Even today’s students need support with some areas of digital practice, particularly in an academic context, so it’s important to make sure that these needs are met.
While employability is an obvious driver, developing learners who can learn and thrive in a digital society is a key role for universities and colleges.
We define digital literacies as the capabilities which fit someone for living, learning and working in a digital society. To help with thinking about this, we have outlined six elements for consideration, which can be seen in the following diagram.
What you can do
Below, we've summarised some of the steps you can take to improve your students' digital literacy. Our more detailed guide to developing organisational approaches to digital capability explores all these areas in further detail.
Review your support for digital literacies
An audit is a good way of finding out who’s already working in this area and starting productive conversations with staff.
To learn more about the behaviour and motivations of learners as they use the web, try our guide to evaluating digital services.
Link to other key priorities
To avoid digital literacies being ‘yet another thing’ for staff and students to work into their busy lives, it is useful if they can be linked with other initiatives and woven into existing processes. These might be work on graduate attributes, employability, transferable skills, or a complete course redesign.
Supporting students to develop an online professional identity can be motivating, as can online portfolios of achievements. Where institutional awards are presented, these can reward successful development of digital skills. Involving careers services can also be beneficial.
Create a buzz
In any large organisation there will be all sorts of interesting digital practice. Surfacing these is useful for putting experts and innovators from different areas in touch with each other and for sharing approaches and tips.
Get your learners started with the University of Exeter's quiz: what type of digital learner are you?
Get people talking
Encouraging discussion about supporting students with digital skills and practices and the associated impact on staff roles helps to widen awareness of digital literacies across the institution. You might be inspired by the community of practice developed by University of the Arts, London.
Provide support in the curriculum
The curriculum is the main focus of students’ attention and driver of effort so is therefore the best route to showcase and develop digital practices.
For example, tutors can set assignments which draw on digital practices. The curriculum change section of our detailed guide provides further guidance on this.
In order to embed digital literacies in the curriculum, teaching staff need to be engaged and may need continued support and development as the practices they model will become examples for students.
Engage students as change agents
You can find further help and guidance in our developing successful student-staff partnerships guide.
The staff and students involved don’t need to be technology experts; communications skills, flexibility and an eagerness to learn and share are much more important.
Read our case studies for ideas and inspiration on how other institutions have worked collaboratively with students to drive change.
Keep up to date in this area by following the news on our change agents network blog and you can also join this network of staff and students supporting curriculum enhancement and innovation via their mailing list.
To receive updates and share your own experiences, you may like to join our dedicated digital literacy mailing list.