Digital Literacy in the Core: The Emerging Higher Education Landscape

Meg Coffin Murray, Jorge PĂ©rez, Joy Fluker
Issues in Informing Science and Information Technology  •  Volume 19  •  2022  •  pp. 001-013
Aim/Purpose: Digital literacy is critical to participation in a contemporary knowledge-based society and is requisite to both academic success and career development. Institutions of higher education have been slow to define, assess, and amplify digital literacy in parallel with advances in the enhancement of reading, writing, and arithmetic literacy. Perhaps as a consequence of the pandemic, awareness appears to be growing of the need to infuse digital literacy at both institutional and individual levels. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the promotion and amplification of digital literacy within top universities around the globe.

Background: For years, the role of higher education in the amplification of digital literacy among college students has been debated, but efforts have been limited primarily to ad hoc, unsystematic attempts to rectify disparities between students’ exposure and understanding. The impacts of COVID-19 exposed the reality that many institutions, professors, and college students were under-prepared for the surge in reliance on digital technologies.

Methodology: This paper explores the prevalence of digital literacy in the top public and private universities around the globe by conducting a qualitative examination on compulsory requirements, digital literacy offerings, university identified digital literacy initiatives, and university strategic plans.

Contribution: This paper contributes to the body of knowledge by providing evidence for the need to expand the constructs of what it means to be digitally literate to address the ever-expanding range of emerging technologies and the impact of those technologies on society.

Findings: The review of digital literacy amplification at top universities showed that none of the universities' admissions requirements required students to demonstrate digital competence and compulsory digital literacy was uncommon. However, a majority of universities undertook some form of initiative to promote digital literacy. These initiates included a focus on developing digitally literate society and workforce or developing innovative approaches to digital literacy education.

Recommendations for Practitioners: The pandemic has generated a greater sense of urgency for institutions of higher education to ensure access to and understanding of digital technologies by students, faculty, and staff. Educational institutions will have to adapt their methodologies to promote explicit and intentionally reasoned digital literacy strategies that combine the competencies possessed by users of technology with the generation of new competencies required to successfully participate in the digital transformation of education, business, and society.

Recommendations for Researchers: This paper examined the top 50 universities around the globe. Additional re-search is needed to examine national, regional and local efforts in the quest to address the need for a digitally literate citizenry.

Impact on Society: COVID-19 has thrust us into a new normal wherein digital competence is foundational to success in an ever digitally reliant world. Institutions of higher education are best positioned to carry out the initiatives, programs and re-search needed to enhance the digital literacy of all citizens, not just students and employees.

Future Research: Societal impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to emerge and will resonate for decades to come. Continued investigation, exploration and dis-semination of information related to effort to enhance and amplify digital literacy is necessary to ensure momentum to reimagine digital literacy education is maintained.
digital literacy, digital competency, critical digital literacy, digitally centered
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