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Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration
Hybrid working: digital communication and collaboration

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3.1 ‘Digital tools’ for communication and collaboration

The use of information and communications technology (ICT)-based tools is a central part of many roles in the workplace. Within an HEI, you will use various digital tools, software and systems. For the purposes of this section, we will refer to them as ‘digital tools’. Some of these will be bespoke (the organisation has designed and built them), but most will have been brought in from third-party suppliers.

These ‘digital tools’ are often grouped as follows:

Core supported technologies: Evaluated, licensed and fully supported by the organisation, such as the main operating system, cloud-based office suite tools – such as Microsoft Office or Google Docs – virtual learning platforms, content management systems. These normally are digital tools that are required for an organisation to operate.

Networked or integrated technologies into core systems: Not always fully licensed or supported, as they may be bought at the local departmental level for specific uses.

These are technologies that enable data exchange between large and small information systems within a networked infrastructure. This often allows different tools and systems to ‘talk to each other’. For example, Microsoft Office 365 applications – if you make a comment on a Word document, you get a notification to Outlook.

Recognised technologies: Not licensed or supported by the institution but required by an area for specific reasons.

Some HEIs were using many of these tools before the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the requirement during lockdowns to work from home wherever possible, this resulted in many HEI workforces moving to remote working, and consequently the reliance on and ability to use these tools accelerated. Many HEIs therefore had to invest in ‘digital tools’ to operate effectively.

Activity 10 What ‘digital tools’ do you use in your organisation?

Timing: 10 minutes

Think about the ‘digital tools’ you use daily for work, and list them. Then consider:

  • Why and how do you use these tools?
  • How comfortable are you using them?
  • Do you understand your responsibilities when using them?
  • Do you need to have non-standard digital tools?

Then familiarise yourself with other tools your organisation may use. If your organisation has listed these, you can normally find them either through a web search or searching your internal intranet.

What guidance and support are available for you to use these tools?

If you are in an HEI, now do a search on the tools for students. How do these differ to the tools for operating as an organisation?

Make notes in the box below:

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Your list will vary depending on your role and organisation. While your organisation may have access to training and support, often you may find that you need to understand how to do a task with a specific tool.

Most ‘digital tool’ providers have extensive guidance on their websites, or you can usually find videos on YouTube explaining how to do things. For example, browse the two main cloud-based ‘office suite tools’ support websites.

As we start to focus on new ways of working and embedding hybrid working, it is not just being able to use the tools that is important but also understanding the context and behaviours expected and required by your organisation.

In the next section we cover some of the approaches for common digital communication and collaboration tasks within the workplace.