Digital Research

logos for the digital capabilities agenda stakeholders

This page curates the growing evidence base for adopting strategic whole institution approaches towards developing digital capabilities frameworks.

QAA Subscriber Research Series 2015/16: Digital capability, teaching excellence and the effective use of technology enabled learning (TEL).

The Subscriber Research series consist of small-scale primary research projects intended to encourage collaboration between providers and promote the formation of communities of practice. In November 2015 the QAA announced the call which included a digital capabilities atrand. I put in a bid to this strand shortly after arriving at Hull. It was unsuccessful so I was pleased to be asked to represent LEAP on the stakeholder panel for the winning bid from Sheffield Hallam University; Digital Capability and Teaching Excellence.The findings include these seven key guidelines:

  • Start with Pedagogy
  • Recognise context is key
  • Create a digital capability threshold for institutions
  • Use communities of practice and peer support to share good practice
  • Introduce a robust and owned change management strategy
  • Develop a compelling evidence-informed rationale
  • Ensure encouragement for innovation and managed risk-taking

Research findings 

Changing the Learning Landscape (CLL)

Changing the Learning Landscape logo

CLL was a partnership programme helping HEIs  make strategic changes with the use of technology to support learning, teaching and the student experience. Funded by HEFCE, the programme was a partnership between the Association for Learning Technology, the Higher Education Academy, Jisc, the National Union of Students and the Leadership Foundation One output was How do you Change the Learning Landscape by Peter Chatterton (2015) which looked at challenges in the strategic use of technology and makes specific references to TEL usage by staff who teach and support learning. 

At the University of Lincoln I was involved in a CLL project and facilitated a cross-institution consultation project in collaboration with Jisc. The University of Hull was involved in a CLL project through the Leadership Foundation.

Leading Technology-Enhanced Learning in Higher Education  focuses on examining how strategic change initiatives and the embedding of technological developments, in particular support for digital delivery, may enhance the student experience.

CLL project 9 key factors for driving change

Highlights from the research include:

  • Bottom-up change is more lasting and effective than top down. However, where support from the top was nominal or half-hearted then progress was limited.
  • The students that took part in the research identified that they valued digital interventions that made learning and their lives easier.
  • Four features of senior leadership were identified as being important in the change process: seniority and status, learning technology expertise, knowledge and understanding of the institution and its people and having a vision for TEL.

Research resources 

UCISA (University and Colleges Information Systems Association) 

UCISA logo

UCISA TEL Survey: UCISA have managed a binanual TEL Survey since 2000.  In addition to reviewing the technology in use, the survey looks at the drivers behind the adoption of technology enhanced learning in institutions. Questions include the adoption of TEL by staff who teach and support learning. 

UCISA Digital Capabilities Survey: improving the country’s digital capabilities was highlighted in a House of Lords committee report (2015) Make or break: the UK’s digital future which noted the higher education sector “has not responded to the urgent need for reskilling” and calls for institutions to develop courses to give students the essential skills for 21st century employment. The first UCISA Digital Capabilities Survey was launched in 2014.

Jisc logo


Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework image

Jisc Digital Capabilities Model

The model contains six elements of digital capabilities and describes the skills needed by staff in a wide range of academic, administrative and professional roles. Digital Capabilities Elements Defined suggests requirements for each element and these are accompanied by profiles for teachers, students, researchers and digital leaders.

Jisc Discovery Tool: a set of self-diagnostic questions based on the digital capabilities elements and.currently in BETA. Feedback comprises an overview of current levels of digital capability with suggested actions and activities to build digital capability and a contextual  list of resources to support the building of digital capability. All entries are anonymised and no personal identifying information is held by the system.

Jisc Technology for Employability: a study into the role of technology in developing student employability (2015)