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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