Developing a Digital Fluency Framework

Questions that have been asked of the digital fluency team include:

  • What digital skills are needed to work or study at Lancaster?
  • What digital capabilities are employers looking for?
  • How do we define ‘digital fluency’?

In order to help people to think about what digital skills they might need, whether it’s for study, for work, to progress in a particular career, or within their community or social activities, we have adapted Jisc’s digital capabilities framework to come up with a Digital Fluency Framework for Lancaster:

How will this help?

We’re starting to use the framework to identify and develop digital skills courses for students. Some of these will be available online, some will be short information sessions, and many will provide credit to go towards the careers element of the Lancaster Award. We’re also in the process of developing a digital skills certificate, where students will be able to select courses from across each element of the framework, making selections based on their current interests, or developing skills applicable to their academic programme.

In the longer term we hope the framework will also help staff to think about areas where they would like to further develop their digital capabilities, and to help with the development of appropriate training opportunities.

Ideas are continually being developed so if you want to work with us, or have any comments or suggestions please do feed them back to us (contact Rachel Fligelstone in the first instance).

Digital T&L Exemplars – Student Bursaries Still Available

Fourteen £800 bursaries have already been approved for students in a number of departments and projects are well underway.

We are now extending the scheme to fund a further 15-16 pilot projects and are inviting applications from departments who would like to pilot the use of technology in their teaching activities. Projects may build on current activities or focus on the implementation of new uses of technology within teaching.

The deadline for this round is the 9th March. Proposals from departments who don’t currently have a project approved are likely to be prioritised, but good ideas from anywhere will be accepted for consideration!

Proposals can be submitted using the online form.

Details of the projects currently funded can be found on the Digital Teaching & Learning Hub website.

Further details about the scheme can be found in our earlier blog post.

Box and Office Interaction


Box now interacts with Office online. It is possible to open Office365 products (e.g. Excel, Word, PowerPoint) directly from within Box and work on documents etc. whilst staying within Box.

Any updates are saved directly back to Box without the need to worry about backups or constantly clicking the “save” button.

You just share the file when ready.


Digital Exemplars for Teaching & Learning: Student Bursary Scheme

This new scheme is aiming to create a network of Student Digital ‘Ambassadors’ from across the University who will work on specific project within their department to develop the use of digital technologies to support teaching and learning.

Each student will receive an £800 bursary and will be supported by:
• an academic from their department,
• support staff from the faculty, ISS or the library as required,
• student ambassadors from other departments.
The expected deliverables of each project include:
• A summary of each project will be posted on the scheme’s website / blog, with progress being shared by the students.
• An evaluation of the project, in the form of a case study, project blog, video etc.
• The Digital Ambassador and academic associated with each project will be expected to give a presentation about their project in a ‘sharing practice’ day (or series of days) towards the end of summer term.

We are currently inviting departments to submit proposals (using the online submission form) for pilot projects. The deadline for submission is the 18th December 2015).

More about the scheme:

• The bursary is available to any student, undergraduate or postgraduate.
• Each proposal must be supported by an academic who will oversee the work of the student and be responsible for measuring impact and reporting on project outcomes.
• If additional support is likely to be required (e.g. from ISS, the library, OED, learning support officers) this should be outlined in the initial request.
• Although this is a bursary it should fall under the same rules as paid work in terms of the hours per week that a student is allowed to work (i.e. the student should not spend more than 20 hours a week on the project – or less if they have other paid work).
• We are expecting that the total time spent on the project by the student across the project (including development time, implementation and production of the final evaluation and presentation) should be around 80 hours.
• We are expecting that the project should run in Lent term, and be evaluated and summarised during summer term. If more than one submission is received from any department the Head of Department will be asked to prioritise any submissions .
• Bursaries will be paid to the student in two instalments – £400 at the end of Lent term, and £400 after the sharing practice day, which will take place in summer term.

Possible themes for projects:

Projects may build upon current activities or focus on the implementation of new uses of digital technologies within teaching.  Examples of possible themes are given below, noting that this list is by no means exhaustive.

  • New applications of technologies for online collaboration and participation.
  • Developing resources to help students with their use of discipline-specific software tools and acting as a facilitator for students to support themselves (we would be particularly interested in applications to trial a new online peer-support application).
  • Identifying areas of the curriculum where students struggle with the use of technology, or working with students to identify skills gaps.
  • Providing a pilot for the use of online collaboration tools (WebEx, Skype for Business, Box etc.) to build effective working relationships within groups, and/or to support distance students.
  • Offering additional workshops to develop students’ digital capabilities.
  • Building on centrally provided digital resources (e.g. from the library, ISS, learning support etc.) to integrate them into the curriculum.
  • Using digital technologies to make materials & resources more accessible, for example to support students with reading disabilities.
  • Trialling a particular tool or piece of software to help an individual student with specific accessibility support needs.
  • Developing innovative digital resources to address issues that arise for new students moving into HE (such as plagiarism, referencing, understanding academic texts etc.).
  • Using digital technologies for assessment (online marking, audio feedback, video assessment submission, to facilitate peer review etc.).
  • Integrating the assessment of students digital capabilities within the curriculum.

Investing in Business Intelligence

There are many areas of the university already using Tableau to visualise data; many people have been trained to build Tableau visualisations and receive support from CIS as they develop their ideas.  The use of Tableau continues to grow organically.

The need for data visualisation cuts across many different initiatives of Digital Lancaster

Investing in Business Intelligence means investing in systems that let us:

  • Understand how things are now.  Whether that means how our finances are, how many students we have, how our research income looks, we want to know where we stand.  And data visualisation can be much easier to understand than tables of numbers.
  • Understand how data relate to each other.  Perhaps we need to combine data from LUSI and Agresso, so we can understand which PhD students in our department have and haven’t paid their fees.  Or perhaps we want to relate data in Pure to data in Agresso to understand the research income from each department.  But unless we relate data from one system to that in another, we won’t get a complete picture.
  • Understand how data is changing over time.  Sometimes what we really want to know is how where we are now, compared to where we were this time last year.  It can be hard wind back the clock to have create that view.  It can be much easier to take a snapshot of the data periodically, and then compare those snapshots over time.

Most of the visualisations being created at the moment fall into the first category.  And such visualisations are by far the easiest to create.  No snapshots are required, nor do we have to marry up data from separate systems.  There is plenty of value in such systems, and that’s the feedback we’re getting from the people creating and using them.

However, there are also needs which may only be filled if we relate data from separate systems (or silos) of data; and still other needs which can only be filled when we can take a longitudinal view of the data.

BI quadrants

As we determine which BI projects to take on, it will be critical to understand what we’re trying to achieve, and the size of the investment which will be required to meet that need.  If we limit ourselves to the easy projects in the lower left quadrant of the diagram, we can deliver lots of incremental value, but may miss out on understanding either how data relate to each other or how data is changing over time.

On the other hand, if we focus only on projects that require snapshots of integrated data, we need to be aware of the sizeable investment in time that will be required to be successful.

What will be key is to develop a balanced portfolio of projects that identifies the quick wins in the lower left quadrant and lets us reflect on the opportunity cost of the larger projects–finding a balance.

If you’re interesting in seeing how Tableau is being used right now, take a look here:

Undergraduate Admissions Reports (these views required snapshots of data from LUSI to show how undergraduate admissions progresses compared with previous years).

Current Research Projects (unfortunately, this will be blank unless you are a principle investigator)

Research Grant Income (a scatter chart comparing various universities)

Thinking about Careers (showing how mature people’s thinking is about their careers)

These visualisations just scratch the surface of what we could do with data visualisation.  As next steps we should:

  • Think about how best to catalog visualisations as they become available (to help foster and maximize the benefit of continued organic growth of data visualisation)
  • Determine what (if anything) we need with respect to a policy about who should be able to see what
  • Brainstorm, with a wide group of stakeholders:
    • What visualisations they want
    • How they’d benefit from those visualisations
    • How those visualisations might change our business processes
    • The relative size of the investments required to deliver those visualisations
  • Build a high level plan for the delivery of those visualisations (in descending priority order) and the related changes to business processes
  • Determine what resource needs there are (if any) to deliver those benefits at an acceptable rate

Digital Services – A Common Interface

The Digital Services initiative commits us to: “Work towards providing our services through a common interface whereby staff and students do not need to understand our organisational structure”

The staff intranet was built to meet a need identified by the Vice-Chancellor to have a tool for internal communications across university staff.  The resulting collaboration between Communications and Marketing and ISS has delivered the staff intranet which was launched earlier this year.

The staff intranet combines a home page which delivers on the Vice Chancellor’s desire for a twenty-first century communications tool for the university with pages that meet the need of a broad group of staff stakeholders.  We engaged with those stakeholders through multiple means: various in-person events, questionnaires, and emails inviting responses.  We showed them mock-ups and early versions and worked to respond to their feedback.

The resultant staff intranet acts as a nexus for information pertinent to staff as well as the online services that staff use on a frequent basis:

  • Room Bookings
  • Travel Requests
  • Purchase Requests
  • Expenses
  • Timetable
  • Library

There are also links to separate staff services like the new CoreHR system, MyAccount for managing IT accounts and many other services.

Perhaps most importantly, there is an integrated search facility allowing staff to simultaneously search the intranet, the university web site, staff directory, library, events and staff noticeboard.  We can adjust the search results to ensure that the most relevant and up-to-date results are presented first.

So as staff use the intranet more we can tailor it to deliver the search results, representing access to the services that are most important to them.  We are very proud of the new level of collaboration that was at the heart of this project, but this continued collaboration through the use of the intranet itself will help ensure that it remains relevant and useful to all of us.

The student portal and iLancaster are key tools for students to access university services, and we are eager now to deliver the same kind of news, events and notifications services to students that the intranet delivers to staff.

Digital Services – An Agile Approach

The Digital Services initiative commits us to: “Develop an improved service design and delivery approach based on agile processes and using multi-disciplinary teams, embracing the principle of co-production.”

As part of the Digital Services initiative, we have been developing a new Undergraduate Admission System in partnership with the Undergraduate Admissions team.  As the university begins the admissions process for undergraduates joining in October 2016, the new system will be going live–replacing paper application forms.

The Undergraduate Admissions system is an early example of what we mean by taking an agile approach using multi-disciplinary teams.  What has that actually meant in practice for the UG project?

  • A member of the Undergraduate Admissions team (dubbed the Product Owner in agile terminology) was seconded to the project for its duration, and attends daily meetings of the development team.
  • The prioritisation of work is the responsibility of the Product Owner, not the development team.
  • Although we are only removing paper application forms from the system now, lots of functionality in the system is already in use.  And ‘going live’ does not mark the end of the project.
  • We can respond to feedback and make changes when the software isn’t quite right.

The Product Owner.  Having an admissions professional working so closely with us on a daily basis helps us understand and stay current with the needs of the team; it also helps the Product Owner understand the pressures on the development team and how easy–or hard–certain tasks are to complete.  We are never more than one day away from a constructive conversation about the issues that we all faced, and we feel like we’re facing problems together.

Prioritization. Asking the Product Owner to prioritise work means that we can be sure that the Admissions team gets the things they need in the order in which they need them.  This ‘just in time’ approach ensures that we never write software that might not get used–because we’re always focusing on the most important task that is not yet complete.

Incremental Launch. Instead of waiting until everything was ready before any part of the system ‘went live’, we offered as much of the system as we could to the Admissions team for use during the current admissions cycle.  Even though changing systems in the middle of an admissions cycle is difficult, there was enough value in the partially completed new system that it was worth using in the latter part of the current cycle.  That helped build confidence in all of us that the new system was headed in the right direction.

Responding to Feedback. Because we aren’t stopping development immediately after we go live, the Product Owner can decide how best to prioritise further development.  It may be that making a change to the live system is more important than developing a particular piece of new functionality–and they can reflect that in their prioritisation.  The Admissions team need not feel like their on their own when the system goes live.

There are plenty of lessons for us to learn which will help us make co-production teams even more effective in the future, but we’ve already learnt that working in close partnership with our ‘co-producers’ helps ensure we deliver appropriate and effective systems and services.

We’re all eager to see how the new system works in the coming admissions cycle.

Welcome from the Director of ISS

Welcome to the Digital Lancaster blog. Digital Lancaster is the University’s Digital Strategy and there is a short introduction video here:

You can also download Digital Lancaster on a page or the full Digital Lancaster document.

Further information in Digital Lancaster related initiatives will be posted on this blog.

If you want to feedback or ask questions about Digital Lancaster, please email

Dr Paul Harness
Director of Information Systems Services