In the UK, where I’ve worked on digital issues in education for over 15 years now, more than a dozen universities have carried out some kind of digital literacy audit. One reason for doing this is to benchmark the current situation, perhaps to measure the impact of a digital initiative, or to compare with other institutions. A more important reason is to gather evidence on which to base any program of change. As educators we are always reflecting on our practice and looking for opportunities to do things differently – but only if we are clear about the benefits to student learning and to scholarship. Digital developments are no exception.
The process of doing an audit can be at least as valuable as the results. it provides an opportunity to bring together people with different expertise from across the university, and to develop a shared language and understanding of digital issues. Audits use a range of methods but all of them are designed to open up a conversation about digital practice, across the university and into its core activities of learning, teaching, research and public engagement.
As a result of auditing their digital capabilities, some UK universities have developed frameworks for embedding digital literacy into the curriculum in different subject areas. Others have put together staff development opportunities, or supported small-scale projects that enable staff and students to develop digital expertise collaboratively and in their own way. Sometimes building a C21st research environment is the driver; sometimes it is responding to the changing needs of students, or of the workplaces beyond the university. Integrating provision is a common theme, so that everyone knows where to get the support they need. Sometimes the digital environment needs investment, or policies need to be adjusted so innovation is encouraged and rewarded.
A review of digital literacies is part of the Digital Literacies Framework Project at La Trobe. The Reference Group have already started with a review of strategies and external drivers. We are now in a phase of talking to stakeholders across the university community and building a picture of how digital practice is supported, and what the different cultures are of digital use. A staff survey will give us a more detailed picture of how academic and professional staff use digital technologies day to day, and what helps them to feel more confident. More details about these in future posts. For now I’d just like to say how delighted I am to be working with La Trobe, and to thank the library team for the welcome they have given me. I hope to meet more of you – virtually and in the real sunshine of Melbourne – before the project is too much further on.