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Supporting Student Digital Capabilities

This resource is intended to support staff involved in curriculum design and delivery. Here, you can:

  • Find approaches and resources to enable the embedding of digital capabilities in the curriculum
  • Hear from colleagues sharing good practice supporting student digital development

Related resources

You may be interested in exploring the following:

  • Access support from your Faculty eLearning team:
  • Understand your current digital practice by completing the ‘Explore your overall digital capabilities’; ‘Accessibility and Inclusion’ and ‘Effective online teaching’ questionnaires for Staff in the Discovery tool. These can be accessed in the Staff Learning & Organisational Development ‘Develop your digital skills’ resource.

What are digital capabilities and why are they important?

In addition to demands from professions, employers and industries, The University’s vision for Our Future clearly makes the case for our students to be supported to develop, recognise and showcase their digital skills throughout their studies and in preparation for their future careers.

Jisc defines digital capabilities as those required by individuals to “live, learn and work in a digital society.” Their Framework divides the concept of digital capabilities down for staff and students into considerations around the 6 ‘elements’ illustrated in the diagram below.

Jisc Building Digital Capabilities: The six elements defined

Jisc Digital Capabilities Framework broken down into six elements

A full description with expectations against each of the elements is included within the Framework. Jisc have further personalised the Framework for the following Higher Education (HE) “Role profiles”: Teachers (HE); Students (HE); Researchers and Research managers; Learning technologists; Library and learning resources service staff; Digital leaders and Professional services staff.

When establishing expectations for student digital capabilities, these should be relevant to the context(s) they are studying within. For students, this means developing and supporting their capabilities as they progress through their studies and preparing them for the workplaces beyond. A key requirement for staff supporting students, is knowing where to be able to access - as well as signpost students to - additional support.

The “role profiles” (or the more generic Framework, if a profile is not available for a specific role) can be a useful starting point for discussions with colleagues and students. These can be further personalised to enable contextualisation for your students.

Detailed background information around the creation of the Jisc Framework can be found here.  In addition to the resources discussed above, Jisc also provide resources to support digital capabilities from an institutional perspective.

Views from the sector – Jisc Student and Staff Insights Surveys

Each year, Jisc collect data from students and staff across Further and Higher Education at Institutions subscribed to their Digital Experience Insights Service.  Their reports on how students and staff are using and experiencing technologies in HE can be found here.

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Embedding digital capabilities in the curriculum

Support for developing some digital capabilities will already be embedded in your curriculum. Some colleagues have found that students can need additional support to recognise the digital skills they are acquiring and develop the appropriate language to confidently talk about these abilities with potential employers.

The following steps to help map, analyse and expand on support for digital capabilities provision within your curriculum are based on approaches from Jisc and utilise resources including their Digital Capabilities Framework. The student voice should also be represented when working through these steps.

To ensure currency, it is suggested that the benchmarking and further development aspects are seen as an iterative process, forming a cycle to be worked through repeatedly, rather than a linear sequence.

Support is available to help you think, plan and work through each of the following steps

If you would like to talk through any of the steps or approaches, or access support please contact your Faculty eLearning team (Biology Medicine & Health; Humanities; Science and Engineering) and Jane Mooney, Academic theme lead for Digital skills and literacy within the Flexible Learning Programme. 

In this case study, Helen Davidson and Cath Wasiuk describe how they applied these approaches in the development of a new programme.

Step 1. Personalise

Starting with Jisc’s ‘‘HE Student Role Profile’’ for students, personalise the expectations / ILOs against each of the 6 elements of digital capabilities so that they are relevant to your Programme / Curriculum / Unit / Module and context. This template from Jisc can be used to help capture your mapping.


Example of Step 1

For a blank copy of the template used in this example click here.

Step 2. Map

For each of the elements of digital capabilities complete a mapping exercise of current Programme / Unit learning activities against the ILOs you have derived.  This will identify the elements you are already providing support for, as well as helping to highlight areas you may wish to expand on.


Example of Step 2

Step 3. Benchmark / Evaluate

Jisc worked with the NUS to create a 'Roadmap for supporting students to improve their digital experience at university and college'. Jisc have also created a ‘Benchmarking toolkit for online learning'. These are useful rubrics, guiding what ‘good practice principles’, such as students being ‘prepared to study with digital technologies’ look like on a scale from ‘first steps’ to ‘outstanding’. Again, this phase can assist in identifying areas to develop or enhance and having students’ views represented is essential.

Step 4. Develop / Enhance

The Conversations that Count cards have been designed by Jisc to scaffold discussions with students about their ‘digital experience’. Guidance is included on how to use this resource which provide starter questions against a series of key topics for students and staff to explore, enabling the planning of developments / enhancements.

These resources from Jisc can be useful when starting to consider how ‘digital learning activities’ and ‘tools’ can be used to support the development of different capabilities. Your Faculty eLearning team can advise on the creation of learning activities, in addition to providing practical guidance about different technologies. University recommended software can be accessed via the ITL ‘Guidance on software for online teaching’.

Step 5. Recognition of skills & Signposting resources

Two further measures to support embedding of digital capabilities into practice:

  • Supporting students to recognise, capture and confidently discuss their digital capabilities as they build their digital CVs. Sharing digital capability ILOs with students, e.g. including them at the start of each Unit / Module, can assist this development process.
  • Signposting to supplementary supportive resources for students, such as My Learning Essentials and support from IT Services and the Careers Service.

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Student-facing resources

The ‘Develop your digital capabilities’ resource from My Learning Essentials supports students to access and use the Jisc Discovery tool

This student-facing resource is intended to raise awareness around digital capabilities and provide students with the opportunity to understand and reflect on their digital experience, confidence and development. 

The Discovery tool is a supportive, online tool that takes individuals through a series of questions about their experience and confidence of using digital tools and approaches

A personalised digital capabilities report is provided on completion of a questionnaire, with suggested ‘Next steps’ and signposting to further relevant online resources. Completion of the tool also allows the user to sign up to retrieve a digital badge that can be added to their CV / portfolio.

There are 2 questionnaires students can complete within the Discovery tool

Once students have logged in to the tool, using their UoM username/password, they have access to two questionnaires. One is designed for students who are new to HE and the other for ‘current’/returning students. The latter enables a more in-depth exploration of their digital practice and it is recommended that returning students complete this annually and reflect on their progress.

Students with a staff role will access the staff version of the tool 

Although the following relates to a relatively small proportion of students, it is worth noting that when students who have a staff role, e.g. Student Partner Interns, access the Discovery tool they will be asked to set up a staff, rather than student profile (asking them which department they work in, rather than what subject they are studying). They will then be able to access the staff, rather than the student, dashboard within the tool.  The digital capabilities questionnaire they can access is very similar to the ‘current student’ questionnaire, giving them an in-depth exploration of their digital capabilities.  If interested, they can also access the 2 additional questionnaires (‘Effective online teaching’ and ‘Accessibility and Inclusion’) available within the staff dashboard.   

What is covered in the reports students receive from the Discovery tool? 

The Discovery tool is based on Jisc's Building Digital Capability Framework which provides detailed descriptions of each of their ‘6 elements of digital capability’.    

The sections covered in the ‘New Student’ and ‘Current Student’ reports are as follows: 

Headings from New student Jisc Discovery tool report 

Headings from Current Student Jisc Discovery tool report 

Using digital tools 

Finding information and resources 

Digital communication and collaboration 

Digital creativity and problem solving 

Managing your digital learning 

Digital preferences and needs 

Being digital 

Digital proficiency 

Digital productivity 

Information literacy 

Media literacy 

Data literacy 

Digital communication 

Digital collaboration 

Digital participation 

Digital creation 

Problem solving 

Digital Innovation 

Preparing for digital learning 

Digital learning activities 

Digital identity management 

Digital wellbeing 

Digital skills for work 


Jisc share expectations around digital capabilities for students within their “Learner profile”.  When considering the Learner profile within your context, further filtering is recommended to prioritise the aspects that are relevant for your students / Programme content. 

Students and staff can access further resources within the Discovery tool

In addition to the selected resources recommended to students within their personalised reports from the Discovery tool, students can access extensive further resources within the tool. Staff can also review and access these resources by logging in to the Discovery tool and clicking on the ‘Resource bank’ icon on the left.

Student reflections on their use of the MLE resource / Discovery tool

This 'Introduction to digital capabilities' blog post, written by the Library’s Student Team, shares their perspectives on the MLE resource / Discovery tool and provides a useful, relatable introduction to what students can expect from these resources.

Supporting students to evidence their digital skills development

Supporting students to recognise the skills they are developing, e.g. by signposting digital capabilities ILOs within Programmes / Units, is critical to them being able to take ownership of their digital capabilities and confidently showcase and discuss them with potential employers. This blog from the University Careers Service encourages students to consider how they can evidence their digital capabilities when updating their CVs: Digital CV makeover? You are savvier than you think

As mentioned, students can use the Discovery tool to reflect on their digital progress. It is recommended that students complete the ‘New’ student questionnaire on arrival and then complete the ‘Current’/returning student questionnaire annually, enabling them to reflect on their progress.

The Careers Service signpost students to the MLE Develop your digital capabilities / Jisc Discovery tool resource through their Transferrable skills page (What are digital skills) and their page on The IT sector. They additionally promote internal and external ‘Free and low cost training to boost your skills and your CV’.

Staff-facing resources

Support is available from The Library to embed the Develop your digital capabilities / Discovery tool resource into your Blackboard space

In addition to the ‘Develop your digital capabilities' resource, MLE has resources to support different aspects of student digital capabilities, such as literature searching, evaluating sources and social media.  To embed MLE resources in your Blackboard space, get in touch with the Library team by clicking ‘‘Request training’’ or completing this form.

‘Supporting discussions around digital capabilities with students’ resource for Academic Advisors

In addition to giving an overview of digital capabilities and the MLE resource / Discovery tool, this staff-facing resource outlines how students can be supported to consider their development once they have completed the Discovery tool and received their personalised digital capabilities reports.

Institutional data from the Discovery tool

While the reports students receive through completion of the Discovery tool can only be viewed by them, an Institutional ‘dashboard’ is also provided. This collates anonymised data from completed questionnaires and benchmarks our University, anonymously, with the sector.

If you are embedding the use of the Discovery tool within your Programme or Unit and would like to receive feedback on how your students are reporting their digital capabilities, please get in touch.

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From colleagues

Embedding Digital Capabilities into a new undergraduate programme

This case study from Catherine Wasiuk and Helen Davidson demonstrates different ways that a new undergraduate programme has embedded digital capabilities into the curriculum.

1minuteCPD -an example of a micro-learning approach to improve digital capabilities

In this case study Cath Wasiuk, E-Materials Quality Control and Student Support Officer, Integrated Interdisciplinary Innovations in Healthcare Science (i3HS), shares how she created 1minuteCPD - micro-learning supporting staff digital skills development while recognising the time pressures staff face accessing CPD.

Dentistry revision sessions using Nearpod

In this case study Prof Raj Ariyaratnam describes implementing Nearpod to promote active learning in revision sessions. The digital capabilities tagged are: Digital learning and development; Digital learning & Digital teaching.

Digital Assessment of Vocational Skills

This case study from Tim Cappelli, discusses the introduction of a ‘digital logbook’ for clinical skills.  The digital capabilities tagged are: Digital learning and development; Digital learning & Digital teaching.

From the sector

Learn how other HE institutions are supporting student and staff digital capabilities through this collection of case studies published by Jisc.

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Share your practice

Sharing your practice can contribute to evidencing your development.  To keep this content current and useful for colleagues, and provide a space to share and find good practice, we would love to hear from you.

Create a case study

It would be helpful for colleagues to hear how you have used the MLE resource / Discovery tool / other resources or approaches to embedding digital capabilities in the curriculum with your students. To share a case study on this site please download this template and then submit it using the following form.

Share resources you have found helpful on the Teaching and Learning Online Network, TALON

With over 400 members, TALON is the University’s largest T&L focussed Yammer community. This is a useful space to share resources, ask advice and hear from colleagues.

Share your practice during a Digital Capabilities workshop

You can see the forthcoming workshop dates and book a place when they are published on our Events page here. To contribute your practice at a forthcoming Digital Capabilities workshop, please complete this form.

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Supporting student and staff digital capabilities is one of the aims of the Flexible Learning Programme and this resource has been produced as part of this work.

Some sections in this resource originated as part of the ‘Digital Capabilities Effective Practice Hub’, many thanks to colleagues for their previous contributions and support.