What is the Student Affairs Technology Competency on Paper?

Starting in 2010, NASPA and ACPA developed and implemented a common set of core professional competencies for student affairs professionals. Competencies include knowledge, skill as well as disposition (attitudes) of educators on a variety of themes. These standards of professional practice have appeared in professional development curriculum from professional association conferences, job descriptions, graduate preparation programs and more. There were both stand alone competencies, as well as skills that were said to be part of every competency called “threads”. Technology was one of these, once defined as a thread.

Technology Defined as a competency for Student Affairs Professionals

Fast forward to  2015, the two associations released an update from the work of a joint committee called the Professional Competencies Task Force, and as a result Technology finally had established itself as its own category of competencies for the field.

The definition of technology as a competency is the following:

[The Technology Competency] focuses on the use of digital tools, resources, and technologies for the advancement of student learning, development, and success as well as the improved performance of student affairs professionals. Included within this area are knowledge, skills, and dispositions that lead to the generation of digital literacy and digital citizenship within communities of students, student affairs professionals, faculty members, and colleges and universities as a whole. (ACPA/NASPA, 2015, pg 15)

Professional development was defined as the following:

Professional growth in this competency area is marked by shifts from understanding to application as well as from application to facilitation and leadership. Intermediate and advanced level outcomes also involve a higher degree of innovativeness in the use of technology to engage students and others in learning processes. (ACPA/NASPA, 2015, pg 15)

In other words, the Technology Competency is not a list of tools, platforms or software you need to download or even what is “technology” or “leadership.” Rather, it is a set of standards designed to guide student affairs professionals’ growth and development regarding how they utilize and understand technology and digital platforms.

Quickly after the 2015 competency update, a number of student affairs technology bloggers wrote the addition and ideas, which you can find below:

Some of the critiques of the competency is that it is a bit more aspirational, and may leave those tasked with development professional development for their staff (or self) or graduate student courses still without precise direction.

What is the Tech Competency, Really?

Without going into the laundry list of skills and dispositions listed out in the foundational, intermediate, and advanced levels of the competency, there are some themes and even tasks to quickly take away from this seminal document:

  • The philosophy of technology in student affairs is first and foremost for student learning, development and success – second is the improvement of the professionals serving those students.
  • At minimum, professionals should be knowledgeable about technology, especially technological tools and platforms that are actively used by students. However, personal adaptability to change, especially related to technology is a requirement in the field.
  • Curriculum for students as well as professionals should include topics such as: digital identity, digital citizenship, digital literacy, digital leadership, personal learning communities.
  • Student affairs professionals should look to infuse programs beyond brick and mortar into hybrid and blended community learning experiences.
  • Tech interventions need data, not just quick adoption, from social media platforms to vendor-based software. This data will ensure accessibility, ethics and legal compliance.

There are definitely more overarching takeaways from this important document, so I suggest you take a look at the entire set of competencies found here. For the sake of this series, we will be focusing specifically on how technology shows up in our profession. Further, how do individuals in a variety of student service roles in the field of higher education make sense of the competency, implement tech, and seek out the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that the competency calls us to posses.

How is technology (and the tech competency) really showing up for you?

Because it has has been two and half years since this update and the release of the Technology Competency guidelines, what has really changed? Of course technology has changed, but how has our field or our institutions recognized tech as a cornerstone to student affairs? Since the Technology Competency was released, what are tangible examples from programs, training, or even professionals perceptions/skills/knowledge that demonstrate these competency standards?

To answer these questions and more, the Digital Leadership Network wants to hear from you! This series will feature voices throughout the field, where writers will respond to two of the three prompts:

  • How does technology show up in your role, and how important is using technology when engaging with students? What about professionals on your campus &/or throughout the field of student affairs?
  • In what ways do online networking spaces and other technology allow or prevent you from developing and maintaining genuine relationships and meaningful interactions? What skills/resources/experiences can you share for others in the field?
  • How do you define and model the concept of digital leadership, and/or leadership qualities that the technology competency calls for?

All you have to do is complete a short form, which will include your submission here. Submissions will be accepted until April 22 and released throughout the spring and summer. We look forward to sharing how you are making meaning of the technology in student affairs!

About the Author

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is the founder of the digital leadership network, as well as a independent speaker, consultant and author on digital leadership in higher education. She also serves as research associate at Florida State University teaching undergraduate and masters courses based in technology and leadership. Her research and writing can be found in the Handbook of Student Affairs Administration textbook, The Journal of Leadership Studies, and New Directions in Student Services, “Engaging the Digital Generation” volume.  For the third year in a row she has been named to the “Top 50 Must Read Higher Education Technology Blogs” by Ed Tech Magazine.  Her podcast, Josie & The Podcast was featured by The Chronicle of Higher Ed as a podcast to subscribe to. You can find her blogging and podcasting at www.josieahlquist.com.

You can connect with Josie on the following platforms: Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube.


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