Technological change is evolving at a rapid rate, the more innovative we become the more technologically nimble we need to be.
It is therefore imperative that academic and professional staff achieve a certain level of digital dexterity in order to keep up with digital disruptions in the workplace, to support our students, and ultimately ensure we are producing T-shaped graduates.
Digital Literacies Coordinator at the UOW Library Kristy Newton, who presented on the topic of digital dexterity at the biennial THETA (The Higher Education Technology Agenda) conference hosted in Wollongong by UOW in May, says it is no longer a choice but a requirement.
“Digital literacies are widely-recognised as a key development area for students and staff in higher education. The EDUCAUSE Horizon Report and the UOW 2016-2020 Strategic Plan feature digital literacies prominently, saying “Graduates in the future will need to be ethical, mobile, highly technologically literate and able to work in multicultural settings.”
The 2018 Issues Paper delivered to the DVCA by the Educational Developers Network positioned digital literacies as one of five key factors affecting the effective adoption of technology-enhanced learning (TEL) at UOW.
“The continued development of digital literacies/digital dexterity is important to staff in all roles as we move towards the extended provision of online and digital services,” Ms Newton highlights.
A new model for staff and student digital dexterity
The Library’s Associate Director Learning and Engagement, Clare McKenzie, outlined a new digital dexterity framework for students and staff, developed by the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL), in her THETA presentation “Digital dexterity – a sustainable model for developing skills to meet the new digital reality”.
The CAUL project involved three teams of 17 people from 14 libraries across Australia and New Zealand, who conducted a literature review, drew on definitions by Gartner and a model from JISC, and called for feedback from CAUL members.
The framework includes six streams essential for students and staff to navigate the modern world and workplace:
- digital identity and wellbeing
- information literacy, media literacy and data literacy
- digital learning and development
- ICT proficiency and productivity
- digital creation, problem solving and innovation
- collaboration, communication and participation.
The framework is “intended as a tool that CAUL institutions can use, adapt and refer to as they explore digital dexterity... importantly, it’s a model, not a prescription,” Ms McKenzie says.
To progress from project to program, CAUL launched a community of practice featuring Digital Dexterity Champions across institutions, with the aim to foster peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing and collaboration.
UOW Library: a case study in communities of practice
The shift away from prescriptive models and toward self-directed learning was echoed by UOW’s Library Learning Designer, Courtney Shalavin and Library Subject Librarian, Renée Grant in “Journey to the new frontier: staff experience in a professional development program for digital dexterity.” The pair’s THETA presentation discussed programs in place at UOW Library as a case study for improving digital dexterity in staff.
UOW Library had a two-phase project, and discovered that the prescriptive, competency-focused first phase was less practical than the free-form, behaviour-focused second phase, which was flexible and encouraged self-directed learning.
“We should empower our people to share and grow digital dexterity together. The Library ultimately achieved a culture of self-directed learning through group learning and discovery,” Ms Shalavin says.
Renée Grant formed a community of practice in the Library, exploring digital humanities where colleagues were empowered to experiment and develop their digital dexterities with mini projects. She says “the group’s digital dexterity improved through participation in active learning and critical-reflective practices."
The group learned skills that brought new knowledge to their roles, including coding, web scraping, data visualization, digital storytelling, creative thinking, networking, blogging and writing for the web.
Ms Grant says the group faced challenges earlier in their journey, but the results were excellent.
“We weren’t failing, we were learning...the group really started to develop a growth mindset.”
Overall, Library staff reported a 95 per cent increase in their digital capabilities during the second phase of the program, which included not only communities of practice but also frequent opportunities for peer-to-peer learning support, access to online resources, and self-directed learning for “Find15” minutes per day.
“A huge challenge for anyone’s professional development is finding time amongst busy workloads and priorities,” Ms Shalavin says. “To address this, we introduced an initiative called Find15 to encourage staff to use 15 minutes each day for self-development and consider digital dexterity as part of their day-to-day work.”
As UOW Library’s digital dexterity program formally concludes, it will maintain its successful Find15 initiative while encouraging organic knowledge-sharing. The Library has also nominated a Digital Dexterity Champion as part of the CAUL framework’s community of practice: Kristy Newton, Digital Literacies Co-ordinator and 2018 OCTAL award winner.
“I'll be engaging with and contributing to the broader community of practice and championing the development of strong cross-institutional ties, bringing back key knowledge and resources to share with UOW Library and other interested UOW stakeholders,” Ms Newton says.
THETA success in The Gong
The University of Wollongong was proud to successfully host the biennial conference THETA (The Higher Education Technology Agenda) in partnership with ACODE (Australasian Council on Open, Distance and eLearning), CAUDIT (Council of Australasian University Directors of Information Technology) and CAUL (Council of Australian University Librarians). Held at the Novotel Wollongong from 20-22 May 2019, the theme was The Tipping Point.
The DVC(A) division was involved in the conference chairing committee and experience committee with representation from Margie Jantti (Director Library Services), James Conroy (Associate Director Learning & Engagement, Library), Clare McKenzie (Associate Director Learning & Engagement, Library), and Debra Nolan (Manager Strategic Projects, Library); as well as many others who volunteered as helpers and chairs.
Staff from the DVC(A) portfolio were included in several other presentations at THETA:
- Stafford Lumsden - A case study examining online instructor satisfaction.
- Dr David Bruce Porter, Kristy Newton, Dr Sue Downie, Dave Rigter - Institutional technology adoption and integration.
- Presenting author: Associate Professor Vinod Jayan Sylaja; Co-authors: Ross Franks, Joshua Hummel, Daniel Judge, Dhammika Ruberu - Augmented reality based laboratory for geotechnical engineering education.
- Bethany Muscat, Sabine Straver, Dr Janine Delahunty - (Bio) fabricating a shared language of pedagogical design to co-construct a postgraduate online course.
- Dr Sue Downie, Dr Moira Stephens, Dr Xiaoping Gao, Kenton Bell, Dr Simon Bedford, Dr Oriana Price - Cross-faculty community of practice in technology that enhances learning at UOW.
- Jaymee Beveridge - University doesn't happen in a bubble - Indigenous student strengths and needs self-assessment tool.