Developing the digital literacy and professional social identities of staff in Higher Education through engagement with online training

Kelly Snape @kelsnape – Sheffield Hallam University and Michelle Bond @libmichelle – Liverpool Hope University

Universities increasingly seek to develop digitally confident students that are ready for the graduate jobs marketplace. This is not the sole domain of academic staff; other staff, including careers practitioners, are increasingly invited to critique or otherwise contribute to the social identities of their students. But how can you instil digital confidence in others when your own digital self is either non-existent or still under construction?  

We will explore this question using the lens of careers practitioners; specifically a project called 7 Things Careers. The move towards social recruitment and the corresponding value it places on the development of a professional online self presents arguably the biggest challenge to careers practitioners since the shift from paper to online resources; the careers practitioner’s own digital identity now forms part of their resource toolkit. 7 Things was an online training programme designed to equip staff with the knowledge they needed to start exploring their online identity and deliver digital careers literacy within the curriculum.   

The 7 Things project drew on an existing model of learning in information work, 23 Things, which increased the digital literacy skills of information professionals. 7 Things Careers sought to replicate this on a smaller scale, concentrating on the most relevant topics to the team. Our pre-programme survey revealed a lack of confidence rather than a lack of interest in the digital sphere; the programme was designed to address this. The programme was delivered via regular, open blog posts, with participants encouraged to blog about their own learning, discuss and share their experiences with colleagues, making it an inclusive and participatory learning method. The project was a success; increasing confidence in digital skills within the team and generating wider conversations about the use of social media, which created further opportunities for the team to develop their digital identities.