Digital Citizenship: The Key to Delivering a Modern Education

Kavitta Ghai
March 16, 2023

Welcome to the fully digital age, where higher education institutions are facing the Herculean task of preparing students for a virtual world that changes faster than you can say "floppy disk" (remember those?). So, how do we tackle this challenge? The answer lies in embracing digital citizenship and the peer-to-peer learning that it naturally incites. By fostering a culture of responsible tech use and collaboration, higher education courses can ensure students are ready to tackle the digital jungle that awaits them. Our aim is to equip the next generation of students with the tools they need to not only be digitally literate, but also understand the nuances of an online world and how to behave responsibly within it.

🍎 In this blog post, we'll dive into the benefits of digital citizenship in higher education courses, its impact on student success outcomes, and the research that has even the most skeptical of scholars raising their eyebrows. So, grab your favorite caffeinated beverage, and let's get started!

First off, what even is digital citizenship?

📲 Digital citizenship generally refers to the responsible and appropriate use of technology and digital resources. In the context of higher education and peer-to-peer learning, it means fostering a culture where students actively participate in their own learning journey and collaborate with their classmates effectively through digital platforms.

Incorporating digital citizenship in tandem with edtech tools in higher education courses empowers students to take charge of their learning experience safely and effectively. It teaches them how to use technology to actively engage with their peers, ask questions, share knowledge, and collaborate on projects, all of which are skills they will need in today’s workforce. This new learning environment is the "car" to the outdated "horse" of traditional education. By embracing digital citizenship, higher education institutions can create learning environments that are not only engaging and collaborative but also foster the development of essential digital skills, like discerning the correct information online. This, in turn, better prepares students for the increasingly virtual and interconnected world they will soon encounter in their professional lives, ultimately giving them the exact value they were looking for when they chose to attend your institution.

What does digital citizenship actually look like in practice?

📲 This all sounds a little fluffy, so lets look at some real world examples of digital citizenship thriving alongside peer-to-peer learning:

  1. Online Collaborative Research: In a course on environmental sustainability, students are put in groups and tasked with researching and analyzing the impact of plastic waste on ocean ecosystems. They use various online sources, including academic journals, news articles, and social media, to gather information. Throughout the process, they practice responsible digital citizenship by evaluating the credibility of sources, respecting copyright laws, and engaging in ethical online discussions with one another using their classroom backchannel. By practicing how to communicate synchronously with their teams, these students develop key skills required for any remote job.
  2. Virtual Group Presentations: In a history course, students collaborate via video conferencing and slide design tools to create and deliver weekly group presentations on historical events. As they navigate this tech stack, they develop essential professional skills like online creative collaboration, virtual public speaking, and time management. Simultaneously, the implementation of digital citizenship here teaches these students to communicate respectfully with teammates, provide constructive feedback, and create a supportive virtual learning environment. This active learning style also incorporates the Protege Effect to enhance their material comprehension and retention.
  3. Online Discussion Boards: In a philosophy course, students engage asynchronously in thought-provoking discussions about ethical dilemmas using their LMS forum tool. By participating in these virtual forums, they develop critical thinking, respectful communication, and empathy for diverse perspectives. They also learn how to respond thoughtfully to online conversations in a timely manner. As responsible digital citizens, they contribute positively to their online community, collectively fostering a culture of respect, understanding, and intellectual curiosity that grows even outside of the forum.

Feeling inspired, yet? Imagine your students learning these vital academic and professional skills in conjunction. This is exactly what today’s higher ed learner is looking for in their courses, both online and in-person.

Why is this an absolute necessity for higher ed?

📲 Embracing peer-to-peer learning alongside digital citizenship in higher ed courses is like adding a little extra hot sauce to your educational recipe—it spices up the learning experience just enough to make the material memorable in the minds of students who are used to feeling disengaged during lecture. Now that we’ve entered the era of hybrid and online courses taking precedent, a modern, student-centric education hinges on cultivating a digitally responsible and engaged learning community in every classroom.

In addition to enhancing digital literacy, implementing these practices can actually lead to better academic outcomes for the institution, including increased student retention. As always, we’ve covered our bases to ensure that the high-flying claims we’ve stated here are backed up by recent research studies conducted on higher education institutions:

  • According to research conducted by Greenhow et al. (2019), the effective implementation of digital citizenship programs has been linked to increased student retention and engagement.
  • Additionally, a study by Sobaih et al. (2020) found that the development of digital citizenship skills contributed to improved academic performance and motivation among students.
  • The most prominent resource for digital citizenship curriculum and research comes from the Common Sense Organization; see their compiled findings here to better understand how this affects the entire educational landscape.

Can this be an effective way to attract prospective students, too?

📲 Incorporating digital citizenship and literacy in the curriculum not only enhances the learning experience but also adds significant value to the education provided by higher ed institutions. Every campus offers similar courses, but how many can ensure that students will also gain critical life skills that will prepare them for this new virtual reality? This increased value proposition can attract prospective students who recognize the importance of digital skills and responsible technology use in today's workforce and society.

A higher value education that prioritizes digital citizenship demonstrates an institution's commitment to modernizing its curriculum and adapting to the evolving demands of the workforce. According to the World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report (2020), 50% of all employees will require reskilling by 2025, with digital skills being of utmost importance. Prospective students are more likely to choose an institution that equips them with the skills needed for future success, both academically and professionally. By emphasizing the role of digital citizenship in the curriculum, higher ed institutions can set themselves apart from competitors and showcase their dedication to delivering a comprehensive, future-focused education.

How is your campus evolving to create the modern educational experience that today's learner is expecting?

By implementing digital citizenship programs, modern edtech tools, and peer-to-peer collaboration in their curricula, higher education faculty and staff can create a resourceful and thoughtful learning experience that truly meets the needs of today's students, paving the way for a more connected and successful academic journey. Imagine the exponential value of an education where students not only feel confident navigating the evolving digital realm, but also understand the value of using technology ethically and responsibly. This is how we build and maintain the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers.

In our next article, we’ll dive deeper into peer-to-peer learning and how to effectively implement strategies within the classroom that promote student collaboration through the use of technology. See you there!

Kavitta Ghai
March 16, 2023

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