A collaborative approach to student digital skills support: The UOW Digital Skills Hub

By Kristy Newton, Digital Literacies Coordinator (UOW Library)

Digital literacies, digital capabilities, digital dexterity… no matter what you call them, these are an essential and complex set of practical skills, attitudes and contextual understanding that help us navigate and interact with the digital world. They can span everything from learning how to use a new piece of software, to understanding how communication styles differ depending on the channel you are using to communicate, to developing a growth mindset that enables you to engage in a process of continual learning and development. This post outlines the process of developing the UOW Student Digital Skills Hub as a strategy for supporting student digital skill development.

A collaborative approach

At UOW, we recognised that a collaborative approach was essential for supporting student digital literacies and that this collaboration needed to be seamless for students to access. There had been collaborative work on developing an institutional approach to digital literacies for a few years, but the unexpected challenges of COVID19 and the rapid transition to remote learning meant that a lot of that work was paused to allow staff to address the immediate challenges presented by the pandemic. Libraries are often champions of digital literacy development, but the complex interplay of practical skills and digital behaviours means that digital literacy support at an institutional level spans several units with areas of expertise. The IT support units are an obvious match for the development of technical skills, but the development of digital capabilities at University also incorporates clever learning design that means students encounter these development opportunities in ways that are meaningful for their learning, and a future careers perspective that contextualises their skill development in relation to their professional post-University lives. 

Stakeholders from the Pro Vice Chancellor (Students) Unit, Information Management and Technology Services (IMTS) Unit, and Learning Teaching & Curriculum (LTC) Unit are all strategic partners in the creation of the Digital Skills Hub. While the Library has a strong history of supporting digital literacies, as well as supporting the more traditional information literacies, it was important to us, that the site was not recognised solely as a Library site. We felt that this might compromise the value of the site for students who might think it was just about using databases rather than the broader range of digital skills and behaviours that make up their everyday lives.

The Digital Skills Hub

In late 2021, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic and Student Life) revitalised the institutional conversation about digital literacies as part of a strategy for supporting student success, and identified the Library as a key stakeholder in this initiative.  In response, we created an online Digital Skills Hub – a one-stop shop for students to be able to access all the digital literacy support that they needed. The Hub provides a consistent location for students who don’t know where to find digital literacy support, recognising that they often need to seek support from a variety of different units and departments, but don’t know which unit to approach for help with their specific problem. Having all the content in one place makes this an easier proposition, particularly for students who are less digitally literate. Pragmatically, because we had the support of the DVC (A&SL), we were able to secure support in embedding a link to the Digital Skills Hub in all the subject Moodle sites. This means that it was easily accessible for most students, in a location that they were already accessing for academic purposes.

One of the factors that made the Digital Skills Hub possible, was the acquisition of the JISC Digital Capabilities service. This included the Discovery Tool, a tool which allows students to undertake a self-assessment and receive a personalised report on their digital skills. Alongside the Discovery Tool, the JISC site provided a suite of support resources, and capacity for us to create UOW specific support resources that are embedded in the JISC reports. The JISC interface also provides us with valuable information in the form of an institutional dashboard. This highlights student skills across the different capability areas and provides a heat map of where the strengths and areas for development lie across different student types and different faculties. The data is de-identified, so we can’t see what a particular students progress might look like, but it does give us a good idea of trends, enabling us to target support services where they are needed.

A one stop shop for digital skills information

The front page of the Student Digital Skills Hub

There are three main ways that the Digital Skills Hub supports students:
– It provides them with access to the JISC Discovery Tool, a self evaluation tool that illustrates each student’s personal strengths and weaknesses in relation to digital skills and provides them with a customised report and suggested actions/resources for developing those skills further.

– It explores Digital Capabilities through the lens of the JISC Digital Capabilities Framework, and highlights how those framework areas relate to everyday skills and digital behaviours

– It provides them with easy access to a knowledge base of FAQs on a variety of digital skills topics and gives them the opportunity to chat/ask a question. This knowledge base incorporates existing relevant FAQs as well as newly created FAQs that are specifically designed to support the needs of the Hub.

There is also a rating system for students to rate their satisfaction with the site, as well as a link for them to provide feedback. 

Key points to consider

For institutions interested in doing something similar, the following points are worthy of consideration.

  • It’s important to get the strategic support of the different units that make up the digital literacies support services for students. Creating a site where some support is offered, but students need to go elsewhere for different kinds of tasks, just creates barriers for students.
  • An accessible and well-designed platform is key to the success of the site. You want to make sure that students with lower levels of digital skills can access the site and find it easy to navigate. 
  • Centre the development of the site on the needs of the students who will be using it. We are using an iterative design process, which means that we take on board student feedback and insights from the literature to inform the way the site develops. We see the Digital Skills Hub as a constantly evolving resource that will continue to be shaped and developed by the needs of the people using it.

Six months on from the creation of the site, we are currently engaged in a process of seeking feedback to inform the way that the site develops in the future. This is driven by an iterative, human-centred approach to content development that commits to continuously evaluating whether the site meets user needs, and adapting and evolving the site to ensure it continues to do so.

Creating video templates for shorter lead times and greater consistency in library tutorials

by Nicholas Rowsell, Digital Library Programs Officer, University of Newcastle Library

A challenge in creating anything across a team, or to a greater extent an institution, is ensuring that when content is created there is a consistent design language, and when adhering to this requirement, efficiencies are not lost.

To communicate your ideas with this purpose in mind, content should be:

  • aligned to brand positioning,
  • consistent between digital objects,
  • as equitable and accessible as possible
  • solutions should match your team’s abilities
  • lean into established processes when adding something new.


In wanting to establish new processes for the creation of a video tutorial series for the University of Newcastle Library, these were the considerations we had to address.   

Our solution was to create a series of templates for video creation programs such as Powtoon and Microsoft PowerPoint. By providing content creators with a series of template slides they are quickly and easily able to copy a slide and insert the content they need to present, with all the animations, transitions, and formatting completed for them ahead of time. All that is then required is for the team member to render the slides to create a video. The positive implications of this are that videos are highly sustainable and scalable, as content can be edited or updated on the slides and re-rendered as needed to reflect an updated syllabus, changes in technology or services, and so on.

So how did this solution come about?

Alignment with brand positioning

Our priority in creating a new video series was to align the look and feel of content to the University’s Brand Guidelines. This meant ensuring that our team members used the correct typography, colours, shapes, and images.

We quickly identified this as a pain point as the time taken to set up a file, create a design, then undertake a quality assurance check distracted from the goal of the content being created and released.

This is where our solution to create video templates first came about.

Leaning into existing practices

One of the first lessons learnt in our solution was to lean into what the team was already doing and what they were familiar with. This was done by learning from our mistakes and pivoting where needed. Our first approach was to implement the template solution in Microsoft PowerPoint; we did this as we knew the team had great digital capabilities with this program so that asking them to perform a new process in the application was straightforward.

What we overlooked was that the team was already very invested in using PowToon for video creation.  This did not create a major roadblock, however, as we were able simply to import the templates from PowerPoint into PowToon.  But time could have been saved had we been more perceptive to our team’s existing preferences from the get-go.

One solution leading to opportunities for continuous improvement

With greater efficiencies created, the team become time richer. This, in turn, presented an opportunity to introduce consistent practices. This opportunity was to make our videos more equitable and accessible, by adding in Closed Captions embedded within the videos, to aid students who don’t have English as a first language, or have a hearing impairment.  We can also introduce the use of Alternative Text sheets for download in the notes field below the videos, which can be used by screen readers.

A scalable, sustainable solution for higher quality resources

As our development of videos as digital learning objects continues, the team can rely on the sustainability and scalability of the slides to easily update content which is engaging and relevant, ensuring we can continue in our endeavour to provide high quality online information literacy resources.

Students are told not to use Wikipedia for research. But it’s a trustworthy source

by Rachel Cunneen, Senior Lecturer in English and Literacy Education, Student Success and LANTITE coordinator, University of Canberra and Mathieu O’Neil, Associate Professor of Communication, News and Media Research Centre, University of Canberra

Disclaimer: This post was originally published in The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence and is used with the authors’ permission.

At the start of each university year, we ask first-year students a question: how many have been told by their secondary teachers not to use Wikipedia? Without fail, nearly every hand shoots up. Wikipedia offers free and reliable information instantly. So why do teachers almost universally distrust it?

Wikipedia has community-enforced policies on neutrality, reliability and notability. This means all information “must be presented accurately and without bias”; sources must come from a third party; and a Wikipedia article is notable and should be created if there has been “third-party coverage of the topic in reliable sources”.

Wikipedia is free, non-profit, and has been operating for over two decades, making it an internet success story. At a time when it’s increasingly difficult to separate truth from falsehood, Wikipedia is an accessible tool for fact-checking and fighting misinformation.

Why is Wikipedia so reliable?

Many teachers point out that anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, not just experts on the subject. But this doesn’t make Wikipedia’s information unreliable. It’s virtually impossible, for instance, for conspiracies to remain published on Wikipedia.

For popular articles, Wikipedia’s online community of volunteers, administrators and bots ensure edits are based on reliable citations. Popular articles are reviewed thousands of times. Some media experts, such as Amy Bruckman, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s computing centre, argue that because of this painstaking process, a highly-edited article on Wikipedia might be the most reliable source of information ever created.

Traditional academic articles – the most common source of scientific evidence – are typically only peer-reviewed by up to three people and then never edited again.

Less frequently edited articles on Wikipedia might be less reliable than popular ones. But it’s easy to find out how an article has been created and modified on Wikipedia. All modifications to an article are archived in its “history” page. Disputes between editors about the article’s content are documented in its “talk” page.

To use Wikipedia effectively, school students need to be taught to find and analyse these pages of an article, so they can quickly assess the article’s reliability.

Is information on Wikipedia too shallow?

Many teachers also argue the information on Wikipedia is too basic, particularly for tertiary students. This argument supposes all fact-checking must involve deep engagement. But this is not best practice for conducting initial investigation into a subject online. Deep research needs to come later, once the validity of the source has been established.

Still, some teachers are horrified by the idea students need to be taught to assess information quickly and superficially. If you look up the general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum, you will find “critical and creative thinking” encourages deep, broad reflection. Educators who conflate “critical” and “media” literacy may be inclined to believe analysis of online material must be slow and thorough.

Study set up with open laptop, open book, pen and coffee mug
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Yet the reality is we live in an “attention economy” where everyone and everything on the internet is vying for our attention. Our time is precious, so engaging deeply with spurious online content, and potentially falling down misinformation rabbit holes, wastes a most valuable commodity – our attention.

Wikipedia can be a tool for better media literacy

Research suggests Australian children are not getting sufficient instruction in spotting fake news. Only one in five young Australians in 2020 reported having a lesson during the past year that helped them decide whether news stories could be trusted.

Our students clearly need more media literacy education, and Wikipedia can be a good media literacy instrument. One way is to use it is with “lateral reading”. This means when faced with an unfamiliar online claim, students should leave the web page they’re on and open a new browser tab. They can then investigate what trusted sources say about the claim.

Wikipedia is the perfect classroom resource for this purpose, even for primary-aged students. When first encountering unfamiliar information, students can be encouraged to go to the relevant Wikipedia page to check reliability. If the unknown information isn’t verifiable, they can discard it and move on.

More experienced fact-checkers can also beeline to the authoritative references at the bottom of each Wikipedia article.

In the future, we hope first-year university students enter our classrooms already understanding the value of Wikipedia. This will mean a widespread cultural shift has taken place in Australian primary and secondary schools. In a time of climate change and pandemics, everyone needs to be able to separate fact from fiction. Wikipedia can be part of the remedy.


Would you like to contribute to our blog?

If you have ideas, or if you would like to contribute posts directly, drop us a line at DigitalDexterityBlog@caval.edu.au.

Growing Open Educational Practice with OER grants

Angie Williamson, Program Coordinator (Open Education), Deakin University Library, angie.w@deakin.edu.au.

During 2021, Deakin University commenced a grant program, coordinated by the library in conjunction with the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning, encouraging academic staff to explore Open Educational Resources (OER) for teaching and learning. OER are free resources that are made available with a Creative Commons licence. OER include resources such as textbooks, quizzes, videos, even full courses that are reusable and adaptable to teaching and learning needs. These resources can be modified to include local content making these more contextual and representative of the students and the local environment.

The grant program forms a major part of the Inclusive digital environments project aimed at raising awareness of OER and developing capabilities in staff to use and create OER. OER have been around for 20 years but the use of OER in Australia has had a slow start. Overseas higher education institutions have been very active in this space often supported with grants from government bodies or foundations such as the Hewlett Foundation. In 2020, the Californian governor announced a $115 million commitment to OER. Universities and colleges highlight savings made by students in textbook purchases and this can add up substantially. In Canada, BCCampus has saved students over $20 million with open textbooks since 2012. Higher education institutions overseas develop Zero degrees where student have no costs for instructional resources for their entire course. OER textbooks not only benefit students with reduced costs but also by removing barriers in access to resources. The use of OER has been shown to increase student success and retention (Colvard, 2018) as students have access to the materials from day one of their study and can access the resources when they need them without limitations. The necessity to move higher education online in the pandemic has increased awareness of OER (McKenzie, 2021) and open pedagogy for teaching and learning. This program at Deakin will not only increase the usage of OER, but also contribute to the revision of existing resources to include Australian Content and facilitate the creation of additional Australian resources.

This inaugural OER grant program at Deakin enabled staff to explore the OER environment to locate, use or create resources for their teaching. As this was the first time these grants had been on offer, we were unsure of the level of interest. Not solely focused on textbook replacements, the program also encouraged creativity to fill a gap in available teaching resources that would result in the creation of an open resource. Applications were sought for the OER grants in June 2021 with 11 applications accepted. The successful applications displayed a diversity of concepts and covered a range of OER usage and creation projects including textbook replacements and the creation of resources.

Replacing a current textbook with an OER textbook was the focus of a number of the projects and will result in substantial saving for students. In one of these projects, the current textbook retails for about $180 and student numbers are over 1,000 per year. For projects aiming to replace a textbook, this necessitated locating resources and evaluating if they fulfilled the needs of the unit. Some OER textbooks have ancillary resources such as videos, question and exercises available to support their usage. Some required the creation of content to fill gaps or the remixing of numerous OER to create a resource tailored to the required learning. Another current project focuses on the updating of an existing OER textbook and developing of new activities to support it.

Other projects identified gaps in available resources and sought to create an open resource to fill the need. These include:

  • The creation of Australian case studies in Human Resource Management
  • An extensive resource developed to assist students in reading MRI scans for the study of anatomy
  • The development of an online book introducing the assessment potential in play-based approaches
  • A 3D interactive tour of a building to support construction management students in experiencing the behind-the-scenes functions in buildings inspired by COVID restrictions in access.

Some projects also embraced the wider concept of open. One project focused on student motivations and concerns and created a series of videos of students discussing these aspects of study. Another project combined open software and OER by moving to an open source software for statistical analysis. The associated open book will be adopted as the textbook and supporting activities developed, replacing an expensive textbook prescribed to around 2,000 students per year.

We all know that 2021 was challenging for higher education in Australia in many ways. With the OER program commencing in June, participants experienced almost a perfect storm of impediments. Extended lockdowns and additional student needs due to COVID, working from home challenges, fully online teaching and major organisational changes all impacted the delivery of the projects. Through this challenging time, participants appreciated having a positive project to focus on and even with these challenges, one project commenced using an early version of the resources in teaching a trimester earlier than planned! We learned that OER projects take time to develop, with the development and implementation of the resources to continue through 2022.

The program coordinated by the library included offering grant recipients OER training, hosting a Community of Practice and establishing a Teams site to facilitate knowledge sharing and as a forum for discussion. Discussing OER related topics such as accessibility, open pedagogy, copyright and licencing, the Community of Practice sessions provide a forum for the program participants to discuss their progress, ask questions and gain understanding of OER concepts. Detailed copyright advice was also provided by the copyright team. A website has been created to highlight the program with the purpose of providing access to the created resources when they are available.

window with a multi coloured flourescent sign hanging in it saying open.

Further details of the projects are available on the Open Educational Resources Grants 2021 website.

Image by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

References:

Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Hyojin, P. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276.

McKenzie, L. (2020, August 13). Window of opportunity for OER. Inside Higher ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/08/13/pandemic-drives-increased-interest-open-educational-resources


Five ways to advocate and promote OERs within your own institution.

By Frank Ponte AALIA (CP) Academic/Research, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library, frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au 

There are many ways to engage with open educational resources (OERs).  Start your journey with these five easy steps.

1. Understand the language of OER: 

Open: Free to share adapt or modify.  
Free: Free to access but not necessarily allowed to share adapt or modify. 
Fair use: An American phrase that permits limited use of material for educational purposes in the United States. In Australia, we are bound by several educational licenses set out within the Copyright Act 1968. 
Public Domain: Works that are publicly available because intellectual property rights have expired or been forfeited. 
All Rights Reserved: Copyright holder reserves, or holds for their own use, all the rights provided by copyright law.  

2. Badge:
Badge your content with a CC license and host it on a shareable platform.  By doing so we: 

  • contribute to the Creative Commons worldwide repository. 
  • increase our professional connections and reach through attribution. 
  • build a large collection of locally created and customisable content. 
  • have access to a broader selection of adaptable materials  
  • streamline our workflows. 

Speak to your Digital Dexterity champion at your institution to discuss hosting your
       creative commons licensed content on a shareable platform.  

3. Share: 
Librarians have an entrenched ethos of sharing. Become experts at curating OER content and sharing your original and remixed resources.  
textbookscoursescourse materialsInteractive simulationspublic domain booksaudiobooksmodulesopen access booksvideospodcastslearning objectsprimary resources  
 
Use Metafinders to help uncover materials quickly.  
Here are some shareable materials from RMIT University Library.  
 

4. Collaborate, Customise & Co-Create: 
Here are some examples: 
 
Customise – Remix an OER by adding your original content with adapted content for your audience. Example: Social Science Research: Principles, Methods and Practices (Revised edition) is an Australian University remixed textbook that has modified the original work to include editing and formatting changes and the inclusion of content in Chapter 16 to describe the Australian context. 
 
Make OERs culturally specific: Localise content to an Australian audience. It can be as simple as using Australian names and places or using local case studies.  
Example: A Charles Darwin University academic teaching Cultural Capability has added four case study chapters written by students. 

Co-create content with your students. Robin De Rosa, a Plymouth State University Professor built an open anthology with her students that is now free to access. 

5. Celebrate Your Success by 
Sharing a new OER resource with the world. 
Mapping student financial savings
Demonstrating impact

RMIT University Library host the Open Textbook Initiative and is interested in highlighting student textbook affordability by building a student savings bank when academic staff adopt an OER textbook in their teaching. This initiative is open to all Universities to participate. Tell us if you are using and OER Textbook in your teaching practice by filling in this form.  

If you’re interested in reading more on OER, have a look at this recently published article by Frank Ponte, Anne Lennox and Jennifer Hurly.

The Evolution of the Open Textbook Initiative. https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2021.1883819

Can OERs address Teaching and Learning challenges in Higher Education?

By Frank Ponte AALIA (CP) Academic/Research, Manager, Library Services (Teaching), RMIT University Library, frank.ponte@rmit.edu.au 


Open Educational Resources (OERs) are teaching, learning and research materials that are published under creative common licenses. These licenses specify how materials can be used.  OERs can include textbooks, curricula, syllabi, lecture notes, assignments, tests, projects, audio, video and software.

Driven by a reduction in international student arrivals, the sharp pivot to emergency online learning and a prolonged period of reduced revenue, universities are now pondering a new normal and envisaging a hybrid learning future. OERs have intersected and underscored many of the teaching and learning challenges faced by higher education institutions and advocates are now considering the efficacy of OERs to address these challenges.

Some of the Teaching and Learning concerns that OERs can address are outlined below:   

  • Student Affordability - Every student begins the semester with the same learning materials and has free digital access. Check these platforms and begin your search.  
  • Ongoing access and accessibility – Free access to learning resources in perpetuity. Access to resources in multiple formats. (select download this book to uncover the formats available.) 
  • Equity - Studies have found that using OER resources in coursework can increase grades for all students, but more so for low socio-economic students and ethnically diverse students.  
  • Retention - Studies suggest that students using OER textbooks were more likely to complete their course than those using commercial texts. 
  • Deeper Learning using Open Educational Practices – Studies suggest that OERs provide academic staff with the flexibility to customize the curriculum altering the student learning experience to achieve deeper engagement.  
  • Cultural diversity: OER’s can be used to reflect the diverse student voice. They can include gender neutral language, reflect the diverse names of students who make-up the classroom and include first nations representation and recognition.

Higher education has been challenged by many social justice issues in 2020, accelerated and reinforced by COVID.  The concepts above are some of the emerging issues that are being examined in higher education. Studies are now suggesting that OERs have a larger part to play in stemming the social justice disparities to create an even playing field for all students. Libraries are at the forefront of this fight demonstrated by this open letter in the United Kingdom signed by over 3000 Librarians, academics, and students to investigate the academic Ebook market and its practices. 

In the next post I will explore the ways to promote and advocate for OER use at your home institution.