TEF and digital capabilities – do you measure up?

The second Digital Capabilities Survey will be open for responses in early October. It will be interesting to compare the results with the 2014 Survey and see what now influences the development of digital capabilities within our institutions.

One possible influence (although it may have come too late to have a significant impact on this Survey) is the Teaching Excellence Framework. The Technical Consultation outlined the number of criteria that institutions will need to demonstrate that they are meeting if they are to achieve Excellent or Outstanding ratings. So what are the areas where policies and activities relating to digital capabilities are likely to have an effect?

The first criterion listed under the Teaching Quality aspect is Teaching provides effective stimulation and encourages students to engage. Student satisfaction surveys are listed as a key piece of evidence, not only to demonstrate that the students feel that their teaching is stimulating and engaging, but also to demonstrate the way that such surveys and other student feedback relate back to staff development. Students expect lecturers to be able to teach using current technology; how good is the institution at equipping those lecturers with the skills they need? The need to provide continuing professional development for both academic and support staff is also highlighted in another criterion, that the Institutional culture recognises and rewards excellent teaching.

The focus of the TEF isn’t entirely on staff skills and abilities – there is a significant focus on student outcomes too. Two criteria in particular focus on this area – that students achieve their educational and professional goals and that they acquire knowledge, skills and attributes that prepare them to their personal and professional lives. Whilst the evidence for the former will be largely based on employment outcomes (I would expect the replacement for the Destination of Leavers return to be a key measure here), suggested evidence for the latter includes employer engagement in the curriculum, course accreditation by professional regulatory or statutory bodies and extra-curricular activities designed to enhance employability and transferable skills. Digital capabilities are an essential part of the skills and attributes a graduate will need – the emphasis an institution places on digital capabilities may depend on the level of external influence on employment outcomes. As the TEF matures, it will be interesting to see whether those institutions with a strong focus on student digital capabilities will achieve better ratings than their peers.

Finally, the TEF reinforces the Government’s commitment to widening participation. Institutions are required to demonstrate that Positive outcomes are achieved for students from all backgrounds, in particular those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those who are at greater risk of not achieving positive outcomes. In this aspect disadvantaged can have a multitude of meanings – institutions will need to identify and make provision for those who are digitally disadvantaged.

It may be too early for the TEF to have a major effect on digital capabilities strategies and activities. The 2017 Digital Capabilities Survey may identify those looking to steal a march on their competitors by implementing measures to improve their students’ and staff skills levels. Alternatively it may show that the TEF is not going to be a major influence with institutions already having measures in place. Time will tell. The survey opens in early October and we are currently identifying the lead respondent for each institution. If you are unsure as to whom the lead respondent is for your institution, please contact admin@ucisa.ac.uk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *