Session abstracts

The Digital Student: An institution-wide programme for developing digital skills for learning and future employment
Dr Becca Ferrari, Deputy Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Experience – Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham

In an era where digital fluency is indispensable, the University of Nottingham's Student Digital Capabilities Programme (SDC) is leading in integrating digital literacy into higher education. This workshop offers a deep dive into the SDC's conception, deployment, and the impact it is having on curriculum enhancement. Highlighting the programme's commitment to inclusivity, evidence-based design, and strategic alignment with institutional goals, we will explore how the SDC not only reshapes the digital landscape at Nottingham but also sets a precedent for educational excellence globally.

Central to this keynote are two interactive sessions designed to engage participants actively. These sessions will provide a platform for attendees to discuss how the SDC's principles and methodologies could be tailored and implemented within their own institutions. Through collaborative brainstorming, participants will tackle potential adaptation strategies and address challenges.

This workshop is tailored for anyone keen on embedding digital literacy into their further and higher educational frameworks. Attendees will leave with a comprehensive understanding of the SDC's success factors, equipped with insights and strategies for fostering digital capabilities in their academic communities. Join us to be part of a forward-thinking dialogue on preparing students for the digital future.


How do we design for beyond the future, and who will decide    
Amanda Taylor-Beswick, Professor of Digital and Social Science, Director of the Center for Digital Transformation, University of Cumbria

This session will involve a brief retrospective on the efforts of a group of social scientists, spanning several decades, to progress course curriculum and pedagogy in response to the technological aspects of 3, 4, and 5IR. Work aimed at preparing social work students for a shifting practice landscape, and the perils and potentialities of a technology saturated social world.

Through the contemporisation of programmes of learning designed to scaffold technological knowledge and digital capabilities development; including the abilities to foster ethical practices in the field.

A pre-pandemic – pandemic – post-pandemic frame will be applied to what has been learnt, and to what we still need to learn, premised upon that which Crisp points out, we cannot afford to “assume that what has been appropriate in the past will be so in future decades… bold decisions may be required to maintain the relevance of social work qualifications, to ensure graduates in the 2020s will be equipped with the capacity to adapt their skills and knowledge for practicing in the 2060s” (2019b, p.254). Particularly in the age of always on, seamless, personalized socio-technical experience.

An issue that is not confined to social work education, but to the majority of subject and disciplinary areas, and not solely from a digital knowledge point of view. There are technical, practical, professional, pedagogic aspects of the student journey that require urgent attention if Higher Education is to continue to be an attractive and accessible option for traditional and emerging student populations. It is this that this session will work to surface. The what, the where, the how and the when of a contemporised higher educational offer, with reference to who will decide our collective way forward.


Providing inclusive and equitable digital skills learning in higher education  
Andrew Moles, Learning Developer - Data Science Tools, LSE

At the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the Digital Skills Lab (DSL) provides training in various digital skills from Excel to Python. Learning digital skills can be an overwhelming and challenging experience for learners, especially those without experience using digital tools. The DSL has been working on making the learning of digital tools more equitable and accessible in the hope of levelling the playing field for those who have not had much prior exposure. This is especially relevant given how necessary the use of digital tools is now in higher education as well as in the general job market. Given the challenges in knowing what digital tools are needed in different contexts, the DSL has been working on building learning pathways for students from various technical backgrounds, adding nuance to what tools are required. To address the challenge of acquiring digital skills for data cleaning, analysis, visualisation, and programming which are essential for LSE degrees, we have developed various programmes to cater to diverse learners. These programmes include self-paced learning, learner-led training, and 1-2-1 support; these are open to all students at LSE. By narrowing the bridge between students with various technical backgrounds, LSE can foster a more inclusive and diverse learning environment that promotes creativity and independence amongst the community.

  • The key takeaways from the session are the importance of nuance in digital skill education as one size does not fit all, and ideas and techniques to build confidence in digital skills for those who have had little exposure.

12 Days of AI - developing AI literacy for staff in HE  
Chris Rowell, Digital Learning Producer, UAL                                                     

The use of AI has been a ‘hot topic’ of discussion in education since the release of ChatGPT 3 in November 2022. This session will start with a general overview of how the Digital Practice Team at UAL responded to this new development with a particular focus on how we aimed to developed the staff’s critical AI skills and literacy. The presentation will give an outline of the recent online staff development programme called the 12 Days of AI. It will outline how the course was designed, the types of activities used on the course and a summary of the engagement by staff at UAL and across the wider HE sector.

The session will be of interest to other HE institutions and FE Colleges who at looking at ways of helping their staff to develop their critical understanding of how AI tools might be used in a teaching and learning context. The 12 Days of AI has a Creative Commons licence so can be used and adapted by others and we will give some ‘top tips’ on how this can be done. We will also outline the lessons learnt from delivering this course in its first iteration in 2023

What will the participants take-away from this session? Overall, participants will have:

  • An overview of UAL’s Digital Practice team strategy for developing staff’s AI literacy
  • A good understanding of the 12 Days of AI
  • An evaluation of the first iteration the 12 Days of AI in 2023
  • How to set up and run your 12 Days of AI

12 Days of AI site. https://12daysofai.myblog.arts.ac.uk/ 

Understanding the role of digital and information literacies in the lives of 16-18 year olds 
Julie Voce, Head of Digital Education, City, University of London     

Universities make significant investments in introducing new students to their service and providing them with the skills and knowledge they need to use the digital systems and the library effectively and succeed in their studies. With the educational disruption and growth in digital poverty seen during the pandemic, combined with the rise of misinformation and fake news, it is increasingly challenging to support young people with their information and digital literacy skills.

In this session we will introduce the findings from a collaborative research project between seven UK universities and Alterline to explore the digital and information literacies of 16-18 year olds. Colleagues from two of the universities involved in the research will reflect on the findings and how they have influenced their activities to support digital and information literacies.
The research involved a survey of 738 young people, followed by qualitative research with 25 young people in Spring 2023. The findings are focussed on three key areas:
• Digital lives and study behaviours – what devices/technologies do young people use and how do they use them to support their studies?
• Support needs – how and when do young people ask for help and what support and training do they feel they need?
• University expectations - do young people know what to expect in terms of the digital and information literacies they need for university and what expectations do they have of the support available?

This session will be of interest to staff supporting students with digital and information literacies, e.g. digital skills trainers, learning technologists, librarians, academic skills tutors. Participants will gain an understanding of how current 16-18 year olds are using technology and how institutions can support them to develop digital and information literacies.


Developing AI Literacies in the classroom and beyond 
Jeni Brown, Head, Digital Skills Lab and Dr Jillian Terry, Associate Professor (Education) and Co-Director of LSE100, London School of Economics and Political Science   

As part of the AI UK Fringe festival in March 2024, we brought together academics, practitioners and industry leaders to discuss strategies and interventions for developing AI literacy in their organisations. The panel considered different trajectories of AI literacy development, particularly focusing on non-technical experts for whom AI will be a crucial part of their everyday work and offered concrete recommendations for the development and delivery of AI literacy tools in different settings, providing a useful roadmap for audience members to apply to their own contexts. 
The takeaways from this panel have been turned into discussion scenarios for higher education practitioners focussed on digital skills development. Current conversations about AI literacy have highlighted the need for universities and colleges to play a leading role in developing the next generation of professionals who are confident in using AI tools. In addition to sharing and discussing the current practices and approaches in industry, we'll consider key questions for HE and FE around equity of access, addressing variation in experiences leading up to further and higher education, and how AI may impact teaching and learning. 
This workshop will ask participants to work in small groups to share the strategies and interventions taking place in their own organisations, before discussing the findings from the AI UK Fringe festival panel, key questions for HE and FE, and what role organisations such as JISC and UCISA should have in the development and support of effective practices. Outputs from all the discussions will be shared with all participants following the session, to allow further discussion and implementation across institutions. 
Two key takeaways from the session: 

  • An awareness of the current landscape of AI literacy development across UK higher education and in industry 
  • Approaches and ideas for implementing AI literacy initiatives in your own institution, drawing on best practice from across the sector and the needs of today’s employers 

Developing staff digital capabilities (and minding the gap) at The Open University
Esther Spring, Learning Lead (Digital and Innovation), The Open University       

The OU is the largest provider of higher education in the UK with some 200 000 students (2020-21), a large proportion of whom have disabilities, live in deprived areas or have no prior qualifications. This presents challenges not least around operating at a distance and at scale for our students, but also in delivering effective development for our staff, who number 10 000 (2020-21).

This interactive session will focus on sharing the learning from a recent digital capabilities programme for staff which draws on the Jisc digital capabilities framework. We aimed to build confidence in using new and current technology, understand behaviours and ways of working, and enhance well-being. We also wanted to ensure that by raising understanding and capabilities amongst our staff, we are helping to tackle widening digital gaps – firstly by ensuring our staff ‘gaps’ reduce. We especially want to enable staff in student-facing roles to make better, more efficient use of technology to better support learning, and at a senior level, facilitate a better understanding of the skills and capabilities needed to inform future planning and strategic decision making.

The support and consultation from Jisc’s building digital capability service will be summarised including discussions on HE sector wide experiences in developing and identifying staff and student digital skills and how that compares with the OU journey. In response to the sector needs in digital skills, we will explore the developments of the new question sets around AI and student digital skills for employability to support staff and student digital skills. This session will highlight common key themes and barriers when supporting and implementing digital skills support for both staff and students and the agility needed to support new technologies such as AI from a digital capability perspective.

Two key takeaways:

  • How to build confidence in your own and others digital capabilities
  • Discovering new ways to collaborate

Lectures in the Metaverse: Engaging students socially within virtual worlds
Gary Burnett, Professor of Digital Creativity

For the last three years, Professor Burnett has taught Engineering, Computing and Design students (presently 266 in total) about the Human Factors design issues for virtual reality from within persistent virtual worlds. Teaching activities have included traditional lectures (pre-recorded and live), highly interactive seminars and open 'virtual' office hours. Whilst most students have used desktop/laptop computers and mobile devices to access the virtual world, increasing numbers have been using headsets for more immersive experiences (22 students were lent headsets in 2022 for use throughout semester). This innovative way of socially engaging with students has been treated as a research project and considerable objective and subjective data has been collected, analysed and published – focused on general, as well as specific research questions – such as the positive/negative impacts on students’ learning experiences, their use of avatars, the role of immersion, virtual world design, etc.

This talk will outline the motivation for the work, the findings so far, planned new initiatives and finally, conclusions that can be drawn for (Higher) Education practice and new digital literacies. In an interactive portion to the talk, Professor Burnett will ‘visit’ a range of virtual worlds used in the teaching during the presentation. Within these worlds, he will engage with some remote students who will be present (in avatar form) to explain some of their fantastical experiences with Metaverse-based learning.

Key takeaways:

  • Numerous advantages exist for the use of VR in Universities -relating to broad issues of student motivation/engagement, but also specific affordances of the technology, through significant experientialism, socialisation and contextualisation within learning.
  • The greatest benefits from VR are likely to arise in situations where it would be Dangerous (physically or psychologically), Impossible, Counter-productive or Expensive (DICE framework) to do the equivalent teaching activity in the real-world.
  • Studies have shown the importance of co-presence (the illusion of interacting with remotely located others) and agency (especially in use of avatars) for positive outcomes when students engage socially in VR for learning.


Rise of the Cyber-Physical
Chandrakant Patel, Senior Fellow and Chief Engineer at HP Inc 

What is the definition of cyber-physical; A computer system in which a mechanism is controlled or monitored by computer based algorithms. Physical and software components become deeply intertwined.
An example of a cyber physical system would be a self driving car. Physical technology (the motor/battery) and cyber technologies (closed loop control/AI).
The challenges caused by social, economic and ecological trends between supply side and demand sets the context for our ten years forward look. Technology solutions such as robotic surgery, automation, virtual reality management and training systems will rise to address the supply-demand gaps associated with the current lack of subject matter experts. 

The capabilities needed to build these cyber-physical systems motivate the reshaping of curriculum at all levels - Secondary, FE and HE, as well as apprenticeships. Furthermore, tackling the economic disparity necessitates training and workforce development that leads to a diverse and inclusive pipeline of cyber-physical contributors from local communities.  Indeed, a salient factor in today’s economic disparity is the lack of transition training and workforce development. The current diversity and inclusion challenges have been the main contributing factors in creating the digital divide. Therefore, as we enter the cyber-physical age, our goal must be to bridge the digital divide if we are to train and hire from local communities.

There are many challenges in pivoting to a deep and broad cyber-physical curriculum. An examination of current curricula, the courses and roster of students in various majors, shows over provisioning of training in cyber sciences in our universities. Furthermore, in author’s decades-long experience teaching college classes and mentoring students and practitioners in Silicon Valley, there has been an erosion of hands-on training in the physical sciences. The result of these trends is a lack of people who are trained to work on systems that integrate physical and cyber technologies. 


Credentialing and Future Skills - Higher Education's Approach
Professor Helen Laville, Provost and Deputy VC, Kingston University & Stephan Fortier, Regional Director UK/I, Instructure

With an increasing need for both the current and future UK workforce to upskill in response to technological change, higher education is responding in many ways. But how can these skills be verified and showcased, and what is the right delivery method for them? In this session, Instructure will share their perspective on what the future may hold which will also feature Professor Helen Laville - Provost and Deputy VC at Kingston University. She will present on Kingston's Future Skills initiative which has championed their importance for an innovative society, along with sharing insights from their survey on the topic in collaboration with YouGov.