Jan 26 2023

What Is Digital Literacy for Higher Ed Faculty? 5 Important Skills to Teach

In an age of flexible learning environments, teachers must be well versed in using collaboration software and remote teaching tools.

Digital literacy can be a bit nebulous and difficult to define. The concept is broad, ranging from using specific learning tools and honing general digital skills to developing media literacy. In the context of higher education, what should digital literacy mean? In what key areas should higher ed faculty members become most literate?

According to EDUCAUSE, the concept of digital literacy “encompasses a range of skills and knowledge necessary to evaluate, use, and create digital information in various forms. Digital literacies include data literacy, information literacy, visual literacy, media literacy, and metaliteracy.”

For faculty, the most common path to digital literacy is through training on specific teaching tools, whether that’s best practices for collaboration software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or how to use webcams and displays most effectively in the classroom. These tools are important and will continue to be added to universities as they create learning spaces that are most conducive to flexible learning (in-person, fully remote or hybrid). Many schools are even creating digital learning offices to help faculty get up to speed.

Knowing how to use collaboration software, remote teaching tools, learning management systems and multimedia tools is key in today’s modern learning environments.

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5 Key Digital Literacy Skills for Faculty

1. Maximize Use of Collaboration Software

The pandemic opened the floodgates for remote and hybrid learning, and there’s no going back now. Faculty members are working with students on learning management systems and communicating with them via messaging apps and videoconferencing platforms. It’s imperative that instructors feel comfortable working in these digital spaces.

LEARN MORE: The benefits of standardizing collaboration tools in higher ed.

2. Incorporate Remote Teaching Tools

Collaboration software is only a piece of the puzzle. Instructors also need to know how to use digital tools to make courses work in a hybrid environment, ensuring the in-person and remote learning experiences are equal. Universities can help teachers bridge this gap and implement what’s known as HyFlex learning by improving their proficiency in the following:

3. Master Videoconferencing Best Practices

Faculty members need to be comfortable using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and other videoconferencing platforms to have any success in a hybrid environment. Best practices include using breakout rooms to facilitate conversation, screen sharing course materials, taking advantage of chat features, muting participants who aren’t speaking, getting comfortable with host controls and more.

DIG DEEPER: Zoom announces several new features for higher ed.

4. Build Confidence in Digital Course Design

Effective instruction in a flexible learning environment requires changes to the curriculum itself. Teachers who understand how to deliver valuable digital learning experiences to their students will thrive in remote and hybrid environments. According to professors at Teesside University and Jisc, a not-for-profit company that provides IT services and digital resources to higher education institutions in the UK, the key is not just to transfer face-to-face learning to an online setting but also to creatively incorporate digital solutions to make meaningful learning experiences.

Jisc and Teesside’s Digital Learning Design Framework and Toolkit expands on this. The framework and toolkit were created to “help nurture and cultivate the digital confidence and fluencies of teaching staff who design and deliver courses, challenging them to think about learning design and the intersection of pedagogy and digital solutions to map the student learning journey.”

READ MORE: How to design spaces for flexible learning.

5. Utilize Learning Management Systems

If faculty members are required to work in a learning management system such as Canvas or Blackboard, they need to know how to communicate within that system, deliver resources and instructions efficiently, and track students’ grades and assignments. Instructors must also be comfortable navigating other common applications, such as Google Workspace for Education, which offers a broad range of digital tools used in higher education.

The University of Central Florida, for example, offers professional development courses for teachers on how to use its learning management system tools, deliver existing blended or fully online courses, and create newly designed blended and fully online courses.

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