Why digital capability needs to be inclusive

What digital skills do you need to do the job?

In the fast changing, competitive landscape of employment, Digital Capability is seen as essential to developing an competent individual and an effective organisation. Defining the digital skills needed to do a job efficiently is only part of the challenge in education. Because technology offers so much scope for engaging, extending and differentiating teaching and learning, being digitally capable means understanding technology’s potential for personalising the way we learn.

As learners are drawn from increasingly diverse communities, there is a reasonable expectation that technology will support them in learning as in other areas of life. They all want to become digitally capable for the future and this will rely on digitally capable staff who can encourage digital independence in all their learners. Do your staff have the digital skills to help learners develop their independence with technology?

When a student needs support, how much is due to staff capability? If a student struggles to read course materials or take notes – could it be because staff struggle to create accessible documents?  In the YouTube video below you will see other examples of where digital capability could change the student experience.

Creating accessible information

For educational providers as well as students, this journey begins with information. An accessible website is the obvious starting point but a carelessly inaccessible prospectus could easily be the end. Writing in plain language is a skill and it is important to have an engaging layout but all to often we allow design to dictate over usability, with inaccessible online publishing tools or dense text that is too difficult to navigate. Jisc members can have a free Jisc Accessibility Snapshot of the 5 key ‘student-facing’ platforms and tools to see what a disabled student experiences.

Defining Inclusive Digital Skills

The digital skills needed to create accessible documents are not ‘specialist’.  They can be managed and encouraged by providing accessible document templates and standards to work to. Inclusive digital capability is achieved by offering inclusive guidelines that anyone with basic digital skills can use. There is no reason why all staff producing information or course materials could not acquire inclusive skills given support with staff development and online resources they can access as and when they need them. Then it is possible to define a basic level of digital capability for every role related to the work they do.

Using Interactivity and multi-media

Not everyone needs the skills to create interactive resources but anyone charged with the responsibility to create more engaging teaching experiences would benefit from these skills. Multi-media enhances teaching and provides a range of resources more likely to meet any learners preference or need. Captioning videos and recording podcasts has never been easier. Indeed, if you are creating videos, adding a transcript, podcast or captions could save time and cost in meeting those needs in the long run. Institutions now have an increased responsibility for providing full access to teaching, resources and services which cannot just be ignored.

Extending Employability

Independence is the foundation of any employment skill. Being aware of accessibility features of the VLE, e-book platforms and devices that can promote that independence in learners is a core digital skill for all staff. Determining what devices and resources are accessible when buying digital assets is more about asking the right questions in the procurement and curriculum design process. i.e. Does a platform or device work with assistive technology, you could ask some assistive technology users to test it if it you don’t have the answer.

The important staff digital skill is knowing what technology can offer, knowing that accessibility features are available and where to find the resources to promote their independent use to learners.

Promoting productivity tools

Not everyone needs to know how to use the specialist software for screen reading or even those for study support. Some assistive technologies can be better described as a productivity tools. Mind maps, text to speech and note-taking software can make a big difference to many learners because they make some aspects of studying easier and promote independent study. Mobile devices vary but many have features that can help personalise learning. Again, knowing what is possible and where to point a learner too for information is the ‘digital capability’ that will make both staff and student more digitally skilled and confident.

Find out more about Inclusive Digital capability:

Top tips for inclusive teaching practice

Rich Media on your VLE –

Collaborative Activities and Inclusion

Why Accessibility Awareness Matters to Everyone

When a student struggles YouTube video

Contact Jisc Accessibility and inclusion subject specialists or your Jisc account manager to see what advice we can offer in developing a digitally inclusive organisation.

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