What are Digital Capabilities and why do we need them?

On the 13th October 2015 Esther Barrett and Scott Hibberson from Jisc delivered a workshop to university colleagues entitled ‘What are Digital Capabilities and why do we need them?’.

 Emma Thompson (above), the Library’s Learning and Teaching Lead, opened the session, before Esther explained to attendees that digital capability is a journey, i.e you can’t simply ‘learn’ digital capability, you have to gradually become digitally capable.

Throughout the workshop we used TodaysMeet and Padlet (both of which were new to me) to share ideas with each other and ask questions throughout the session. We were also encouraged to use Twitter with the hashtag #digitalcapability.

To begin the workshop Esther (pictured below) asked us to discuss what device or app we could not live without. A digital pen, email, translating software, File Explorer, WhatsApp, and file sharing software such as DropBox were all mentioned.



Esther then introduced us to the five elements of Jisc’s digital capabilities framework which together add up to ICT proficiency, and then walked through each element, with a pause after each one for groups to discuss what it means and the impact of not having it.

The five elements were:

  • Digital creation, innovation and scholarship
  • Communication, collaboration and participation
  • Information, data and media literacies
  • Digital learning and skill development
  • Digital identity and wellbeing

The main themes that came out of these discussions were communication, efficiency, purpose and relevance, student employability, exclusion/inclusion, access to resources, and the transfer and exchange of knowledge and ideas (both between students and staff at UoL and between staff at different institutions worldwide).

Other noteworthy software and apps that came up during discussion were Storify, Game Show Host, Poll Everywhere, Trello, Sway, and MS Lync.

Following on from this general examination of Digital Capabilities, Sarra Saffron Powell (central, photo below) ran a session which helped staff to consider the University of Liverpool context. This included the ongoing work through the Developing Digital Literacies Working Group established in 2011, which has led to Jisc Case studies on the DDDLWG itself and a module in ULMS.


Participants then worked in groups, randomly pairing a traditional academic skill, for example critical analysis with a digital capability from the six elements, such as Digital Creation innovation and scholarship. The groups then considered how both capabilities could be included in one assessment design or practice. This activity led to a lively discussion on development needs for staff and students and helped to focus on next steps for incorporating the six elements into our work.


Ilona Walker and Emma Thompson