School students’ experience of learning online during the coronavirus pandemic will help prepare them for a digital future, and we should embrace this unexpected opportunity, says a James Cook University researcher.
Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching at JCU’s College of Business, Law and Governance Dr Kerry Russo said online learning brought about by COVID-19 will help improve school students’ digital fluency.
“The 21st Century workforce needs digitally fluent employees,” she said. “In order to take their place in the future workforce, students must be digitally fluent. Now is our opportunity.”
Dr Russo said we should not assume young people are digitally fluent because they are skilled at social media.
“Using Facebook, Instagram and TikTok does not equate to digital fluency,” she said. “Digital fluency is the ability to move with ease in a digital environment and create and reformulate knowledge through the use of technology.
“We need to grasp the positive of our current situation and recognise digital immersion improves digital skills. The more exposed students are to digital learning environments, the more likely they will become digitally fluent.”
Dr Russo’s research has focused on digital learning in the university environment.
“The exposure school students are receiving now will help them in years to come if they want to go on to university,” she said. “Research shows that access to a learning management system or digital curriculum during secondary school increased the probability of the student being digitally fluent and therefore successful at university.”
However, the move to online learning has also highlighted Australia’s digital divide.
“Many students don’t have access to a digital device or have the necessary skills to learn in a digital environment,” Dr Russo said. “This divide has been omnipresent in our education system for some time and it needs to be improved to ensure as many students as possible have the best chance of success in the future.”