Colleges adding digital literacy as graduation requirement (2024)

Colleges adding digital literacy as graduation requirement (1)

More universities are replacing computer-literacy requirements with a broader digital- or media-literacy focus.

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Universities spent the late 1990s and early 2000s ensuring students could attach documents to email, fill out spreadsheets and perform other basic computer skills.

But the information age has led to a changing of the guard, with a new focus on digital or media literacy for incoming students.

“As we looked toward the needs of students, we found there’s a lot of information out there and students may not know how to discern what’s accurate information, what sources are reliable and how to ethically engage with the information coming [their] way,” said Lynn Hogan, Florida State University’s associate provost and director of critical thinking initiatives.

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Since last year, Florida State has required incoming students to complete a digital-literacy course even as it phases out the familiar computer competency requirement.

FSU joins a small but growing number of institutions adding the requirement. While most of the institutions call the requirement digital literacy, it is closer to what has often been termed media literacy with a focus on understanding and identifying accurate online news sources, misinformation, opinion and advertising.

The ongoing influence of social media, concerns about deliberately false news stories and the rise of artificial intelligence has added urgency to the effort.

“People in general tend to believe what they see on the internet and you have to be able discern what is a credible source and what isn’t,” said Lisa Hunt, dean of administrative services at Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College. “And now with AI, they definitely need to be able to look for signs that may or may not be true.”

The current state of digital literacy is “abysmal,” said Tony Liao, coordinator of University of Houston’s digital media undergraduate program.

In a 2019 study conducted by the Stanford History Education Group (now called Digital Inquiry Group), almost every high school student was unable to differentiate between valid and fake news articles; its 2016 study had similar results.

“I don’t expect in the intervening four years that somehow the population has improved in that regard,” Liao said.

The structure of a new digital-literacy requirement depends on the institution. For FSU, the requirement is dependent upon a major—for example, a digital-literacy requirement for a journalism major would require different courses than a biology major.

This is for all the students, all the majors and it’s going to be a challenge of what it means to be human when you share a planet with intelligent machines.

Mark Hagerott

Kentucky Community College System, which has required digital literacy since the early 2000s, has a dedicated rubric. If a course fits within the rubric, it can count toward the digital-literacy requirement.

“As it’s morphed over the years, the definition has changed to include ethical use and talking about AI,” Hunt said. “But there’s still components of teaching student aspects of technology. They may know how to use their phone, but when you talk about sending a professional email, they’re lost.”

Beyond understanding news and information on digital devices, some courses include learning about the underlying technology and coding. That’s the case for the North Dakota University system, which decided last June to require digital literacy and is expected to implement it for incoming students this fall.

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The system will offer several tracks to complete the requirement, including standalone digital literacy courses, existing courses with integrated digital literacy and self-paced modules, according to North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott.

“This is for all the students, all the majors and it’s going to be a challenge of what it means to be human when you share a planet with intelligent machines,” Hagerott said.

The North Dakota university system discussed digital literacy in 2018 but it was tabled until planning slated for 2024. Then, after OpenAI released ChatGPT in November 2022, university trustees saw the topic as too important to wait.

In addition to the new requirements, several institutions have digital-literacy courses, and a few created majors for the topic. Arizona State University offers a digital-media literacy undergraduate degree, while Indiana Wesleyan University has a master’s degree in technology and digital literacy in education.

There are also programs such as the News Literacy Project’s Checkology, a free media-literacy program used in middle schools, high schools and colleges that educates about media bias, misinformation and conspiratorial thinking.

Universities do face challenges implementing digital-literacy courses, including finding professionals well-versed in the fast-changing subject while students often consider themselves to be experts. There is also the potential downside of having another graduation requirement.

While literacy courses do improve literacy, such courses are not a perfect fix, Liao said. “A single class on digital literacy doesn’t necessarily make you literate.”

Colleges adding digital literacy as graduation requirement (2024)


Is digital literacy a requirement? ›

Digital Media Literacy Becoming a Graduation Requirement. As concerns mount about online misinformation, AI-created images and the ethics of the digital landscape, several institutions are requiring courses in digital media literacy.

How does digital literacy affects the academic performance of students? ›

The results of the meta-analysis show that digital literacy has a positive and significant correlation to student academic performance at the moderate level with a 95% CI (0.184; 0.444). The heterogeneity test showed good results and there was no publication bias.

Why digital literacy becomes your necessity? ›

It empowers individuals to access information, communicate effectively, secure employment, think critically, and navigate the digital landscape responsibly. Whether you're a student, a professional, or simply someone who wants to thrive in the digital age, investing in digital literacy is a wise choice.

What are the disadvantages of digital literacy? ›

Lack of familiarity with digital tools and associated costs can make it difficult to incorporate them into courses and lessons . Furthermore, some students may exhibit negative learning behaviors such as boredom, disengagement, and failure when approaching complex or new educational content in digital environments .

Do digital literacies need to be taught to students? ›

While students will already possess certain digital literacy skills, teachers have a responsibility to round out their knowledge and teach them concepts they might not have discovered on their own.

What are the 3 main skills of digital literacy? ›

Achieving Digital Literacy

In this regard, she has outlined three pillars of digital literacy: (a) finding and consuming digital content, (b) creating digital content, and (c) the ability to share and communicate it effectively.

Why should digital literacy be taught in schools? ›

Digital literacy is important for a number of reasons — it can improve learning, help students discern misinformation and it gives them access to a wide variety of resources, among other things.

Why is digital literacy important in higher education? ›

Why Digital Literacy Is Important for College Success. Digital tools, such as online portals, are important in higher education because they facilitate more advanced teaching and grading. In writing classes, submitting essays online allows the educator to automatically detect plagiarism, for example.

What are the disadvantages of digital literacy in education? ›

Disadvantages of digital literacies for young children's literacy learning: 1. Limited interaction with physical books: Overreliance on digital materials may reduce children's exposure to physical books, limiting their engagement with print texts, turning pages, and exploring physical illustrations.

What are the strengths of digital literacy? ›

This skill encompasses the ability to express ideas, share information, and engage in meaningful discussions using digital tools and platforms. It completes digital literacy by enabling individuals to fully engage in the social aspect of digital tools.

What are the 4 principles of digital literacy? ›

The first principle of digital literacy is simply comprehension–the ability to extract implicit and explicit ideas from a media. The second principle of digital literacy is interdependence–how one media form connects with another, whether potentially, metaphorically, ideally, or literally.

Why digital literacy is considered as a core competency? ›

Mastering digital literacy skills allows students to connect with others online while protecting their information and safety.

What is the conclusion of digital literacy? ›

Conclusion. Digital literacy has so many benefits that will improve everyone's life. To be a digital citizen, you need to learn how to integrate new technology into your day-to-day living. With digital literacy, you can put your business online and tell the world what you do for a living.

Who needs digital literacy? ›

These skills, known as digital literacy, are not only required for professionals navigating the working world, but also for students as they learn in today's education environment.

What percentage of jobs require digital literacy? ›

Over 92 percent of all jobs require digital skills, but approximately one-third of workers don't have the foundational digital skills necessary to qualify for these jobs.

Where do you need digital literacy? ›

Digital literacy skills are essential for participating in the modern economy. In today's job market, almost every profession requires digital skills, from basic computer skills to more advanced skills like programming and data analysis.

Is digital literacy a subject? ›

In academia, digital literacy is a part of the computing subject area alongside computer science and information technology. while some literacy scholars have argued for expanding the framing beyond information and communication technologies and into literacy education overall.


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