A Mapping of Graduate Attributes for a Digital Age at Brookes

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A Mapping of Graduate Attributes for a Digital Age at Brookes

This paper comes from the Centre for e-Learning and is directed to all programme teams working
on the Mode of Delivery Implementation. It explains how programme teams can address an
aspect of the new University e-Learning Strategy 2008-10 (see as part of the Mode of Delivery
process, hitting two policy planks with one strike, so to speak.
It is increasingly important for universities to clarify the nature of the education they offer to their
students, especially the contributions their students can make to society as a result of their
university experience. In this digital age our understanding of graduate attributes is expanding to
include a range of new abilities – digital literacies – that extend Brookes‟ current formulation of six
core transferable skills (see attached).
Brookes has a reputation for delivering high quality teaching, learning and employability and is a
leader in innovative, technology-enhanced learning environments. Currently it does not have an
explicit set of „graduate attributes‟. The new e-learning strategy seeks to initiate a process that
might lead to this, by proposing the idea of „graduate attributes for a digital age‟, or „digital
We take it as given that one benefit of a Brookes education in this digital age is that its graduates
become digitally literate, which we take to mean that they should be:
       self-regulating citizens in a globally connected society,
       able to handle multiple, diverse information sources and media,
       proficiently mediating their interactions with social and professional groups using an ever-
        changing and expanding range of technologies and
       able confidently to use digital technologies to reflect on, record and manage their lifelong
Therefore, the new Brookes e-learning strategy (adopted in principle at LTC on 04 June 2008)
proposes that schools will be supported to:
       specify the digital literacies Brookes graduates will develop;
       undertake curriculum redesign and development that map these attributes across their
We suggest that schools take the opportunity offered by the Mode of Delivery implementation to
do this. The final recommendations for the Mode of Delivery implementation recommend that
programme descriptions give “adequate consideration … to our main strategic and student
focused objectives and to what characterises a Brookes degree and a Brookes graduate”.
At present, many of the innovative, technology-enriched learning methods and experiences that
our programmes offer – and the graduate attributes they are designed to foster - are not explicitly
stated. The Mode of Delivery implementation provides an opportunity for schools to map the
digital literacies their students acquire through their experience at Brookes and to articulate them
where they currently do not do so.
At this stage we are only suggesting that programmes map their current practice of technology-
enriched learning experiences. This mapping will have two outcomes: it will make explicit to
students and staff the digital literacies their programmes currently develop and provide a baseline
for programmes subsequently to review their offerings and consider redesigns that maintain or
enhance their digital currency.

What do we mean by digital literacies?
The term „digital literacy‟ is widely used and arguably has as many different working definitions as
there are users of the term. It may be helpful to think about the term in relation to widely agreed
understandings of „Information literacy‟. In 1999 the Society of College, National and University
Libraries (SCONUL) proposed the Seven Pillars Model for Information Literacy:
2       Mapping Graduate Attributes for a Digital Age

                                                              The model comprises an
                                                              understanding of information literacy
                                                              that “encompasses library user
                                                              education, information skills training
                                                              and education, and those areas of
                                                              personal, transferable or 'key' skills
                                                              relating to the use and manipulation
                                                              of information in the context of
                                                              learning, teaching and research
                                                              issues in higher education”
                                                              (SCONUL 2008).
                                                              Proficiency with digital technologies
                                                              is an essential part of working with
                                                              information, be it to construct
                                                              database queries or advanced web
                                                              searches, set up RSS feeds for
                                                              information updates, use
                                                              bibliographic software for citations,
                                                              manage electronic documents in
                                                              multiple locations, or use specialist
                                                              software for data manipulation, to
                                                              name but a few ways.
In recognition of the impact of digital technologies, the 1999 model is being updated (see With due apologies to
SCONUL, we propose also, for the purposes of this exercise at Brookes, an expanded
interpretation of the model to include forms of knowledge building that are facilitated by modern
communication and collaboration technologies, to arrive at a model of digital literacies. Thus, we
suggest that in the digital age, as well as being proficient handlers of information, graduates need
to be adept at using tools to manage the human interactions and processes concerned with
knowledge building. The tools and technologies that we are thinking of here are things like:
maintaining membership in multiple networks of friends and colleagues using social networks;
ubiquitous web authoring with tools like blogs; managing various communications tools including
email, discussion boards, instant messaging, video conferencing, mobile phones; working with
others using collaborative tools such as wikis, group project management tools, electronic
document management, document sharing and versioning. Thinking about these tools and
processes, the SCONUL model might be expanded to look like this:

The processes of the SCONUL model apply equally well to working with other people as with
information: recognising that learning is seldom a solitary process; learning how to distinguish
those learning practices or communities that are most relevant to you and constructing best-fit
strategies for locating and engaging with them; being able to compare and evaluate the often
conflicting views and practices of different communities; organising the outcomes of knowledge
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building so that they are retrievable by others; using knowledge ethically and communicating it
using appropriate media; learning to synthesise and create new knowledge as a collaborative
process involving multiple human sources, agents and recipients.

What should our digital literacies look like?
We suggest that the framework within which to specify Brookes digital literacies is the current list
of transferrable skills. At the same time, we acknowledge that many of the digital attributes that
our learners acquire during their time at Brookes will be specific to their discipline. That is entirely
appropriate and we do not wish to be prescriptive.
We can offer some initial examples of digital literacy for guidance. The e-learning strategy
suggests several lifelong learning skills that our learners will need to develop in order to effectively
use Brookes‟ online learning environments, including:
       using digital tools to reflect on and record their learning;
       communicating effectively online (where the combination „effectiveness‟ and „being online‟
        is likely to be defined by the professional context, e.g. perhaps in some disciplines at
        some levels maintaining active membership of professional groupings using email is
        appropriate, while in other disciplines and levels one might expect collaborative document
        authoring using advanced design tools);
       engaging productively in relevant online communities;
       proficiently managing digital information, including searching for, retrieving, evaluating and
        citing information appropriate to their subject matter;
       effectively managing group interactions using multiple technologies;
       developing fluency and projecting their „own voice‟ in online authoring and publishing.
Naturally there are many more digital literacies than these that learners may develop during their
time at Brookes, and there are many ways for them to be described. We suggest that school
programme teams are best placed to decide on the wordings and the final mapping. We suggest
that it would be helpful to students and employers to articulate both the generic and the discipline-
specific digital literacies learners will develop in their programmes of study.

What happens to these mappings?
In the first instance we expect each programme to add their mapping of digital literacies to their
programme description, as part of the MoD implementation.
Subsequently, we would expect the literacies to become embedded throughout programme
specifications and module handbooks. It is especially important that the mappings are considered
and updated in annual programme reviews; they should be critically appraised for currency and
where necessary programmes redesigned at periodic review.

What support can we expect?

The Brookes Centre for e-Learning, OCSLD and Media Workshop will draw on the expertise of
existing networks of e-learning practitioners (eL@B, e-Learning Forum, Learning Technologists
Forum, etc.) to create the necessary supportive, collaborative networks for programme
development teams as they undertake their mappings. We will bring the process into the open,
providing an environment for the sharing of mappings.

Programme Design Teams (PDTs) are invited to request the participation of OCSLD/Media
Workshop/School e-learning experts and subject librarians in this process.

PDTs engaged in significant curriculum redesign are also invited to participate in Course Design
Intensive (CDI) workshops ( to support their e-
learning design and planning from conception through implementation to evaluation.

Greg Benfield & Richard Francis 3 July 2008
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Oxford Brookes List of Transferable Skills
University policy is that all fields should include the development of the following six transferable
A. Self Management.
This refers to a student's general ability to manage her own learning development. Abilities
required to do this successfully include:
       an ability to clarify personal values
       an ability to set personal objectives
       an ability to manage time and tasks
       an ability to evaluate one's own performance
B. Learning Skills.
This refers to a student's general ability to learn effectively and be aware of her own learning
strategies. Abilities required to do this successfully include:
     an ability to learn both independently and co-operatively
     an ability to use library skills, to find and organise information
     an ability to use a wide range of academic skills (research, analysis, synthesis etc.)
     an ability to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies
C. Communication.
This refers to a student's general ability to express ideas and opinions, with confidence and clarity,
to a variety of audiences for a variety of purposes. Abilities required to do this successfully
       an ability to to use appropriate language and form when writing and speaking
       an ability to present ideas to different audiences using appropriate media
       an ability to listen actively
       an ability to persuade rationally
D. Teamwork.
This refers to a student's general ability to work productively in different kinds of team (formal,
informal, project-based, committee based, etc.) Abilities requires to do this successfully include:
       an ability to take responsibility and carry out agreed tasks
       an ability to take initiative and lead others
       an ability to operate in a range of supportive roles within teams
       an ability to negotiate, asserting one's own values and respecting others
       an ability to evaluate team performance
E. Problem Solving.
This refers to a student's general ability to identify the main features of a given problem and to
develop strategies for its resolution. Abilities required to do this successfully include:
       an ability to analyse
       an ability to think laterally about a problem
       an ability to identify strategic options
       an ability to evaluate the success of different strategies
F. Information Technology
This refers to a student's general ability to use IT appropriately for their learning and employability.
Abilities required to do this successfully include:
       an ability to use IT as a communication and learning tool
       an ability to use IT to access and manage information
       an ability to use IT to present ideas
       an ability to use specialist software where relevant to the discipline