UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Award-winning: Open access materials to teach digital skills in public administration

3 February 2023

David Eaves, UCL IIPP Deputy Director and Associate Professor in Digital Government, has been named as one of two Schmidt Futures Innovation Fellows.

David Eaves

David Eaves, UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP) Deputy Director and Associate Professor in Digital Government, and Ines Mergel, Professor of Public Administration and Digital Governance from the University of Konstanz, Germany, have been named Schmidt Futures Innovation Fellows for their project 'Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age'. The open access syllabus provides materials designed to teach required digital skills to students in public affairs master's programmes.

"We found during the COVID-19 pandemic that the digital transformation of government can only succeed if both managers and staff develop the corresponding digital skills and capabilities," explains Professor Mergel. "Unfortunately, these are currently not taught in public affairs programmes."

This is why she co-initiated the project 'Teaching Public Service in the Digital Age' together with Dr Eaves, Tom Steinberg (a former CDO in the UK Government) and Amanda Clarke, Associate Professor at Carleton University in Canada. The open access syllabus is designed to train professors who teach students in public administration and public policy programmes the skills required for the digital age. The project team developed teaching units ranging from components of digital systems to data and legal hurdles.

In collaboration with other professors and experts, they created an Open Educational Resource – a set of open access teaching materials that goes beyond the usual online curricula. The instructors explain their methods in detail, provide questions to discuss in class and give relevant background information. They also prepare case studies and provide videos from their own lectures. The materials include global experiences and research findings that, due to their multidisciplinary nature, can be adapted to meet the needs of teachers from different backgrounds.

Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative of Eric and Wendy Schmidt, brings talented people together in networks to prove out their ideas and solve hard problems in science and society. The Innovation Fellows Program supports extraordinary mid-career individuals and teams with ideas to leverage technology thoughtfully to solve important societal challenges. The programme aims to serve as a force multiplier for their ideas and to bring them together into a community to support one another and mentor others.

Other supporters including Bloomberg Philanthropies are also providing funds for the project. Professor Mergel and Dr Eaves will join a cohort of leaders working across multiple sectors to drive impact, who connect and support one another's work and ideas.

"We are so happy to receive this support for our project!" Professor Mergel says. "Volunteers have already translated the curriculum into several other languages. Now we can use the funds to support additional translations and offer even more master's classes in the train-the-trainer format. In this format, we introduce teachers to the content and work together on how they can teach and adapt the content to their local context."

Further research projects are also planned.

More information:

Visit the project website - https://www.teachingpublicservice.digital/