The Digital Skills and Training team within The University of Edinburgh’s Information Services Group was this year’s joint winner of the Staff Development Forum’s Developing Excellent Practice Award for the Digital Skills Festival.
The Digital Skills Festival ran between Monday 24th and Friday 28th May 2021 and was the first of its kind at the University of Edinburgh. It was devised as a way of raising the profile of digital skills development opportunities to student and staff communities, encouraging engagement with the various digital skills development resources available within the University. It supported the development of digital skills as part of broader university strategies such as the Digital Transformation, Hybrid Working and Curriculum Transformation programmes.
The Festival brought together many digital skills development providers from within and outside of the University. The programme included a number of regularly running skills development sessions, as well as a variety of one-off events, exploring lived experience and unusual ways to learn and apply digital skills. This fulfilled the third, less formal but equally important, objective of the Festival – to have fun and celebrate all things digital.
Altogether 57 events were run across the Festival week to 1037 attendees, reaching around 25% of the annual number of attendees on our regular digital skills webinar programme. Feedback from attendees and presenters was overwhelmingly positive with both communities welcoming the idea of the Festival becoming an annual event. The average overall rating for the sessions from Festival attendees was 4.8/5. The attendees particularly appreciated the sharing good practice aspect of the sessions, especially when it came to topics related to remote or hybrid working and studying. From the presenters, the feedback was similarly positive. When asked if presenters would be willing to contribute to the Digital Skills Festival again, 100% of the respondents indicated ‘Yes’. As one presenter commented: “I thought the range of topics was really impressive and made me think what a great place to work and be involved with [this is]. The Skills Festival was a great advert for not only the Digital Skills Team, but the University as a whole.” The attendance numbers and positive feedback from both attendees and presenters have ensured that the Festival will become an annual event.
From the beginning, the Festival set out to align with objectives linked to organisational strategy and projects, as well as the University’s existing digital skills development framework, enabling audiences to understand how the events aligned with the wider University context and their roles within it. The event gained support from senior leadership and other learning providers across the University, who fully endorsed it in their communications. A variety of topics – designed to appeal to a broad audience – were covered by engaging presenters, providing attendees with the opportunity to interact with experts in their field.
In addition to providing an excellent learning event for students and staff, the Digital Skills Team truly enjoyed the opportunity to experiment and innovate during the organisation and delivery of the Festival. Having never run an event of this type or scale before, and entirely without extra budget, the team worked collaboratively and put everything into the event to make it a success. The team spirit before, during and after the Festival was exceptionally positive.