The digital literacy landscape in US Higher Education is in flux. Individuals, not institutions, are the leading players in promoting digital literacy. The response of the latter varies since there is no common understanding of what constitutes digital literacy. In some instances, there are no institution-level initiatives at all.
This is the conclusion of the Digital Literacy: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief just published by the New Media Consortium and made possible by Adobe Systems.
Highlights of report
The report acknowledges that the different understanding of what really constitutes digital literacy – or digital fluency as it is sometimes called – has a bearing on the initiatives by higher education institutions and other relevant organisations to render both students and faculty more digitally literate.
The report posits three levels of digital literacy:
- Universal literacy – using basic computing and Internet tools
- Creative literacy – building on universal literacy and leading to the creation of digital content
- Literacy across disciplines – each discipline and learning context applies elements of digital literacy, e.g. ethics of social network interactions, computer-mediated human interaction in business environments etc.
The top three human skills in the understanding of digital literacy were identified as critical thinking, problem solving and creativity. Yet research by the NMC reveals that digital users are more skewed towards consumption than production of digital content.
Recommendations for Digital Literacy Initiatives
The NMC report mades the following recommendations:
- Institutions should engage in strategic implementation and not leave it to individual/unit initiatives – they should do pilots and implementation on wider scale, including for example libraries.
- Focus on students as makers – empower students as producers of digital content.
- Build industry-education partnerships – to better understand workforce demands and foster better understanding between stakeholders.
- Develop smart collaborations – different stakeholders at government, academic and private levels in different spheres e.g. heritage preservation, museums, libraries etc should work together on joint initiatives.
In conclusion, the report warns that
Gaining cross-disciplinary digital skills is the lifeblood of deeper learning outcomes that lead to fruitful careers. Higher education institutions must play a crucial role in providing the tools and opportunities that ensure students know how to successfully deliver visual and digital communications that help them attain their goals.
Author: Martin Debattista