Lessons in developing digital capability courses for students

Gunter Saunders explains how to design courses that engage and incentivise students to gain the digital skills they need to flourish in the online learning environment and beyond

Gunter Saunders's avatar
University of Westminster
9 March 2021
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Key Details

This video will cover: 

00:33 Making digital skills courses accessible for all students 

00:59 Incentivising students to engage with digital skills courses 

01:23 Making the courses relevant to wider learning and employability 

01:49 Connecting to wider national initiatives

02:21 Input from corporate providers

02:50 Involving students



Digital capability development courses at the University of Westminster for students.   

At Westminster, we have developed a wide range of digital capability development courses for our students, covering aspects from understanding how to make use of the personal computing devices that they have through to knowing how to stay safe online.  

In this short video, the elements of best practice that we believe have made these courses both accessible and effective for students will be highlighted.  

First of all, online for accessibility and anytime, anywhere learning.   

Students, like academic staff, are busy and will find it hard to fit extracurricular options around an already packed timetable which may be impacted by other significant commitments such as childcare and part-time employment.  

Making whatever courses you provide bite-sized and online can certainly help mitigate some of these issues.  

Second, reward and recognition. 

Reward can help attract and engage students. Each bite-sized course at Westminster has a short quiz which, if passed, triggers the award of a Westminster digital badge. The digital badge can be shared, together with the metadata explaining why the badge was awarded, to a student’s Linkedin profile or other online CV.

Third, connecting to other local initiatives.  

Feedback from students also indicates that ensuring connection of the digital capability development programme to wider institutional initiatives has served to engage them.  

Accordingly, award of the Westminster digital skills badges, when sufficient have been collected by a student, contributes to an overarching employability skills award.  

Fourth, connecting to wider national initiatives.   

Another important aspect in the success of the programme has been the connection of the courses to an established national framework. In this case, the Jisc digital capability framework.   

Being able to promote an extracurricular programme that effectively has national sector kite-marking has helped to further generate interest across our student population in these courses.  

Fifth, input from major corporate service providers.  

Linked to the impact that aligning with a sector national framework can have is making further connections with major corporate players.   

This serves to further emphasise to students the significance of the national framework to employability, which is in turn deeply embedded in our courses.   

In this respect, the alignment of Microsoft’s resources to support digital skills development with the Jisc national framework is an excellent example of best practice.  

And finally, sixth, involving students.  

A vital component of the approach taken in providing students with a programme of digital capability courses has been the involvement with the students themselves.  

All of the online courses have been curated by students working alongside learning technologists. This has helped us to build manageable, encouraging and engaging online learning experiences, with the objective of broadening all students’ appreciation of digital capability and the significance of digital skills to living and working. 


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