Digital Skills – The Swiss Army Knife Approach to Student Employability
Author: Phil McMillan
In the ever-changing climate of the working world, being adaptable is key. It’s now incredibly rare to stay in one workplace for your whole career due to a company’s financial instability, more job opportunities than ever before and also the desire to better ones self. Being multi-skilled is as essential as ever has been – and “While employability is an obvious driver, developing learners who can learn and thrive in a digital society is a key role for universities and colleges.”JISC (2015)
Online courses and distance learning workshops continue to be on the rise as people look to tool up on their digital skills and have accredited certificates to add to their LinkedIn profiles. At UCLan, we give staff and students free access to Lynda.com; a huge set of online training courses taught by industry experts to help students gain new skills and supplement existing ones. Lynda.com allows students to learn in their own time at their own pace, and is also utilised within our sessions and workshops to reinforce and assist classroom teaching and themes. Students can work through online courses on popular software by industry leaders such as Adobe, Microsoft and Autodesk. They can also find ‘life skills’ courses, for example; presentation skills, dealing with stress and time management. Lynda.com is an invaluable tool for learning at UCLan.
Within our Technology Enabled Learning & Teaching (TELT) team, we have recognised the need for students to be adaptable so we created our, ‘Digital Skills’ student programme. It comprises a number of workshops designed to build confidence in using software, refresh skills or learn something completely new, utilising Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and new additional software such as OneNote, Sway and OneDrive. We have also developed Adobe workshops designed to improve the skillset of students using Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Premiere Pro. All these sessions are free to attend for any UCLan student. This means that we get a lot of students, who wouldn’t commonly use certain software, learning a new skill in class and then using the online training videos from Lynda.com to build on their skills. Teaching this approach means that we are creating better problem solvers as students have found easier and quicker ways to tackle tasks using different software that they would not have used normally in their subject areas. It makes them more prepared for the adaptable and changing working world they face after university.
Additional sessions are added at key times of year. Recently we worked alongside UCLan Faculty Librarians and WISER academic support The three week, ‘Dissertation Toolkit’ event gave students the opportunity seek guidance and support through drop in sessions and workshops for three aspects of their dissertation: structure and academic writing, literature searching and formatting their document. Whilst these support services are available all year, the toolkit enabled students to get all the support they needed in one place, at the point they were (hopefully!) tackling their dissertation.
The Digital Skills team also offer Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) exams to students (and staff). They are invaluable to students, beneficial to their studies and an important qualification to add to their digital CVs. In September 2018, we will be adding Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) exams to the Media and Design subject areas, as there is a need for students to fully understand industry standard software by companies in the creative industries and demonstrate that to prospective employers.
Since we started Digital Skills in September 2017, session and workshop feedback has been extremely positive, commenting on the level of support in and out of class, the ability to breakdown software into easy-to-follow pieces and the confidence given in using new digital skills. Marketing of our courses has improved with VLE adverts, posters and leaflets around campus, as well as word of mouth. Course sign ups have improved on a month-by-month basis, as more and more staff and students become aware of our service. Students can book individual places on sessions, or Digital Skills courses can be embedded into timetabled modules. For more information, check our Digital Skills page.