Feb 19 2024

How and Why Higher Ed Institutions Should Elevate Digital Fluency

Students who graduate college with essential digital skills are best positioned for the modern workforce.

For college and university leaders, the landscape is shifting. In the past, the ability to produce a substantial term paper meant a graduate was ready to enter the workforce. That’s no longer the case.

In the work world today, “they’re being asked to create and communicate through video or through audio. They’re perhaps being asked to create eye-catching imagery or social media posts,” says Patrick Hoy, senior manager of product marketing at Adobe.

To meet these new expectations, higher education needs to put a greater emphasis on digital fluency. But what exactly does that mean?

With visual storytelling, presentations, podcasts, audio and video, digital fluency refers to “the ability to create, communicate, understand and assess information using different modalities of communication — forms that go beyond the written word,” says Hoy.

DISCOVER: Adobe technology solutions are powering digital transformation in higher education.

Mounting Pressure for Digital Fluency in the Workforce

A number of factors are coming together right now to elevate the urgency around digital fluency as a core competency for college students.

Managers are not just concerned with hard skills these days. In the workplace, “there is an increasing emphasis on skills such as communication and creativity, problem-solving and digital storytelling,” says Hoy.

The educational landscape is also changing. The rise of generative artificial intelligence, in particular, is forcing faculty and administrators to rethink the traditional ways in which students have been asked to demonstrate proficiency.

“With generative AI, that 10-page essay can be generated in a matter of seconds with the right prompt,” says Hoy. “How can a faculty member ensure that a student is achieving the outcomes that they want while still producing authentic work — something that is created by that student and not by one of these new AI models?”

This shift “makes digital fluency — the ability to create using different forms of media or different forms of communication — more relevant than ever,” he says.

Generative AI is introducing an urgency among those who might consider themselves skeptical or late adopters when it comes to evolving how students communicate and share their ideas,” says Hoy. “It’s a chance to really reconsider how we assess student work and how we engage students in the material.”

RELATED: How AI could impact student success in higher education.

The Path to Digital Fluency for Higher Education Students

To seize on that opportunity, higher education leaders need to address the challenges inherent in past approaches to creativity and storytelling.

“Institutions may silo this idea of digital fluency to a segment of the university or a specific discipline,” says Hoy, with visual considerations limited to video production majors or the arts department, for example. “That shortchanges students in many ways.”

To move the needle, forward-looking higher education leaders “are starting to break down those silos, evolving how they think about student readiness to succeed both in the classroom and in their future careers,” he says.

They’re looking to expand digital fluency across the institution. “No longer is it just for art and design students, for digital communication or video production majors. It’s relevant to every student that has an idea to share with the world,” says Hoy.

Patrick Hoy
Students have lives that are full of classes, clubs, career goals and social activities. Digital fluency can and should enhance every part of this.”

Patrick Hoy Senior Manager of Product Marketing, Adobe

Success Strategies for Teaching Digital Fluency to Students

To broaden the reach of digital fluency, it makes sense to think about the full breadth of the student experience, says Hoy.

“Students have lives that are full of classes, clubs, career goals and social activities. Digital fluency can and should enhance every part of this,” he says. For the institution, that means involving “not just faculty and technologists, but also leadership from career services, student affairs, student government and more.”

Institutions also will need to think about access and equity as they look to elevate visual storytelling. “They need to ensure every staff member, faculty member and student has access to the tools that can support those skills,” says Hoy.

With user-friendly visual creation tools, Adobe can help here.

LEARN MORE: How Creative Cloud and generative AI are impacting higher education.

Adobe Express is the only light and accessible tool for students across disciplines and career aspirations to share their ideas with the world,” says Hoy. “It’s all the power of Adobe made available to every student regardless of skill level, enabling everyone to create social media posts, videos, websites and other multimedia projects for classes, clubs and careers.”

Students can use the generative AI features in Adobe Express to turn text into vibrant visual content and editable templates, allowing them to build everything from social posts to professional-grade flyers in just seconds. The software is available as a stand-alone application and is also included as part of Adobe Creative Cloud, a collection of content creation and productivity applications.

By providing access to tools such as Adobe Express and Adobe Firefly, “higher education can unlock that access for all students, enabling them to start creating and sharing their ideas with the world in a way that stands out more than ever,” says Hoy.

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