Increasing demands from employers for digitally literate graduates are substantially driving changes in edutech and the way highered education is being delivered, according to a new report.

Emerging new fields such as robotics, autonomous transportation, biotechnology, and genomics call for graduate skill-sets centred on a blend of technical savvy, creativity, and complex thinking, according to the latest NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief, Digital Literacy in Higher Education, Part II, which sets out to explore “the landscape of digital literacy as it relates to advancing more authentic learning in campus settings”.

The report notes a prediction (pdf) by the World Economic Forum that by 2020, 35% of the skills considered vital for workplace success will have changed.

The top ten graduate skills the WEF says will be in demand in three years are – Critical Thinking, Creativity, People Management, Coordinating with Others, Emotional Intelligence,
 Judgment and Decision Making, Service Orientation, Negotiation, and Cognitive Flexibility.

This compares with its top ten graduate skills for 2015: Complex Problem Solving, Coordinating with Others, People Management, Critical Thinking, Negotiation, Quality Control, Service Orientation, Judgment and Decision Making, Active Listening and Creativity.

Human creativity will be a key asset in an era of automation, says the Strategic Brief, adding that machines “still cannot replicate or replace human imagination”.

Embedded in effective digital literacy training “is the spirit of learners as creators”, it says.

Digital tools are “merely enablers”, and it is no longer acceptable for students to be passive consumers of content – “they can contribute to the local and global knowledge ecosystem, learning through the act of producing and discussing rich media, applications, and objects”.

It is also no longer sufficient for higher education students to simply know how to use the range of mobile devices, software, and media-creation tools, it adds.

Rather, students must be able to intuitively adapt to new digital environments, developing habits that “cultivate lifelong learning and the continuous mastery of new skills, given the rapid pace of technological development and its uses in practice”.

 Shift in power dynamics

Within the NMC Horizon Strategic Brief is a paper by the University of Adelaide’s Judith Bailey and Dr David Santandreu Calonge entitled ‘How Does Digital Literacy Change Pedagogy?’ (See Page 21 of the Brief.)

They say that the digital revolution has shifted the power dynamics between higher education students and their lecturers, such that students should now “be at the centre of university decision-making, including curriculum design and pedagogy”.

Further, they say, students need to have confidence that their courses and programs use authentic content and assessment that will give them crucial transferrable skills and prepare them for work and future life choices.

Students need their academics to be digitally confident and so “safe but innovative environments” should be created in universities, so that academics can “experiment with technology-enhanced learning tools and discuss the pedagogy underpinning their uses, to facilitate student engagement”.

This will help them empower students to integrate technology into their learning, where and when needed.

Ideally, they add, students should be partners in the learning process, as they are often a source of energy, new ideas, and approaches.

* For more see – Alexander, B., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., and Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). Digital Literacy in Higher Education, Part II: An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief. Volume 3.4, August 2017. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium