Feb 03 2023

How HBCUs Foster Digital Literacy with Creative Tools

Historically Black colleges and universities deliver innovative campus resources to prepare students for post-graduation success.

The concept of digital literacy did not arise out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students were using digital tools to grapple with assignments, develop creative projects and communicate more effectively before it began. But the circumstances of the pandemic, like having to attend class remotely, brought a new focus on developing higher education students’ digital literacy. Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in particular have been pivoting to meet the growing need for this skill.

“COVID-19 has certainly reshaped how our university interacts with its students, requiring a digital approach to delivering lectures, resources and course delivery to allow for flexibility,” says Hector Molina, CIO and vice chancellor for IT services at Fayetteville State University, located in Fayetteville, N.C. “Elevating our students’ digital literacy is a critical component in our aim for student success, ensuring our students have access to technology tools that support the development of job-related skills that are applicable to the future and relevant to the industries they’re pursuing.”

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Students See Increased Opportunities Through Digital Literacy

Digital literacy encompasses a set of creation and communication skills that students use in the pursuit of their education and preparation for the job market. Candidates who are experienced with these tools and possess the soft skills to use them effectively are in high demand.

“FSU’s approach to digital literacy is to expose our students to a multitude of technologies that will demonstrate to employers that our students, post-graduation, have the ability to learn and adapt to technology,” says Molina.

Some students aren’t waiting for graduation to put their digital literacy skills to work.

“Many of our students are entrepreneurs,” explains Sheneese Thompson, associate professor of language, literature and cultural studies at Bowie State University, located in Bowie, Md. “They are using their digital skills to create social media, branding kits and websites to get their businesses started. We love being able to support these students in their efforts.”

Adobe Creative Cloud Supports Digital Literacy Efforts in Higher Ed

One of the most common platforms in higher education facilitating the growth of students’ digital literacy skills is Adobe Creative CloudCreative Cloud offers students and faculty access to a portfolio of digital tools including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere Rush, Adobe Express, Acrobat, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Audition.

Using these kinds of digital creation tools helps students grow into pervasive communicators, able to creatively express their knowledge and understanding of the subjects they are studying.

Hector Molina headshot
We have seen amazing instances of faculty embedding the use of Creative Cloud into their coursework, which is very exciting.”

Hector Molina CIO and Vice Chancellor for IT Services, Fayetteville State University

Both FSU and BSU are using Creative Cloud in their digital literacy efforts.

“One of our goals at BSU is to make tech pervasive and accessible,” says Maurice Tyler, CIO and vice president of IT. “During the pandemic, we all had to do things remotely. That forced us to quickly adopt tech at a high rate. While this came with some challenges, it also presented opportunities. We partnered with Adobe and set up Creative Cloud for all faculty and students.”

How Faculty Can Incorporate Creative Cloud in Higher Ed

Students at BSU were quick to make use of Creative Cloud in their coursework. Many efforts toward adoption have now been focused on faculty.

“We are in the process of building out our instructional infrastructure, getting faculty onboarded into it,” explains BSU’s Thompson. “We are asking faculty to start retooling their curriculum. There are many processes to go through.”

As an example, Thompson points to BSU’s first-year writing class, which all students take. The curriculum was originally driven by an exam that gauged student learning, but that’s no longer the case.

“With our move to Creative Cloud, we adopted a portfolio system for assessment,” she says.

WATCH: See how a ‘digital garden’ approach promotes digital literacy.

The portfolios that students develop over the course of their studies can serve as resources in their post-graduation job searches, providing examples of their digital literacy skills.

“We are at the beginning stages of faculty engagement,” adds Eva Garin, a professor at BSU. “The university is providing faculty training throughout the academic year with in-presence workshops, online workshops or our Learning Online, Teaching with Technology Online (LOTTO) Institute, an intensive program offered for one week during the summer.”

At FSU, there is also a focus on getting faculty on board with Creative Cloud.

“We are in the early stages of integrating Adobe Creative Cloud into our curriculum across campus,” Molina says. “Most of summer 2022 was devoted to introducing Creative Cloud through high-level communication and trainings, sharing with our faculty how Creative Cloud can support the pursuit of leveling up our students’ digital literacy. During the fall 2022 semester, we provided our faculty with the breathing room to seek creative ways to implement the use of Creative Cloud into their curriculum, while also providing ad hoc or impromptu trainings by request.

“We have seen amazing instances of faculty embedding the use of Creative Cloud into their coursework, which is very exciting,” he says.

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