Higher Education Digital Capability Framework

An open-source capability framework for higher education. 4 dimensions, 16 domains and 70+ capabilities.



2.01 201

Student CRM

3.01 301

Recruit. Events

12.01 1201

Tests & Exams

13.01 1301

Job Skill Building

14.01 1401

Evaluate Skills

1.02 102

Customer Needs

3.02 302

Channel P'ships

10.02 1002

Synch. Learning

16.02 1602

Industry Mentoring

10.03 1003

Asynch. Learning

12.03 1203

Assessment Feedback

16.03 1603

Alumni Engage.

2.04 204

Social Media

13.04 1304

Student Work


5.05 505



10.05 1005

Learning Resources

12.05 1205

Badge & Credential

13.05 1305

Ent'ship & Startups


10.06 1006

Library Services

11.06 1106

Exchange Programs


This is an open source taxonomy and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Global Webinars

Join HolonIQ's Global Higher Education Network and Newsletter

Join thousands of higher education leaders from around the world. Ideas, insights and connections for digital transformation in higher education.


About the Digital Capability Framework

In 2018, HolonIQ released an open source 16-point framework identifying key capabilities underpinning digital higher education. The 16-point framework was used by institutions in different ways to articulate, share and showcase current and emerging models in digital learning, and to identify areas for strategic focus and development.

The 2020 Higher Education Digital Capability (HEDC) Framework builds on the earlier model and adds a deeper focus on digital capabilities across the whole learner lifecycle. Institutional capabilities have been mapped to four connected dimensions across the lifecycle, from Demand & Discovery (DD) to Learning Design (LD), Learner Experience (LX) and Work & Lifelong Learning (WL). The framework encompasses current capabilities such as recruitment, curriculum design, assessment and career planning, but also looks ahead to future and emerging capabilities for successful digital learning.

Informed by academic research and with input from higher education leaders globally, the HEDC Framework offers an overarching view for institutions to map and measure digital capabilities across the learner lifecycle, ultimately to support practical and sustainable approaches to digital services and online learning.

Methodology and Guiding Principles

The HEDC Framework is a learner-focused, practical and flexible approach to mapping and measuring digital capability in higher education institutions. The framework acknowledges educational literature on digital capability and grounds these in current practice using ongoing consultation, research and analysis with higher education leaders around the world. The Higher Education Digital Capability Framework benefits from a continuous and iterative feedback cycle informed by an engaged community of Higher Education professionals.


Following the learner lifecycle.

The HEDC Framework looks at digital capability through a learner lifecycle perspective. The 4 Dimensions, 16 Domains and 70+ Capability Blocks consider how a digitally capable organisation can support and enhance learning and student experience at each stage of the lifecycle, from Demand and Discovery through to Work and Lifelong Learning.


Literature reviews & organizational frameworks.

Framework development included review and analysis of models and frameworks on digital capability, including educational instruments such as DigCompOrg and HEInnovate (EU Commission/OECD) and frameworks from bodies such as ACODE (Australasia), JISC (UK) and UNESCO. The Framework also draws on organisational theory and frameworks from business and industry, and their application across functions such as marketing, HR, strategy and innovation.

Input & Iteration

Ongoing research, interviews and testing.

Interviews and consultations with several hundred HE leaders and digital education experts informed the first stages of Framework development, as well as in-depth research with individual industry experts in each of the 4 Dimensions. Research has been conducted with HolonIQ’s Global Panels and Networks at key points during development. The HEDC Framework benefits from a continuous and iterative feedback cycle informed by an engaged community of Higher Education professionals.

Mapping Digital Capabilities in Higher Education

The Higher Education Digital Capability framework identifies four core dimensions along the learner lifecycle: Demand & Discovery (DD), Learning Design (LD), Learner Experience (LX) and Work & Lifelong Learning (WL). Within these are sixteen capability groups or ‘domains’, with more than 70 capability blocks adding a further level of detail. Overall, the framework is designed to allow flexibility and interpretation in context; some institutions will find almost every capability block relevant to their organisational structure, activities and aspirations, whilst others will focus on a more specific set of capabilities applicable to their individual context.

Demand and Discovery (DD)

Learning Design (LD)

Learner Experience (LX)

Work and Lifelong Learning (WL)