It’s safe to say that in today’s technologically advanced world, the definition of basic literacy is quickly changing.
Gone are the days of basic literacy being the sole prerequisite to succeed in college, let alone land a good job.
It’s impossible for most people in today’s world to go an entire day without plugging in. Consider that the average user logs 2.15 hours a day on social media alone and checks their smartphone 150 times a day! This “always-on” lifestyle has changed the face of the job market and, consequently, what it takes to excel within it.
The digital age has commanded that digital awareness and a basic knowledge of computer software and operating systems are integral to succeed, in terms of both education and career.
Digitization on Campus
A shift towards digitization is very evident in college campuses. For example, tablets and laptops are far more common than physical textbooks in classrooms, with an increasing number of students opting for e-books and PDFs. Digital libraries — with advantages like better organization, easier location of material and increased versatility — are gaining popularity over hard copy literary facilities.
Professors are also encouraging online submissions rather than hard copies of essays and assignments. Besides the positive impact this reduction in paper has on the environment, it is obvious that both students and professors prefer the convenience and quick turnover that working through digital media provide. And overall, this is a good thing.
However, simply being able to navigate one’s way through a class portal or college website isn’t enough to be considered digitally literate. Even though millennials consider themselves digital natives, they do seem to lack certain digital skills that are valued in the workforce. Unfortunately for the Google generation, thriving on social media doesn’t always translate to a white-collar job. Digital literacy today consists of so much more than curating a flourishing LinkedIn profile.
Components of Digital Literacy
In general, digital literacy consists of critical thinking regarding the authenticity of online information is, effective communication and collaboration with others within the digital space and the efficient use of digital tools to create, use, access, and share information. While social media awareness and management does fall under this broad definition, other skills such as email etiquette and tactics, strategy and planning, and search engine marketing rank as some of the top digital skills that make students more employable.
The widespread notion that these skills are necessary only for those aiming to pursue a career in IT is completely false. IT is simply one field in which the power and reach of digitization can be tangibly seen. For example, consider the advent of artificial intelligence. According to research by the Collat School of Business, AI is transforming the IT job market, most visibly in terms of filling the gaps as well as simplifying hiring.
Thus, the IT field simply points to the overarching influence of advancements in technology, reiterating the importance of digital literacy in every aspect of work. In fact, according to a study by the BCS Institute, 81% of employers regard digital skills to be an important requirement when employing people. A UNESCO report goes on to claim that being digitally literate also works as a catalyst because it enables the acquisition of other important life skills.
Keeping these factors in mind, the importance of digital literacy for college students today who are about to enter the workforce cannot be understated. Today, colleges bear the responsibility of moulding students into individuals who will thrive in an age of digital information and communication. After all, given that 90 percent of HR professionals rate operating a digital device as important to the majority of roles in their organizations, those with a mastery over digital skills are more likely be to succeed in their careers.