The word digital is busy. Not only does it casually prefix a host of other words (e.g. graduate attributes, citizens, skills, education) contemporary digital developments are leaving most of us behind. If students aged 18 are not arriving at university already equipped to make critical use of internet resources and devices, who within HE is going to support the development of appropriate digital graduate attributes, such as those identified in the Jisc report on Technology for Employability? The recent surge of activities around Visitors and Residents has been doing excellent work in challenging the idea of young people as digital natives. However, it is doing little to recognise and surface the NAYS, those who have Not Arrived Yet. The theory of VLE as tools to extend and enhance student learning falls flat when it comes to practice, never mind how they might also support the development of professional communication, collaboration and safety in online places.
The problem is digital development has been segregated rather than integrated. Its always the responsibility of someone else – student services, learning development, the library, ICT departments – it’s never situated within core curriculums. Most of the support for digital ways of working is optional meaning students can graduate with the same digital habits they bought into university 3-4 years previously. Why is this?
The thinking about digital aspects of higher education is not joined up. Digital competence is translated into being ‘techie’ while responsibility for becoming digitally capable is too often perceived as sitting with someone else. All the work being done to include digital ambitions within strategic directions and investment in operational TEL teams risks falling into big black holes which suck in excuses and extenuating circumstances for non-engagement and exclusion.
When it comes to the effective use of digital tools for learning and teaching, the digital divides are widening. It’s not just in HE. Schools are focusing on programming rather than generic ICT while ‘There are still 12.6 million people who lack the basic digital skills to succeed in our increasingly digital society’ and this week’s budget focus ‘…seems to be on digital infrastructure at the expense of skills’
This lies at the core of digital diversity. Until the focus shifts from systems implementation to the people using them on a day to day basis to support and enhance learning and teaching practice, then nothing much is going to change.