As our students return to University for a new academic year in a different and challenging environment, we are pleased to launch a new digital skills self-assessment tool to support the development of their digital capabilities.

We would like you to encourage your students to complete the self-assessment. Each student will receive a personalised digital capability report detailing their current confidence levels in various categories with recommended next steps and links to useful free resources for further development.

As part of a planned year-long pilot, the more students complete the assessment, the better able we will be to gather sufficient data to inform areas for future development, including new training opportunities and resources to meet specific skills gaps. A link to the tool has been included in this year’s Student Welcome as well as in departmental induction Moodle pages. Students will also be able to access the tool through MySkills.

The piloting of this tool provides our students with the opportunity to reflect on their needs and competencies, allow them to respond to these independently and equip them with the skills they need to secure future employment. The findings will also provide us with the insight we need to inform next steps in sourcing or developing suitable resources to meet skills gaps effectively. We will also be exploring the potential role that students themselves can play to support this area, for example through digital skills ambassadors, peer mentoring and placement opportunities. - Sarah Williment, Deputy Head, Skills Centre.

Although today’s students arrive at University with the skills and confidence to use smartphones, social media and a host of other technologies, as technology advances at an ever increasing rate, we recognise how vitally important it is to support their continued development in this area.

This pilot has been set up by the Skills Centre and Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team, Centre for Learning & Teaching. Working collaboratively with the Digital, Data & Technology team, academic colleagues and student engagement staff in the Faculties and School, an audit of students’ skills needs is planned to inform next steps.

The self-assessment tool is based on a framework developed by JISC, the Joint Information Systems Committee, who provide digital solutions to the UK education and research sector. The framework defines six elements of digital capability, based on individual roles such as Learner and Researcher:

  • ICT Proficiency (functional skills)
  • Information, data and media literacies (critical use)
  • Digital creation, problem solving and innovation (creative production)
  • Digital communication, collaboration and partnership (participation)
  • Digital learning and development (development)
  • Digital identity and wellbeing (self-actualising).

In addition to the increased need for students to use core digital skills to engage effectively with their studies, for example by using Microsoft Office to create and share documents, back up their work in the Cloud and communicate and collaborate online, all the signals from the employment market indicate that digital skills are critical to success in the current and future workplace.

According to eTail Europe, a predicted 133 million new roles could emerge arising from ‘Industry 4.0’ technology (the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’) over the next two years. Just some of the more advanced digital skills employers are urgently looking for include:

  • programming, web and app development
  • artificial intelligence
  • UX design
  • digital product and project management
  • content, search engine, PPC and email marketing.

We will report findings from the audit towards the end of the academic year together with recommendations for next steps and an assessment of the benefits of the self-assessment tool.