The internet has infiltrated nearly every aspect of our daily lives, dramatically changing how we consume information, buy products, communicate, travel, live, and work. In fact, the number of households that have internet access has risen from just 18 percent in 1997 to more than 74 percent in 2012 according to data from the US Census Bureau. And as the ubiquity of online technology continues to grow, ensuring that students are equipped with strong digital literacy skills has become more crucial than ever.
From shopping for groceries to renewing your car registration, most routine tasks can now be completed online, but the need for digital literacy runs deeper than the simple convenience of not having to wait around at the DMV. According to the US Department of Commerce’s fact sheet on digital literacy, online skills are a necessity not only for finding today’s jobs but also for landing those jobs. Additionally, more than half of working Americans use the internet as an integral part of their work.
[…]more than 33 percent of college students were taking at least one online course in fall 2012.
Even digitally illiterate students who plan to attend college before pursuing a career may find themselves at a disadvantage. A growing number of higher education institutions are offering degree programs that are fully online. Students who don’t’ have the skills necessary to participate in these kinds of programs will have fewer options available when it comes to attending college.
Course options available through traditional degree programs will also be limited by a student’s digital proficiency as more colleges expand their online offerings. In an annual report published by the Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group, it was reported that more than 33 percent of college students were taking at least one online course in fall 2012—a number that has been steadily increasing for over a decade.
So what are educational institutions doing to ensure that students graduating from high school have the digital literacy skills they need to be successful and have the best opportunities available to them? Some states have added online learning components as a requirement to graduate. Among them are Alabama, Florida, Michigan, and Vermont. Alabama’s online learning requirement, in particular, was added as part of the Alabama College and Career Ready Initiative.
States like Arkansas and North Carolina are also taking action in response to these trends. Arkansas is adding an online learning requirement that is expected to go into effect for all districts and charter schools in the 2014–2015 school year. Just this year, North Carolina began implementing its new online learning requirement, which will apply to students graduating in 2020.
This kind of education reform has the potential to greatly benefit future students by helping to prepare them for college and the workforce. Not only will it open up their options when it comes to the kind of higher education they want to pursue, it will also make them more attractive job candidates. However, with these skills becoming an ever-greater necessity in today’s digital world, more states will need to get on board and implement similar education requirements to ensure that future students aren’t held back from achieving their full potential.