Renée Grant, Liaison Librarian for Faculty of The Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Wollongong. firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you develop a future-ready workforce?
In 2016, the University of Wollongong Library committed to becoming a future-ready, digitally dexterous organisation and put in place the Digital Literacy Workplace Program to foster upskilling opportunities for Library staff. After an initial structured program, the direction shifted towards a new approach which focused on four key areas: self-directed learning, personalisation, flexibility, and learner agency. The flexible and unguided nature of this program gave staff the freedom to choose their own learning path. One of the outcomes of this program was the creation of a Digital Humanities Community of Practice (CoP) in 2018.
Why a Community of Practice?
Discussion with colleagues revealed that I wasn’t alone in my passion for Digital Humanities. The CoP grew organically from this shared passion and the opportunity for self-directed learning provided by the Digital Literacy Workplace Program. I formed the CoP so that we could share knowledge, explore, experiment and learn from each other. The collective nature of the learning process was key to the success of our group increasing our digital dexterity. Learning new technologies is challenging and one of the key benefits arising from the CoP was the ability to work through problems together. Without the support of the group, it would have been too easy to give up. Every challenge was viewed as a learning opportunity and through collective problem solving the group developed a growth mindset – when we couldn’t get the software to work properly, we weren’t failing, we were learning!
Developing digital dexterity
The CoP developed staff digital dexterity through the completion of mini projects which were showcased in a public facing blog. These mini-projects incorporated both hard and soft skills to develop agile, future-focused, T-shaped professionals (professionals with both discipline expertise and broader collaborative, creative and interpersonal skills). Hard skills included coding literacy, data visualisation, writing for the web, and digital curation. Soft skills included growth mindset, team work, networking, and creative thinking. The CoP membership consisted of staff with a range of digital capabilities from beginner to advanced. So that everyone would get something out of it, the CoP was designed so that all members had opportunities to extend and develop their skills by exploring and learning aspects of the software, which they then taught to the wider group. This also provided everyone with the opportunity to develop teaching and presentation skills. If members were beginners, they would pair up with an advanced member to explore and prepare a lesson for the group. In this way, they not only had an opportunity to extend their digital literacy skills, but to learn and problem solve with a more tech-savvy colleague. The CoP is a very supportive environment in which to learn and it’s great to see my colleagues get excited to learn new digital tools and explore innovative ways to incorporate them into their work practices.
Where are we now?
Future-readiness is not something you can tick a box marked complete, it’s an ongoing goal. Over the years, the Digital Humanities CoP has evolved to align to the shifting individual member and organisational needs. Through the CoP it was recognised that there was a need to support clients more broadly across the University of Wollongong with Digital Scholarship. This resulted in a Digital Scholarship Strategy project in 2020 to scope the feasibility of a Library-led initiative. In 2021 the CoP has shifted its focus to developing a future-ready workforce that can provide broader Digital Scholarship support in preparation for the potential rollout of a strategic program.
The creation of the Digital Humanities CoP was transformative. Not just for the development of digital dexterity for the individual members, but as an organisation, as its success sparked the creation of a range of CoPs within the Library to develop other future-ready skills, such as UX.
Why not start your own transformative Community of Practice!
For more information:
Grant, R., & Organ, M. 2020, ‘Digital Journeys @ UOW Australia: From Digital Dexterities to Digital Humanities and Beyond‘. International Information and Library Review, pp.1-6.
Grant, RC & Shalavin, CA 2019, ‘Journey to the new frontier: staff experience in a professional development program for digital dexterity’, THETA 2019 – The Tipping Point: The Higher Education Technology Agenda Conference, Wollongong, 19-22 May.
Follow our blog at Digital Humanities @ UOW Library and Twitter @DHWollongong