of their digital competencies. The report includes practical suggestions for ‘next steps’ with links to great resources. Individual data is not shared, and the tool is not designed to monitor individuals, but potentially the results could be used in a number of ways:

  • Departments could use overall data to assess which areas of digital capability need developing.
  • Individuals, by becoming more aware of digital capabilities, could use the feedback for personal development and CPD.
  • The report could be used to inform the PDR process.

Completing the Discovery Tool

  1. Login to the DIgital Discovery Tool.
  2. When you log in for the first time you need to sign up.
  3. Create a password, the code needed is dcap17!
  4. Select ‘University of Portsmouth’ as the organisation.
  5. Choose a Department and then an appropriate role.
  6. Answer the questionnaire.

Once the Discovery Tool has been completed a report is generated and can be downloaded as a pdf. If any further help or consultancy is required please contact any of the following;

Amy Barlow

Adrian Sharkey

Stephen Webb


JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker for 2018

From January 2018, the JISC Student Digital Experience Tracker survey will once again be available for Level 4 students.

The survey is designed to help education providers understand more about their students’ experiences of the digital learning environment.

It aims to allow institutions to:

  • Gather evidence from learners about their digital experience, and track changes over time.
  • Make better informed decisions about the digital environment.
  • Target resources for improving digital provision.
  • Plan other research, data gathering and student engagement around digital issues.
  • Demonstrate quality enhancement and student engagement to external bodies and to students themselves.

This will be the third time Portsmouth has implemented the survey, and the Tracker has grown since it was first introduced in 2016. Portsmouth was one of only 12 HE institutions chosen to deliver the first iteration of the survey. In 2017, 74 UK colleges and universities ran the Tracker and some international institutions were involved as well. This year, 160 institutions have confirmed that they intend to run the Tracker. There is now a thriving community of people who are committed to understanding the digital experience of learners – and empowering them to work for change.  

The results of the Portsmouth surveys are available elsewhere, but here it might be worth looking briefly at some of the overall findings of the 2017 Tracker. These findings represent the voice of over 22,000 UK learners.

  • Students are generally positive about the use of digital technology in their learning.
  • Some education providers have problems with the basics – such as ensuring decent on-campus wifi provision. (One of the great things about the Tracker is that it allows institutions to track changes over time. In 2016, UoP students were highly critical about wifi access on campus. In 2017, following significant investment in infrastructure, students were much more satisfied with wifi.)
  • Students are likely to own portable digital devices (laptops, smartphones etc) but also to use institutional devices (typically desktops). This highlights the need for content to work on all sizes of screen.
  • Technology is more commonly used for convenience than to support more effective pedagogy. (What can we do to improve the situation? Thoughts welcome!)
  • 80% of HE students feel that digital skills will be important in their chosen career – but only 50% agree that their course prepares them well for the digital workplace. (Again, this finding raises the question: what can we be doing to improve matters?)

The more students complete the survey, the more confidence we can have that the results are robust. So if you have dealings with Level 4 students – please do encourage them to complete the Tracker! 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, 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 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 by universities. With increasing numbers of universities (now 70% in the UK) using, 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 with the University and Education strategies. This meant showing how 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 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 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 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. Google Community

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, for which we will soon have a site license.

Welcome to the team, Adrian! 🙂

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