Some thoughts on digital literacy in a customer service context (LCC Learning Zone):

Whilst the majority of LCC students have at least some basic knowledge of, and familiarity with IT systems and networked resources on enrolling, there are number of the cohort (especially on access courses) who appear to have very little experience of using computers. Sometimes we’ve found that new users may not have had previous experience of attaching files to emails, using word processing software, or saving documents. Continue reading

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Six UAL colleges and six differing approaches to digital literacies

In terms of DIAL college wide engagement CSM (POI project – BA Performance Design and Practice) and LCF (video presentation skills – MA Fashion Entrepreneurship) have had a majority of local engagement and these were through course engagement involving course staff as apposed to college engagement or support, DIAL did not have the capacity to address college or university wide engagement.

In the beginning most of the DIAL projects came directly from central services or departmental interests or channels, Library services, academic and technical away days, student enterprise and employability service (SEE) and CLTAD and as the project progressed we had more course and individual interest.

DIAL received little interest from college leaders or even college digital leaders (except CSM who has the only Digital Director job at in the university); senior managers and deans were made aware of the project in year one through meetings and dissemination.

As with most digital innovation at UAL, the staff and students are mostly the ‘unsupported and unrecognised’ drivers of the digital and the ‘perceived’ lack of governance, engagement, awareness and support by some senior managers at UAL for DLs has potentially damaging implications for the long-term development of DLs at UAL.

Why is this? It could be down to a number of factors, one is that the conceptual or complex understanding of digital literacies with is still too chaotic and random a concept to perceive and therefore to deal with at a senior level, its not easy or even beneficial to simplify DLs so there more easily understood and communicated, it takes a lot of work, expertise and practice to really get a grips with what DLs are and how they are being addressed an institutional level. However it can be better understood and communicated at the local level when applied to a subject, course or activity as we can see in the DIAL CoPs and this is why DIAL works. Secondly, many UAL colleges don’t have individuals who are seen as ‘digital champions’ or are employed with key digital literacies responsibilities, but there are signs of change. Of course local college digital initiatives existed prior to the DIAL project or some were in the process of development, the below are some examples of how these have surfaced over time and integrated/or not with the DIAL work, some are engaging with DLs some beginning to and others are not.


In 2012 we saw a really great example of ‘college sponsored’ good DL practice from UALs CSM college, their digital ‘present’ – blog gave us an insight into college approaches to DLs.

In terms of the blog, the idea is very simple – to illustrate ways in which colleagues are exploring digital technologies, as well as providing useful information about tools that are available and so forth. It is a publishing site, rather than a place for two-way communciation – if conversations are desired then the DIAL blog is the place to connect!”  Jo Morrison at CSM post comment.

How could we set up and manage these kind of initiatives in all the other Colleges?

Well it is happening in different ways in other colleges, but at many varying levels. For CSM digital literacy activities are a college priority (Jo’s role ‘Digital Projects Director’ is unique to CSM this role does not exist in other UAL colleges). The CSM digital present blog and a number of other activities, including DL case studies and learning studios, not exclusive to CSM although most actively practiced there (The LS started at LCC, see the first here) are the work of CSMs Jo Morrison, Digital Projects Director. 

‘As part of her role she explores ways in which digital technologies might enhance, and potentially transform, the experience of learning and teaching within an arts and design setting. ‘

Jo has supported DIAL with links and info about DIAL on the blog and has invited DIAL to CSM events etc. The projects DIAL ran at CSM had little to do with Jo’s activities other than being of some interest for her and were promoted through Jo’s blog. Jo was invited to be on the DIAL project board (late 2012) and DIAL focus group events where Jo has made a valuable contribution. We encountered some integration issues at CSM (e.g. difficulty booking busy digital computer studios as were outsiders), which are documented in the POI case studies.


DIAL have established different relationships with different colleges all at varying degrees of integration; it takes time to embed and develop projects like DIAL, we’ve found the longer DIAL continues, the more meaningful engagement we establish. DIAL events at LCF have been very successful, booking spaces in open access areas has been easy and the staff very accommodating and projects with courses also very successful. LCF has its own learning technologist department no other college has this kind of facility and support, LCF also has plenty of fantastic digital innovators like Mark WellsOliver Furlong and Gabriela Daniels who have been involved in DIAL for some time, there are many more we have met and hope to work with in the future. The Video presentation skills were also carried out successfully at LCF.

LCF also have Gavin Jenkins Head Of Technical Support, who is pro-actively addressing digital literacies following a college decision to support and fund digital support and exploration, similar to CSM but with a different approach. With this funding Gavin has established a fantastic team of college digital champions, Gavin and I have met previously and have discussed digital competence framework initiatives at LCF and I was recently invited to hold a Defining of ‘Digital literacies at UAL’ focus group meeting with his team of digital champions, this was extremely positive and productive meeting and we have many exiting opportunities and ideas about how to work together on developing our combined interests (read meeting notes). An open discussion took place and it was agreed that the group and DIAL should openly exchange ideas.

LCF and CSM are interested in a university wide debate/knowledge exchange on Defining of Digital literacies. LCF are in the process of starting some DL mapping frameworks, We are looking to collaborate on this with LCF and other colleges and to also look at the work being produced across the JISC DL programme to see if there are any DL frameworks we could adapt, some projects have focused their whole projects on creating frameworks, this was not DIAL’s approach .


UALs other four UAL colleges LCC, WCA, CCA and CCAD have no Digital Projects Director, or learning technologist or digital champions to support their colleges

Many, however do have digital innovators/drivers which DIAL have worked with. Including Paul Lowe at LCC indicator of the learning studio, David Sims at LCC and Grzesiek Sedek (lead developer) Michele Durante (UAL student developer) part of the drupal UAL project team. CCAD have the Chelsea College IT and Digital Focus Group, but this has had no involvement in the work of DIAL or seen any mutual DL benefits, although there has been some interesting digital research events.


The technical manager at LCC Jackson Jessop has also achieved great things with integrating digital technology innovation at LCC.  Having no digital representative at these colleges became an issue for DIAL on a few occasions, finding college support for projects like drupal UAL we found was difficult and like at LCF, Jackson managed to accommodate us in his newly built ‘digital space’ without a problem, supplying a sectioned off space, computers to use and even printed posters (the digital space (this is different from the learning zones) are hard to book/find at UAL, especially if your an ‘outsider’ project). Organisational Development and Learning are working in partnership with DIAL toaddress on site DL training.

DIAL and SEE met with and looked at possible collaborations with them and UAL students and alumni with an aim of delivering web code training and industry connections. The digital space at LCC yet again managed to accommodate this style of event collaboration without a problem (Wish we had a digital space in every college!). Other colleges could not accommodate events and digital workshops like this, non-course or college digital events, alumni friendly e.g. open visitor access to logins etc. digital demo spaces and the college contacts like to help coordinate such events. (Read about the event here)

The main issue in holding similar events like this in the future are how Freeformers aligns with the UAL and who are your UAL partners in this process, who’s got the time/interest to support them to carry out these events? We need to try and replicate the support in other colleges that we had at LCC and this can be tricky as they all operate in many different ways. We should also look at the wider picture here at UAL, as I know there are courses at UAL who do similar training to this as part of their course, it would be good to get UAL courses to be made aware and contribute/align to the process in some way.


The digital provision at Chelsea is generally very poor and under resourced, as for the rest of CCW, WCA is reasonable resourced, we run the Drupal UAL basecamp from this college, it has a good friendly open access media studio. I hear there are changes afoot, mainly at WCA with a new digital space planned there for next year? My personal experience at Chelsea College of Art as Digital Coordinator is there is lots of work needed there to bring its digital facilities up-to-date. I’ve also noticed students comparing colleges a few times, once I overheard one frustrated student whilst she was sitting in front of her slow computer in a stuffy cramped IT room, saying, “CSM get everything and we at Chelsea get this!! Its just not fair” I agree there are huge discrepancies across the college, CSM, LCF and LCC are digital worlds apart in every way.

Tensions between digital learning and teaching spaces and environments and digital services: Since the introduction of higher student fees and with the rapid growth of technology use we’ve seen growing tensions between how colleges accommodate digital learning and teaching delivery and digital services. For example in digital print at CCAD, demand has grow for use of the college digital print studios, which has traditionally supported learning and teaching whilst also operating as a print services (print shop). As demand for digital learning and teaching and digital services continues acroos all aspects of digital provision, we may see the UAL requiring a need for more expansion and may either need to consider outsourcing digital services or creating new business models.

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QAA institutional review – the results

The report also highlights the University’s web-based materials for staff, students and other stakeholders as a feature of good practice, commenting that they are clear, effective and accessible.

“Acknowledging that the challenges previously encountered were at least as much human as technical, it is taking steps to ensure that staff and students are prepared for the change..”

The Quality Assurance Agency has judged that UAL’s quality and standards meet UK expectations, following its review of the University in January this year.

The final report has now been published by the QAA on its website.

Good practice

The QAA review team identified the following feature of good practice at the University of the Arts London.  The University’s web – based materials for staff, students and other stakeholders are clear, effective and accessible (paragraph 3.1) . “The clarity, effectiveness and accessibility of the University’s web – based materials for staff, students and other stakeholders together constitute a feature of good practice .”

2.2.1 – The University is replacing its virtual learning environment in the expectation that its new platform will achieve more widespread and sophisticated usage through its appropriateness to the teaching portfolio. Acknowledging that the challenges previously encountered were at least as much human as technical, it is taking steps to ensure that staff and students are prepared for the change , and has already made online information available. Its expectation that usage will both increase and improve, though plausible, has yet to be tested.

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Website Redevelopment Project update

The Mesh blog has been updated with some developments around the Website Redevelopment Project, including key dates and information about what the digital team has been up to in regards to building the new UAL website.

To keep yourself up-to-date with the developments please take a look at the Website Redevelopment Project Mesh blog

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Delivery of technical resource information online

One pressing issue that keeps coming up in various meetings is the delivery of technical resource information at course and college level and how this integrates with the new VLE development.

There are various initiatives that have been having to work around the current VLE Blackboard short comings and it would be helpful and timely to start a conversation between the UAL technical teams and CLTAD VLE development team in order to best discuss how to embed and accommodate technical information delivery for students and staff in the new VLE.

Some examples for reference below:

Questions we should be addressing:

  • Alot of the information on these sites are basic course delivery, key information sets e.g where, who, what and how, should these not be the basic requirements for the new VLE?
  • How do we learn from these local developments to inform others and the VLE development, how do they fit together?
  • How do the above sites fit into the new VLE (these bespoke info sites are providing ‘basic’ key course delivery information, shouldn’t the new VLE Moodle be able to deliver platforms and tools for key information as easily as demonstrated in the examples above?)
  • How do other colleges do this and develop their own (some colleges have resources and staff to develop and manage these resources others don’t, there’s a big divide forming across UAL)
  • How sustainable are these resources, who maintains, updates and develops the content, how are the hosted etc?

DIAL would like to address these issues and invite an open cross college conversation on, so please feel free to contribute on the official UAL baseline blog.

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Tools and Equipment to support digital practice – IT issues

The university has undergone an incredible amount of change over the past two years in terms of digital tools and environment, including the new website/portals and the new VLE. Many new VLE tools have been introduced, the change from Blackboard to Moodle having the largest impact. Early surveys and feedback from students indicated a desire to have all their core course related material delivered through one VLE portal that worked, DIAL had no projects which engaged with the VLE developments as the UAL have done extensive work before and during the transition. Although DIAL have been involved in related activities as consultants see Delivery of technical resource information online and Digital literacy CPD and a practical pathway into OEP. Because of past and current inadequacies with UALs digital provision staff have avoid using UALs in-house IT systems opting for DIY environments, the previous VLE (Blackboard) was so unpopular, staff started to create their own bespoke VLE spaces outside the UAL IT domain.

Awareness and support

Early in the project, DIAL supported and presented at staff training events which helped staff explore digital processes and tools see: Learning Studio Event at LCF (7/2/12). The DIAL project supported the development and created the online The Learning Studio (LS) group to help cluster and share all the LS activity and resources happening across the six colleges. The LS is intended as a space where staff can learn together, growing into a collaborative learning community, based on their own professional practice. DIAL are also interested in how the LS team share ideas and approaches about how colleges could go about organising their own LS events and try and identify some staff from each college to try and encourage college ownership of the LS events, especially in CCW.


Which UAL Online Services do you use? This was one of the questions we asked in the DIAL Online Survey ( Summary of survey results here.

The two main UAL digital tools DIAL used were part of the new UAL VLE portfolio, these were the universities Wordpress blogging service, an embedded simple blogging platform for the project reporting and week to week management and communication.

And our second primary tool was an online ‘open practice’ community site , an open source Drupal content management system. Lots of the DIAL project approaches have addressed online and open learning in one way or another; all projects have posted open educational resources OERs, many for the first time. The online reflective practice project was the first group to use the site for their project, see the 60 plus videos uploaded mostly by students/staff for the CLTAD Teaching Development Projects.

The DIAL Baseline report reveled (and was a common feedback throughout the project) “Students and graduates would like a space to communicate together a social space similar to Facebook but not like LinkedIn, somewhere in-between. Graduates have a lot of information and sound advice they could easily and willingly communicate to current students given the right forum/platform….. Students would like more information and guidance in developing their own personal unique web environments, they like to use institutional and social tools but they would also like to be able to develop their own websites personal websites, they would like this integrated into the study as preparation for professional practice.” Feedback notes from Enterprise week workshop –

What is the right platform, many tools are being used, university tools and commercial tools, the university has a long way to go to keep up to date with the pace of technologic developments

Staff Digital Equipment BYOD

Many of the DIAL projects to date have identified a clear need for having the right equipment for the job? DIAL have been helping to identify these new tools and processes but DIAL cannot provide all this equipment to everyone, this has be a problem that is solved by UAL, locally and sustainably, can UAL support this?

“If I want to engage students with online environments it is embarrassing not to have the necessary equipment” (This is a typical example of staff response to the problem of staff using, creating or engaging with online environments and rich media content)

From a DIAL perspective we’re interested in the general problem of staff not having the correct tools for the job in order to use digital in practice. Having access to a PC in a separate office or bring in your own device for essential work related practice is not suitable arrangement for staff who are working in studios with students and who need to interface and interact with software applications and online as part of their practice. We’d like to explore theses challenges so we build a picture of where we are and where were going by talking with courses, colleges and looking at the progress of UALs Desktop Strategy 2011/12 – 2015/16 and how this impacts.

Everywhere you look students seem to be engaging with mobile devices and laptops, well for all those students luckily enough to own one that is, This is a great blog which reinforces this point) and this Information Graphic shows how: Assessing Digital Literacy Levels of Pre-Degree Students can draw out this information as well.  There we’re very few members of staff involved in DIAL projects with university laptops/mobile devices and those that did have were either engaged in digital projects or senior staff so can have this equipment bought for them without question. Many staff have little option, other than to use their own personal equipment, laptops for work, If a member of staff really required a laptop for studio/workshop leaning and teaching then UAL should supply this equipment. Read more.

DIAL has examples of supporting staff who DIAL wanted to work with but couldn’t because of the lack of equipment, DIAL helped these staff prepare and present a use case argument/case study to their colleges to request they buy the equipment they need, as opposed to buying the equipment for them, which would be an unsustainable solution to the problem. See this post by the tutor who worked on the POI project (who got a new laptop from the course) and this project Using iPads in Technical Workshops, who got 6 iPads from the college.

Course website and outward facing course identity

UAL hosting and server Issues and constraints: The DIAL team have first hand experience of UAL constraints having developed course and college web projects in-house before and had a trusted relationship and experience of working with all relevant key UAL staff. It’s widely acknowledged across UAL that the primary constraint for web innovation at UAL is lack of IT server access and support.

Why an institutional server? An in-house server provides a safe and stable ‘affiliated institutional space’, which supports early stakeholder confidence and longer-term participation and contribution. Previous in-house projects working with institutionally supported IT services have encountered problems setting up internally funded server spaces, the primary problem is the amount of time it takes to agree server provision. Most staff buy server space outside the university and using commercial platforms, these are unsustainable and hard to maintain in the long term and an unnecessary financial and technical burden for courses to adopt.

Please see the No Name project at CSM as a good example of need for an outward facing course identity:

“The Centre for Performance needs an outward facing web site.  It is intended to be a ‘must have’ bookmark on all students’ computers and they would frequently look in and some would be able to contribute to the site.  Where there are resources available to watch or download, links to other sites, a blog spot, examples of current research by external practitioners and students, an App and Tech spot, a place to exchange skills. It will need to host a Wiki type area for the Lexicon that is currently being developed and other pages for resources and current practice and debate”. Read more.

IT problems:

Those lucky enough to have in-house server space have to then navigated further constraints and problem with time it takes for sites to go live or having the correct set-ups or having a reliable network support e.g. IT support, server access, security, slowness and firewalls etc.

We have heard many people say it can take 15 to 20 minutes or more to login to the UAL clone computers; this can take 20 minutes out of a workshop event or class or in some cases cancels classes. When logged in the computers can be DEADLY slow! Some software does not work with the UAL clone or remote updates can even interrupt study:

“So frustrating! I was working on my edit when this interruption happened..I have to get my work done, as I have a deadline next week, on the MA Fine art course. Its really held me up and i’m not sure if i will get it done now.I just do not understand why they don’t do these updates at the weekend, or in the evening or over christmas?! Our course on the MA is only a 1 year course so I am really mindful of the fact that time is very crucial. I’d really like IT to respond to this promptly, we really cant have this happening next term when we start to have really major deadlines. Its not good enough”. Baseline comment Ellen Angus MA Fine Art

We also have seen more IT/network savvy staff and students at UAL willing to come forward and challenge the UAL IT jargon and set ups:

“Perhaps this is the reason why there are network problems such as delays of login in and slow internet access? Could it be due to using illegal DNS names (causing timeouts while trying to lookup ip addresses or reverse DNS names) and routing that is sent round in circles rather then directly to external router. This is a traceroute from the machines in the university (in particular Wimbledon), it seems quite odd?” Student baseline comment

DIAL fed these comments and more back to Graham Eastwood IT Strategy Consultant, and consultation process, DIAL requested the basics be addressed before anything else. E.g. academic and technical Requirements for the next 18 months including

–       Some discussion or review on current staff and student desk top environments which address the basic issues of, current inadequacies with:

  • Slow login and operating corporate clone system
  • Corporate clone improvements needed (bug fixes and how the clone or IT intervention can reduce/damage the PC or device performance)
  • Too many restrictions and over security
  • More administration rights for staff (ownership of systems)
  • Computers need to be fit for service for art and design purpose (including staff desktops e.g. all having web cams, faster processers, mobile tech etc.)

–       Server issues, make easier to access and request server space

–       Sandbox environments for individuals and groups.

–       Better service and support for projects, and departments providing online services.

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Connect with UAL on social media

Connect with UAL on social media

Connect with UAL online

Find ual on Facebook

Follow ual on Twitter

Check ual out on Flickr

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Rich media and mobile tools for studio-workshop Learning and Teaching

Many of the DIAL projects to date have identified a clear need for having the right equipment for the job? DIAL have been helping to identify these new tools and processes but DIAL cannot provide all this equipment to everyone, this has be a problem that is solved by UAL, locally and sustainably, can UAL support this ?

“If I want to engage students with online environments it is embarrassing not to have the necessary equipment” (This is a typical example of staff response to the problem of staff using, creating or engaging with online environments and rich media content)

Everywhere I look students seem to be engaging with mobile devices and laptops (This is a great blog which reinforces this point), well those students luckily enough to own one. I see very few members of staff with laptops and those that do have useful mobile tech are either engaged in digital projects or senior staff so can easily have this equipment bought for them. Many staff have to use their own personal equipment, laptops for work, why? This is not right, if a member of staff needs a laptop for studio/workshop leaning and teaching in order to deliver a more progressive experience for the students then UAL should supply this equipment.

DIAL would like to explore the relevance and use of UAL digital equipment available for staff, specifically the windows PC desktops, are these isolated office PCs capable or useful for studio/workshop based digital progressive practice. Most staff have access to an office PC but are they useful in terms of supporting or encouraging experimentation in the ‘complicated’ processes of creating and editing rich media files. And can staff easily engage with rich media websites like process.arts (uploading and viewing video etc.) and all other progressive rich media platforms for learning and teaching practice.

Staff may not be concerned with this issue at the moment but as DIAL and UAL continue to identify a growing need for this how are we going to address or prepare the ground for improvement?

I do most of my work using my more than capable Mac laptop (I can edit rich media, view all websites, download plugins where necessary, add applications etc.), the office PC rich media experience is one I avoid, hopefully with the new desktop strategy this will improve the experience (but for everyone and everything no, many don’t know what they need yet? See this example), there is an endless field of issues that DIAL will try and address in terms of rich media use in L & T, but its a long untraveled road and that’s our (UALs) challange.

Through DIAL I would like to explore the benefits, challenges, limitations staff and students encounter using these new tools that we are offering.

What are the staff experiences of using office PCs for rich media practice, is there an issue of  use of mobile equipment in studios and are staff using their own devices?

The office PC may be unsuitable on a few levels for many teaching staff therefore DIAL would like to address this problem with those staff on the ground and in in the studios. Interested? – Call for expressions of interest for DIAL small projects, support & case studies

Also see this post from CSM –

Posted in Baselining, Digital vision & future, Expertise/attitudes, Infrastructure, Needs/views/expectations, Practice, Software, Support | 1 Comment

Baseline links

Camberwell CCA baseline | Chelsea CCAD baseline | Central Saint Martins CSM baseline | London College of Communication LCC baseline | London College of Fashion LCF baseline | UAL UAL baselineWCA baseline

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This will be a lively and informal workshop where all participants bring something to share. Please come prepared to talk on the theme of ‘My Digital Life’ for 5 minutes in a small group. You can talk about any aspect of your digital life. Whether you want to share a tool or technology you’re excited about, demonstrate a project, raise a social/political/philosophical issue, ask a question, or discuss other ways digital technology impacts on your life, we want to hear from you!

5:15 – 7:00pm
Wednesday 28th November 2012
Lecture Theatre
Camberwell College of Arts
Wilson Road
London SE5 8LU

We won’t be providing AV equipment, but you are very welcome to bring a laptop or mobile device to demonstrate an application or show images or other media. Just remember – you only have 5 minutes!

The My Digital Life project was launched at the 2012 Designs on e-Learning conference, where 5 outstanding UAL students presented on the theme. To see recordings of their presentations, visit the conference website

Please RSVP to you would like to take part.

@ccwgradschool #MyDigitalLife

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