UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capabilities 2019

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Phil McMillan – TELT

4 June 2019   –   5 June 2019 

York, UK

The historic city of York housed this year’s annual UCISA Spotlight conference on Digital Capabilities in education, focusing on how we support, develop and prepare staff & learners for future technologies and employment.  Presenters and delegates from the UK and Europe attended this two-day event, in which UCLan Senior Learning Technologist, Chris Melia and I had the privilege of speaking about some of the programmes and training we have implemented within our dynamic TELT team at UCLan.  

After we were initially greeted by the local thug gang of geese next to the location venue, UCISA 2019 started with a welcome introduction from the enigmatic event chair Annette Webb, (@NodWebb) who was full of energy and vigor. This was greatly appreciated after a 5.30am alarm call. 

Following that, we began the day with the Guest Speaker, Darrell Woodman’s workshop; “The Art of Being Brilliant” which continued the buoyant vibes. This was an engaging, upbeat and enthused session… a 10-strength coffee injection shot to the arm, positive in content, delivery and activity. Darrell did what he set out to do, make attendees more spirited and consider the many great things we have. It also served as the ideal way to enthuse us to attack the day aheadready to ingest the oncoming sessions. 

The parallel sessions followed this, I attended Dale Munday’s, “Using Microsoft Teams to support inclusion, create an inclusive curriculum and develop pedagogic approaches to TLA”This was a superb example of utilising multiple power apps in harmonious unity to support teaching, learning and assessment. The communication and project management app Microsoft Teams was the main backdrop to this, with a supporting cast of; OneNote Class Notebook for capturing student’s assignment work, Flipgrid for icebreaking activities, Open Agora polling software to check learning is taking place and Microsoft Stream for screen capturing. Dale clearly knows his subject well and is a passionate member of this community which will help inform its future.  

The mornings sessions concluded with Laura Hollinshead and Claire Gardeners workshop “Access Ability – Helping to drive awareness, understanding and skills development in accessibility and inclusive practice”. This was an insightful and important session to attendallowing me to reflect on current practices, what could be improved and how to maintain that level across our university. 

After a hearty lunch of Scandinavian style open sandwiches, olive oil, tomato and basil pasta and a generous array of sweet sponges, Joy Monkhouse spoke of her experiences implementing creative industry accreditation into her courses at Coventry University through the exam provider of Prodigy Learning. Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) are additional paid exams that demonstrate proficiency in Adobe software. Joy spoke with informed purpose on the subject and how it had greatly benefited engagement and employability in her students. Joy also shared a success story of how one of her students at Coventry had done so well at the exams that they were invited to the annual Prodigy Championship where they won the grand prize… an excellent way to end the presentation. 

Then came our session, “Taking an authentic approach to developing digitally literate, work-ready graduates in which my colleague Chris spoke on the DigiLearn programme, created to promote academic staffs digital capabilities, build a community to showcase digital practice and support less confidence teachers. The idea is that by identifying your approach then recognising its impact, you can share and support others whilst enhancing practice to impact your sector. Chris used primary research, case studies and student figures to demonstrate the advantageof the programmes to facultiesacademic teams and students.

For my part of the presentation, I spoke on how we have approached upskilling students through our UCLan Digital Skills programme, to support better confidence and employability skills going forward. Software knowledge is key for an unstable job market which our graduates are going into, after all, “85% of jobs in 2030 have not been invented yet,” (Microsoft, 2017) and 21% of the UK population lack full basic digital skills (UK Consumer Digital Index, 2018).  UCLan Digital Skills offers fourteen software workshops with a mixture of getting started beginner sessions and next level intermediate classes which are aimed to give more assurance and create better problem solving skills when using the software. We also offer one to one support and email support through the academic year and summer.   

Since 2017 we have gone from 155 bookings to 1304 in 2018, (Currently 314 for 2019; September to December is our peak time). This is due to more marketing, meeting with academics, teaching large student groups and better word of mouth amongst the learners. It is no surprise given its requirement in all subjects, that Microsoft Word leads the most popular courses that students book onto, with foundation and first year’s students booking onto our ‘Formatting your UCLan assignments’ workshop and second and third years being more aware of the Digital Skills service, using our dissertation sessions for support. Poster workshops are also popular courses as a lot of modules require students to present information in this form. PowerPoint is a great tool for poster creation and is easy to use given that students have experienced the software before. Adobe InDesign CC is the industry standard for digital and print creation so offers a step up in quality for arts-based students or those wanting to up skill themselves. 

Most Popular Courses​ 

  1. Microsoft Word – Dissertation Workshop​ 
  2. Microsoft Word – Formatting your UCLan Assignments​ 
  3. Microsoft PowerPoint – Creating Academic Posters​ 
  4. Adobe InDesign CC – Getting Started​ 
  5. Adobe Illustrator CC – Getting Started 

Students and staff can see the benefits of the Digital Skills programme with 4.65 out of 5 saying that the training will help with their studies, and 4.62 out of 5 feel confident to use the skills they’ve learnt. This data is made all the better given that most students book onto multiple courses (around three per person) often booking onto sessions that they don’t need for their modules but wanted to learn new skills.  

I thoroughly enjoyed presenting at this event and the fantastic people I met on the day who were engaging, thought provoking and I found their expertise invaluable for myself and Digital Skills going forward. Roll on UCISA 2020! 


Attended Sessions 

Darrell Woodman @darrellwoodman 

The Art of Being Brilliant 


Dale Munday @Dale_Munday  

Digital Learning Facilitator at Lancaster University  

Using Microsoft Teams to support inclusion, create an inclusive curriculum and develop pedagogic approaches to TLA 


Laura Hollinshead @ljhollinshead 

Learning Technologist at University of Derby  

Claire Gardener @Cl4ireG 

Senior Learning Technologist at University of Derby 

Access Ability – Helping to drive awareness, understanding and skills development in accessibility and inclusive practice 


Joy Monkhouse  

Senior Lecturer, School of Art & Design, at Coventry University 

Prodigy Learning – Testing digital currency across creative practice 


Lillian Soon @xlearn 

Educational Advisor at University of York 

Developing the future teacher – What’s worked 


Loretta Cook @cooky_88 

Digital Skills Developer at Plymouth University 

Emma Purnell @EmmaPurnell 

Senior Learning Technologist at Plymouth University 

Raising the bar: Developing digital capabilities for staff and students 




Lloyds Bank – UK Consumer Digital Index (2018) Lloyds Bank UK Consumer Digital Index 2019 (online) Available at: https://www.lloydsbank.com/banking-with-us/whats-happening/consumer-digital-index.asp Accessed June 2019 

Microsoft News (2017)Generation at risk of falling behind in tech skills unless computing education funding improves, report finds (online) Available at: https://news.microsoft.com/en-gb/2017/11/10/generation-at-risk-of-falling-behind-in-tech-skills-unless-computing-education-funding-improves-report-finds/Accessed June 2019 


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