Digital Literacy in Higher Education

Posted by Alexander Karklins on Dec 7, 2016 11:18:17 AM


The New Media Consortium recently released a strategic Brief on digital literacy in higher education via its website: The concept of digital literacy has been difficult to define, especially across disciplines, but this NMC brief takes on the task, provides exemplars of institutions implementing digital literacy initiatives, and recommends steps institutions can take to improve the digital literacy of their students.


Digital Literacy takes on the concept of the “digital native,” which has taken root in recent years. Faculty and administrators  have made the assumption that today’s students, having grown up immersed in technology, are more proficient with the tools and skills needed to be successful in the marketplace. This is simply not true, according to a recent OECD survey, which “found that millennials in the US -- who now comprise one-third of the American workforce -- placed nearly last in digital skills (defined as literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving) as compared to the same age group in other developed nations.” The main focus of this brief is identifying solutions to this problem.


The brief identifies and defines three models of digital literacy:

Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 4.04.16 PM.png


These models of literacy blend both technical fluency and social and cultural considerations. Each contains distinct standards, potential curriculum, and implications for creative educators.


Following a list of best practice exemplars, the NMC brief goes on to provide recommendations for higher education institutions, including:


  1. Engage in Strategic Implementations by scaling up pilots and trials focused on digital literacy to encompass the entire institution. Library organizations should be consulted in this process due to their experience in creating literacy standards.
  2. Focus on Students as Makers by investing in makerspaces, programs where students can practice and hone their digital literacy skills in a creative, supportive environment. CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus already has one such space, inworks (, which engages students across disciplines.
  3. Build Industry-Education Partnerships by giving students opportunities within the industries they are preparing to enter while still enrolled.
  4. Develop Smart Collaborations by sharing information and resources with governments, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage organizations to develop online communities of practice and digital literacy projects.


The main focus of this brief on digital literacy is that universities need to do a better job on preparing their students for the workforce:


It is not a given that students and faculty will personally keep pace with technological developments. Advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning, while still years away from mainstream adoption in higher education, are opening new  avenues for greater automation and more genuine interactions. Not only will the next generation of students need to understand this technology, but they will be tasked with further developing it. They need the tools and resources to imagine, design, and build.


The entire strategic brief is well worth your time to read, even with the occasional product plug from Adobe (who commissioned the brief). What do you think are some avenues that CU Online should explore to increase digital literacy at CU Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus?

Topics: Online learning, Online teaching, Digital age

Something Powerful

Tell The Reader More

The headline and subheader tells us what you're offering, and the form header closes the deal. Over here you can explain why your offer is so great it's worth filling out a form for.


  • Bullets are great
  • For spelling out benefits and
  • Turning visitors into leads.
If you need technical assistance with your course, please fill out the fields below and our friendly helpdesk will reach out to you.

Subscribe to Email Updates