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How can we improve our digital literacy in the administration?

AU’s increasing digitisation will affect all parts of the university – research, education and administration. As a consequence, one of my major concerns right now is what the administration needs to do to develop its competencies and culture in response to this development. I would like to share my current thinking on this issue in this month’s blog post.

2017.10.30 | Arnold Boon

As I’ve written about in previous posts, I think that we are doing a good job on the digitisation front in the administration in many ways. To ensure that we continue to keep up with the rapid development of this area, I and the other members of the senior management team adopted an ambitious digitisation strategy last year. This development will require new systems and processes. But it will also require changes in our culture, competencies and working relationships: in other words, the administration needs to boost its digital literacy even more.

What digital literacy means in the context of AU’s administration is a question we will need to discuss regularly. Here I’d like to contribute a preliminary definition of the core elements of digital literacy.

Many people associate digital literacy with teaching children and young people to communicate appropriately on social media. But digital literacy is a much broader concept which is not limited to the youngest users of digital tools. In my view, the concept is about lifelong learning – and about continuing improving digital competencies and culture in response to technological development and the new digital possibilities which emerge. 

Digital literacy is not limited to the competencies required to use new IT systems. It’s about developing a mindset which is geared to digital solutions. And it means that we have to reflect on digital possibilities and challenges, and that we must use them to create the best possible solutions for our research and teaching environments.

Many of our users – students especially perhaps – are ‘digital natives’ born and raised in the digital age. So digital literacy is also about understanding our users and their needs. And about transforming our role from service providers to partners who add value to the processes we participate in by finding the best possible solutions for our research and teaching programmes in collaboration with our students and academic staff.

Another central dimension of our digital literacy has to be a willingness to take risks. All of us – including managers – have to dare to try out new solutions and learn from the mistakes we make along the way. As I it, this is our only chance of keeping up with the accelerating development of digitisation.

Remember digital literacy in your SDD interviews

Recently, I encouraged my colleagues in the Administration's Liaison Committee to discuss digital literacy with the employees in their units and contribute their ideas about what digital literacy means – and not least on how we can achieve it in the administration. I am really looking forward to hearing their suggestions.

In our efforts to improve our digital literacy, we also have to involve the researchers at AU who work on digital literacy and change. We also have to look to the examples of other universities, both in Denmark and abroad, and learn from their efforts to improve their digital literacy. And finally, we have to learn from the experiences of industries which have successfully exploited digitisation to improve their solutions.

Naturally, competency development will be a central element in the development of an even more digitally literate administration. We need to clearly define the competencies the individual units and employees will need in order to keep up with the development of digitisation. Autumn is the season for SDD interviews, and I would like to encourage all administrative managers and employees to put digital literacy on the agenda.

 

If you have any additional input about how we should understand digital literacy, please share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Staff

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