An Investigation of Digital Literacy Needs of Students

By Nelson, Klara; Courier, Marcy et al. | Journal of Information Systems Education, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

An Investigation of Digital Literacy Needs of Students

Nelson, Klara, Courier, Marcy, Joseph, Gilbert W., Journal of Information Systems Education


The top five challenges in teaching and learning with technology include the development of 21st century information, digital, and visual literacies to ensure that students are equipped with the skills needed to succeed in college and future careers (Educause, n.d.). Digital literacy is considered "an essential requirement for life in a digital age" (Bawden, 2008, p. 30). Often used interchangeably with computer or information and communications technology (ICT) literacy, digital literacy or competence, however, is a broader concept and does not automatically follow from the ability to use ICT tools (Ala-Mutka, Punie, and Redecker, 2008). Gilster (1997) first defined digital literacy as "the ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers" (p. 1). Since then, a plethora of often inconsistent definitions of digital literacy have emerged that range from the technical aspects of operating in digital environments to the cognitive and socio-emotional aspects of work in a computer environment (Eshet-Alkalai, 2004). Such ambiguity obviously poses challenges for the effective design of curricula and courses targeting digital literacy. Determining what specifically should be taught is further complicated by a host of other issues:

* Difficulties with clearly defining what a digital environment entails as rapidly changing technologies represent a moving target (Leu, 2002);

* Lack of a common inventory of digital literacy skills or outcomes expectations;

* Steady shift of introductory college level material to high-school curriculum (Yahya, 2010);

* Disconnect between what colleges expect students to know and what students (often erroneously) think they already know as students' self-efficacy ratings exceed their actual performance scores (Easton, Easton, and Addo, 2006; Morris, 2010);

* Claims that students who have been "born digital", i.e., only know a world that is digital (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008), are radically different and do not have to learn ICT but merely experience it (Nasah et al., 2010);

* Very wide range of computer proficiency and online skills among students depending on factors such as socio-economic background and personal innovativeness (Hargittai et al., 2010; Nasah et al., 2010; Smith and Caruso, 2010);

* Criticisms related to the exclusive use of or focus on products from one vendor, raising the issue of "propagandizing a specific vendor" or having higher education textbook publishers drive what the outcomes of a technology course should be (Hodge and Gable, 2010).

* Concerns about making content relevant to different academic disciplines.

Universities employ different methods to ensure computer literacy of their students including introductory and often required computer skills courses included in the general or liberal studies core (Van Lengen, 2004). In response to concerns about such a one-credit-hour course in software applications required of all students at a medium-sized university in the southeastern United States, a task force was formed in Spring 2010 to develop a better understanding of the digital literacy needs of students and determine core curriculum items that should be taught. Based on a survey conducted by the task force, we sought answers to three basic research questions:

Q1. What are faculty perceptions of the importance of different aspects of digital literacy?

Q2. What are the commonalities and differences between the colleges vis-a-vis the different aspects of digital literacy?

a) What aspects of digital literacy need to be known by all students regardless of academic major or college affiliation?

b) Are there significant differences in the digital literacy needs between the colleges?

Q3. What are the implications of the digital literacy needs as perceived by faculty for course curriculum and course development, specifically the need for or redesign of the current one-credit-hour applications course?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

An Investigation of Digital Literacy Needs of Students


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?