Author Archives: Joe Nicholls

From strategy to action

We’re coming towards the end of what has been an interesting and challenging phase of the project. From the outset we were acutely aware of the need to win over hearts as well as the minds of those in the University who are best placed to catalyse and promote the development of digital literacy. With this aim we focused our efforts on engaging and meeting with key individuals and groups across the University to identify how we could embed the development of digital literacy into relevant processes and mechanisms. Progress to date has been very encouraging indeed, with a number of strategies, action plans and initiatives now incorporating digital literacy as an integral component. This success will ensure that digital literacy remains in forefront of people’s minds and continues to be an agenda item for some time to come.

We took our initial lead from the University’s Education Strategy, which was invaluable in highlighting digital literacy in the broader context of Learning Literacies. This provided us with the impetus to be able to ask questions of the other University strategies as to how they could engage with this as a driver. We have had extremely positive and fruitful collaborations in such areas as Careers and Employability with the opportunity to feed into their action plan, with the Equality and Diversity group contributing to the Strategic Equality Plan, also close involvement with the development of the University’s Social Media Strategy and the Information Services Digital and Information Literacy Strategy, which was recently fully endorsed by its Board. Work now continues with these various groups to identify from a practical standpoint how Digital Literacy can best be realised in the short to medium term.

This is now leading into more grassroots and hands-on engagement with teaching staff to help them detail appropriate learning opportunities. Examples of this are our collaborations with academics responsible for planning and developing the new C21 Medical Curriculum to specify how both Information Literacies and Digital Literacies can be integrated in an evolutionary way throughout the 5 year course. We are also working with people leading the Cardiff Award scheme to specify content and activities for undergraduates to develop their digital literacy with a view to future employability. And workshops are planned with front-facing staff in Library and IT Services to explore how their own digital and information literacy might be developed and also how they in turn might better enable its development in others.

So, looking back over the first year of the project, much has been achieved in terms of raising people’s awareness about the significance of developing Digital Literacy and making the conversation happen. This has proved invaluable in helping to clarify where and how the project can best contribute to facilitate practice at the ‘coal-face’. This nicely leads us into the next phase of the project which is all about developing and gathering resources and running workshops to give staff and students an opportunity explore what developing their digital literacy actually entails when doing their work and learning.

The work of Project Digidol discussed in ‘JISC on Air’ and the Guardian HE Network

Listen to JISC on Air – Digital Literacy – Delivering the agenda within colleges and universities.

Available at

The sixth episode of the JISC online radio programme, JISC On Air, explores how universities and colleges can help teaching staff, researchers, support and administrative staff to develop their digital literacies.

The show highlights how Cardiff University and other colleges and universities are developing holistic approaches and strategies for supporting the development of these skills and capabilities.

In connection with the Digidol Project, a number of staff and students were interviewed by Kim Catcheside explaining how the project is establishing an institution-wide approach for contextualising and embedding digital literacy into the development of academic staff, students, research students and administrative, managerial and support staff.

Also, Dr Andrew Eynon discusses the Personal Actualisation and Development through Digital Literacies in Education project at Coleg Llandrillo, which aims to create a digitally literate, skilled and confident workforce and student body across all the FE institutions in North Wales (Coleg Harlech, Coleg Menai, Coleg Llandrillo, Deeside College and Yale College Wrexham).

Helen Beetham, synthesis consultant for the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme, reveals valuable insights into the emerging issues from the programme, and Alison Mitchell, Deputy Director of Vitae, speaks about the importance of digital literacies for researchers.

For further information on JISC’s work in this area visit:

In part two of the show will be looking at how digital literacy underpins the academic success and employability of students.

The work of the Digidol project is also mentioned in an article on the Guardian Higher Education Network site on Digital technologies and the tensions between research and teaching, where Janet Peters (University Librarian and Senior Assistant Director INSRV) is quoted highlighting the potential benefits of developing Digital Literacy of staff and students in the university.

Out and about…spreading the word about Digital Literacy

We’ve been traveling the last few months spreading the word about Digital Literacy and the Digidol project. Here are a few of the presentations we’ve recently given:

What does social media mean for IT Services?
UCISA – Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association
Using Social Media to Communicate , 18th January 2012, Austin Court, Birmingham.

“Project Digidol: developing digital literacy
ALDinHE – Association for Learning Development in Higher Education
9th ALDinHE Conference: Learning Development in a digital age: emerging literacies and learning spaces, 2th-4th April 2012, University of Leeds.

“Digidol: Developing Digital Literacies
LILAC – Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference

11th-13th April 2012, Glasgow Caledonian University

Developing Digital Literacy through social media: trainer and trainee perspectives
UCISA – Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association
Using Social Media for Training ,18th April 2012, University of Salford.

Baselining researcher Digital Literacy

We would like to say a huge thank you to all the researchers who gave up their time to take part in yesterday’s workshop exploring digital literacy. We are using the valuable information gathered to establish a baseline of attitudes and practicesamongst researchers todigital technology. Representatives ranged from postgraduate students through to early stage researchers, mid-career and senior research staff.  This varied group provided us with a broad range of views and illuminating discussion on the value and application of technology for research work. Unsurprisingly, there was an extremely diverse range of practices described, with some researchers making extensive use of a wide variety of digital technologies whilst others preferred a traditional approach, working with pen, paper and post-its to meet their particular needs.

Concern was expressed that an overly strong emphasis on technology driven (rather than task driven) methods may promote ways of working that aren’t necessarily the most effective or productive. Researchers are acutely conscious of the time and effort required not only to find out about what technologies are available but also change the way they work. A clear message was that researchers need to be provided appropriate and timely information to help them make a considered choice about the relative value of comparative technology for changing their practice; it must be fit for purpose and demonstrably add value. This highlights a significant challenge for the university to identify ways of raising awareness and understanding of technology enabled opportunities amongst researchers and how to target and tailor education and support. Further information and analysis of this workshop along with findings from an online survey will be available early April as the project’s second baseline report.

Bridging tasks and services

This is a working draft of a task-service model to help us position digital literacy. We believe this is important so that we can frame and shape the developing digital literacy project in a way which directly supports learning. It is still very much a work in progress and we aim to refine the model through its application to authentic tasks.We welcome any thoughts and comments.


Bridging between tasks and services

 At some stage, most academic and professional challenges involve basic information tasks. At a simple level these tasks are concerned with:

  • searching i.e.  seeking, locating, finding, browsing
  • retrieving i.e.  getting, obtaining, acquiring
  • managing i.e.  organising, sorting, arranging, structuring, cataloguing
  • manipulating [1] i.e. transforming, re-representing, formatting, visualising
  • creating [2] i.e.  producing, generating, authoring, making
  • disseminating i.e.  publishing, making available, sharing, sending, delivering
  • exchanging/communicating [3] i.e.  dialogue, discussion, conversation[4]

Breaking down complex tasks into constituent activities enables mappings to be made to the services we use to perform them.

Types of service

The service used to perform a task

  • content – providing data/information in the form of physical and digital media artifacts
  • tools – providing physical equipment, infrastructure and resources; digital technologies, software and applications
  • people – providing knowledge, expertise, information
  • processes – work that is done on someone’s behalf either by a person or system (characterised as a business process or workflow)

Example: A complex task, such as giving a presentation, can be broken down into a range of activities[5]. For example: searching, retrieving, creating and disseminating information (are all performed through utilising digital literacy, information literacy and social literacies).

Learning Literacies: the key to bridging between tasks and services

Having broken down a high-level task into basic activities, it is possible to ask questions about what kinds of service might be useful to help perform them. The ability to make informed decisions such as; ‘whether or not to employ digital technology (having understood the options)’, ‘which technology to use’ and ‘how’ is what bridges the gap between a task and available services.

As a project we wish to take a task-based approach to digital literacy and to support the primary aims of students, staff and researchers within the university and to truly embed digital literacy in authentic learning tasks. Therefore we propose adopting this model as a broad task based framework within which we are able to analyse the requirements of our stakeholders.

[1] The data remains unchanged

[2] Creates new data/information

[3] There is reciprocation

[4] This list is inspired by the SCONUL seven pillars model for information literacy, however, for the purpose of this project evaluation, identification, scoping and planning are not included because they are understood to be high-level cognitive activities performed across many of the basic data/information tasks.

[5] Not all constituent basic activities are mandatory when performing a complex task

Developing Digital Literacies – A free workshop

Developing Digital Literacies: A series of national workshops on developing learners and learning organisations for the 21st Century

A free workshop from the JISC e-Learning Programme on developing digital literacies is taking place on 4th November in Wales, organised in partnership with JISC RSC Wales.


The workshops will be held in three locations connected by video conferencing:


  • Swansea University
  • Aberystwyth University
  • Deeside College


These workshops will offer the latest in organisational thinking and educational development around digital literacies. Participants will hear the outcomes of recent JISC-funded activity in this area and be given the chance to share their own experiences through structured activities. Proven resources in support of staff and curriculum development and institutional change will be available to download, adapt and use in participants’ own contexts of work.

The workshops will be suitable for:

Educational professionals with an interest in and responsibility for digital literacy. They may be located in: e-learning teams; library/learning resource teams; educational or learning development; academic departments; careers/employability teams; outreach teams; other support services; quality; senior management.

The workshops will be facilitated by Helen Beetham (consultant) and author of JISC’s recent review of digital literacies and lead consultant on the Learning Literacies for a Digital Age1 (LliDA) project Dr Greg Benfield (Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Brookes University) of the recent JISC Supporting Learners in a Digital Age2 (SLiDA) study.

Further information together with the registration forms for the workshops, is available from and resources from the national workshops are now available from

For news and information about these events, follow the Twitter tag #jiscdiglit

We look forward to seeing you there!

Introducing Project Digidol

Project Digidol aims to embed processes and practices that enable the development of Digital Literacy in all staff and students across all areas and levels of the University. It is understood that this will be as much about changing attitudes and beliefs, as it will be about realising practical knowledge and skills. Organisational change and effective change management will be key aspects of the project.

Cardiff University recognises Digital Literacy as being of fundamental importance to developing the future capability of its work force and graduates. Such highly transferable knowledge and skills are seen as essential if organisations and businesses are to become agile and adaptive in a rapidly changing world.

A range of top-down and bottom-up approaches to enabling change will be explored. Senior managers will be involved to help realise broader engagement and to develop and drive forward the strategic imperative for addressing Digital Literacy. We will work directly with students and staff to design and develop resources and learning activities so that they become integrated aspects of undergraduate and postgraduate curricula and programmes of staff development.

The project will develop an exemplar organisational model for embedding Digital Literacy across courses and curricula which can be adapted and delivered across to other HEIs. The project will include a comparative before and after analysis of the extent and suitability of digital literacy provision, a repository of learning materials and a post implementation review of the organisational change processes and the development of institutional thinking on Digital Literacy that will form a toolkit for use by other HEIs.