A framework for digital skills


A helpful way to understand and develop the digital literacy skills you need to be effective online is to think of them in different categories.

The Open University has created a 'Digital skills framework', which targets five key skills areas:

  • understand and engage
  • find
  • manage and communicate
  • evaluate
  • collaborate and share.
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Figure 2 Digital skills framework

Let's take a brief look at each of these areas.

Understand and engage

In order to understand and engage with your digital environment, you need to know what digital information is and what you can do with the information you find. You also need to be able to find and select the most appropriate online tools, websites and software for your needs. 

Engaging with a digital environment can also mean being able find people with similar interests to you. If you can do this, you’ll be able to communicate with a wide network of people, and avoid anyone who might be malicious.

A very important aspect of understanding and engaging is being aware of how you come across online.


Finding information is about planning how you search for the information you’re trying to find, and knowing where and how to look for it. It’s about knowing whether you should use an internet search engine, search specific catalogues or databases, or ask a person. You need to be aware of what sources of information will be most appropriate to your needs. If you can target appropriate sources, your search results will be much more focused, and you’ll find what you’re looking for much quicker. 

Your success at finding the information you need can also depend on the words and phrases you use in your search. They tell a search engine exactly what it should be looking for and what to exclude.


With such a wealth of information available online, it can sometimes be difficult to know who and what to trust. Knowing how to evaluate sources and people will help you to identify good quality information and sources. It will also help you find the most appropriate tools for your needs. 

We connect with a variety of people and groups online. Trust is an important issue. Being able to assess how trustworthy people are is important, especially if their views have the potential to impact on your own. Sharing opinions, yours or other people’s, on social media can affect the way you are perceived by others, so you need to be confident that what you are sharing is reliable.

Manage and communicate

Once you’ve found useful information, the way you manage it will make a big difference to whether you can find it again easily. Sites like Diigo, Delicious and Pinterest allow you to save links to useful resources in one place. You are able to tag them with words and phrases that you can use to search for resources on particular topics in the future. You can also group resources and share your lists with others. 

Being able to communicate in a digital environment is an extremely important skill to have. Whether you are blogging, posting on Facebook or Twitter, or even just commenting on something someone else has written, you need to think carefully about what you write. Written material you have posted online is open to interpretation and can easily offend. What you write will reflect on your digital identity and reputation, and this could have an impact on your everyday life, work, and professional credibility. So it’s important to get this right.

Collaborate and share

Today’s online environment provides ideal opportunities to collaborate and share information with other people online. Social media, along with a wide range of free tools and apps, actively encourages the sharing of information and opinion. This can feel quite daunting at first, and it takes time to build the confidence to engage with others in this way. 

Developing skills in this area can help you to increase your confidence. It enables you to learn from others and share good practice. This provides a range of benefits at home, at work and when you’re studying. It is particularly valuable in the workplace, where you may find yourself working with people not based in the same physical location.

Next: Reflection

Last modified: Thursday, 28 September 2017, 6:12 PM