New publication reveals how undergraduate digital literacy experiences influence postgraduate employment and career trajectory

The NMC has released the 2017 Digital Literacy Impact Study: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief to uncover the learner’s perspective of how digital literacy training influences work life after graduation. As a complement to the definitions and frameworks outlined in the NMC’s 2017 strategic brief on digital literacy in higher education, this new study examines digital literacy in action as learners enter the workforce. More than 700 recent graduates from 36 institutions responded to an NMC survey that addressed the experiences they gained at colleges and universities, and how their proficiencies or lack thereof have affected their careers. Funding for this independent research endeavor and publication was provided by Adobe. Below are some key findings from the publication.

Level of Undergraduate Training: “Advanced” + “Moderate” Combined Totals

Figure 1: Many postgraduates reported exposure to digital skills that require interpreting, evaluating, planning, and searching for information online. Most undergraduate curriculum degrees require learners to organize research findings and share for required course projects or assignments. Beyond this, Figure 1 identifies that a number of learners use technology and digital environments to work collaboratively with peers to manage complex problems, apply solutions, and generate ideas to reach their educational goals.

Level of Undergraduate Training: “No Training” + “Minimal Training” Combined Totals

Figure 2: The gaps in technology training for undergraduates are primarily concerned with digital production and responsible use. Figure 2 identifies that digital literacy development could encourage learners to design content with technology to deliver information, communicate ideas, and share stories in different media formats, such as mobile apps, podcasts, ebooks, videos, or graphics.

This study was initiated as a response to evolving in-demand skills and attributes within the workplace. The results of the NMC survey identified that postgraduates were often instructed to consume information in their exposure to digital literacy, but received minimal or no training in the production of content in digital formats. Just over a third of postgraduates reported feeling more accomplished in their profession because of exemplary digital literacy training as undergraduates, with four out of ten receiving a promotion within the last year. These findings have the potential to generate a stronger pedagogical movement towards digital creation and ownership.

“Digital literacy isn’t just about learners understanding how to use a single technology or a host of programs and devices,” said Eden Dahlstrom, Executive Director of the NMC and Principal Investigator of the study. “Our research indicates that when learners can use digital tools to create something original, they will be able to adapt to a range of work environments. The digital realm is only expanding; colleges and universities need to provide opportunities to cultivate in learners more creativity and adaptability.”

The NMC’s study has identified areas for improvement for the higher education field to bolster digital literacy. Ultimately, the aim is for the research-based recommendations to guide higher education and industry stakeholders to better prepare postgraduates with the digital competencies required for future employment and career advancement. The 2017 Digital Literacy Impact Study: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief is available online, free of charge, and under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.

> Download the report (PDF)

About The Author

Samantha Adams Becker, Senior Director of Communications for the NMC, is the Director of the NMC Horizon Project and lead writer and researcher for the NMC Horizon Report series, which analyzes emerging technology uptake in various education sectors across the globe. She has an expertise in digital communications, with a special interest in e-publishing, social media, and online learning. In 2013, she taught the first online course ever to exclusively take place in Facebook, which was geared towards training education professionals to integrate social media into their teaching practices. Previous to the NMC, Samantha facilitated the digitization of books and periodicals for several of the world’s largest publishers and was the managing editor of a lifestyle magazine.