digital literacy

Higher ed’s 3 digital literacy resolutions for the new year

A focus on strong digital literacy skills can lead to graduates who are better equipped for the workforce

A new year has arrived, and thoughts have turned to resolutions we hope to uphold. Now is an opportune time to reevaluate the skills students are learning and will rely on as they move on to life after graduation.

While the courses students take will expand their breadth of knowledge and grow their intellect, many of the post-graduation skills students need are what we call “soft skills.” Soft skills can enhance students’ learning and improve their assignments, and they also can improve students’ chances of employment upon graduation. Perhaps the biggest soft skill? Digital literacy.

The New Media Consortium’s 2017 Digital Literacy Impact Study offers a detailed insight into what digital literacy means for today’s students, what employees are looking for, and how higher education institutions can improve digital literacy.

Most importantly, postgraduates are expected to be able to consume, decipher, repurpose, create and present information in multiple digital formats. Despite these expectations, an overwhelming number of postgraduates –71 percent–report they received minimal or no experience with the creation and presentation of content or digital storytelling. This includes producing media with a narrative voice, the production of content in digital formats or combining video, images and sound to tell a story.

Next page: 3 ways institutions can ensure graduates leave with digital literacy skills

This is important not only from a knowledge perspective, but for those who hope to find gainful employment upon graduation.

Soft skills such as creativity, critical thinking and problem solving are increasingly critical in today’s job market. As artificial intelligence, automation and augmented reality become more prevalent, students will have to possess these skills for meaningful employment in most industries. Coupled with the constantly-evolving state of digital technologies and the use of digital channels to communicate, graduates without these skills are putting themselves at a disadvantage in the employment market as they lack the digital skills sought after. In the NMC survey, a majority (69.6 percent) of postgraduates said they felt considering themselves as digitally literate made them prepared for employment and comfortable in their jobs, and four out of 10 received a promotion within the last year.

Becoming digitally literate isn’t just a goal for students. The stakeholders who shape higher education, including faculty, provosts and deans, need to realize that undergraduates’ employment preparedness is a reflection on the institute where they studied. We know employers are seeking smart graduates who have digital literacy skills, so any schools that fail to make a commitment to teaching digital are drastically behind the curve.

That said, I appreciate the barriers educators face in their role. It is not easy to effect change, especially in the middle of an academic year. If you’re inclined to have conversations with your colleagues and want to better incorporate digital literacy, some recommendations from the Digital Literacy Impact Study might help guide your path:

1. Assess the curricula: Education stakeholders and influencers need to identify how the job market has changed with the proliferation of digital technologies and adjust what is being taught in the curriculum accordingly. Provosts, deans and other decision makers have to ensure that educators have the tools and resources they need to incorporate digital literacy into all aspects of their programs, for freshmen classes through to graduation.

2. Utilize partnerships with the private sector to tackle the digital literacy disconnect: Involving potential employers in how digital literacy skills are taught and understood can be a rewarding process for all parties involved. Students see how workplace experiences complements higher education, employers can help shape the next generation of its workforce, and your college can boast at partnering on workplace training with leading employers.

3. Understand the core of digital literacy: The Digital Literacy Impact Study highlights three models of digital literacy – Universal Literacy, Creative Literacy and Literacy Across Disciplines. Knowing where your students fall will lead to more relevancy and better engagement for incorporating digital literacy skills into lectures, assignments and projects.


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Laura Ascione

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