November 7, 2017

Digital literacy training to make students producers, not just consumers

Posted by Laura Guertin

“…while many college students receive some digital literacy training, most received minimal or no training in the production of basic digital content while in school, which could hamper their success in the workforce.”  —  (Gragueb & Temerlies, press release)


On November 1, 2017, the New Media Consortium (NMC) released the 2017 Digital Literacy Impact Study: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief. The study is based on a survey of more than 700 recent graduates from 36 institutions, with questions addressing digital experiences during their undergraduate years and how a lack of experience may be impacting their careers. In brief, the data reflect that three-quarters of the respondents report training to conceptualize, analyze, and evaluate digital content, yet the approximate same high percentage received little to no training on digital content production through video, audio, graphics, podcasts, e-books, etc. See the figures below for further detail (from the report, under Creative Commons license).

Level of Undergraduate Training: “Advanced” + “Moderate” Combined Totals

Figure 1: Many postgraduates reported exposure to digital skills that require interpreting, evaluating, planning, and searching for information online. Most undergraduate curriculum degrees require learners to organize research findings and share for required course projects or assignments. Beyond this, Figure 1 identifies that a number of learners use technology and digital environments to work collaboratively with peers to manage complex problems, apply solutions, and generate ideas to reach their educational goals.


Level of Undergraduate Training: “No Training” + “Minimal Training” Combined Totals

Figure 2: The gaps in technology training for undergraduates are primarily concerned with digital production and responsible use. Figure 2 identifies that digital literacy development could encourage learners to design content with technology to deliver information, communicate ideas, and share stories in different media formats, such as mobile apps, podcasts, ebooks, videos, or graphics.

What is the importance of these data? There are several key findings stated in the Impact Study, but two that I feel are important and relevant to our students when thinking about workforce preparation (beyond providing students Earth and space science content knowledge):

(1) Digital literacy education helps learners transfer these skills and knowledge to the workforce.

(2) Students who are exposed to digital literacy training in higher education begin to develop digital skill competencies.

Do you address digital literacy in your assignments? Course? Curriculum? The NMC 2016 graphic below outlines definitions of models, practices, and recommendations for improving digital literacy. Although there are a range of gaps we try to identify and address with students that range from writing to quantitative abilities, it seems that the creation of digital content may be another gap to close in a student’s individual portfolio of learning.