Digital literacy can be referred to as the power to utilise digital tools to resolve issues, develop innovative solutions, improve communication, and get ready for the trials of a progressively digital world. The UK is in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To flourish and secure the aids of digitalisation and new and innovative technologies, enterprises need a labor force that is digitally literate. Even though an absolute measure of digital literacy has not been established, there are marks of an acute shortage of digital literacy among the working population in the UK. According to the findings of OECD’s Survey on Adult Skills, digital literacy in England and Northern Ireland is below the OECD average. According to a report presented by the Confederation of British Industry, two-thirds of enterprises in the UK have untaken vacancies in digital literacy. As per Open University Business Barometer, one-third of vacancies due to skill shortage in Professional and Managerial positions are at least partially due to the dearth of digital skills. Open University Business Barometer reports also suggest that approximately 56% of employers in the UK tell of the need for improvement in digital skills in their business units to run with technological change.
On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hastened evolution to a digital world economy has also aggravated the already mounting digital divide in various communities. As learners, families, and offices were pushed into functioning almost fully via digital modes, gaps in digital literateness have been uncovered. Under such circumstances, the higher education system in the UK certainly has significant roles in developing the expertise, adaptableness, and attitude that matches up with being digitally literate and, thereby, produce graduates for a workstation that is swiftly being transmuted by technology. Therefore, higher education can assist in addressing the issue of increasing skills scarcity in this space, generating more employable degree holders and a workforce that is well-equipped for the jobs of the forthcoming period.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the necessity for the UK labor force to have adequate levels of digital literateness to obtain the benefits of digitisation and take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (FIR) was compelling. It is to be expected that as the nation emerges from the pandemic, that requirement will have only augmented. As institutes of higher education, universities/colleges have an important part to play in increasing learners’ digital literacy. Oftentimes the emphasis can be on teaching the technical procedures in using digital tools, while a more integrative approach to digital mastery can help in developing the potential of learners to cognitively implement their skills to analyse, evaluate, amalgamate and create new information. This immersive approach of learning can also help students to be inquisitive in identifying issues and solving the same using digital tools, in producing innovative solutions, and in learning innovative as well as visually compelling methods of communicating.
It can be observed that the nature of awareness, knowledge, and understanding is transforming, and in this age of digitalization, the existing definition of basic literateness now needs to expand. With roughly 90% of jobs in the UK demanding a certain level of IT expertise, the concept of digital mastery (the capacities that equip a person for learning and functioning in a digital environment) needs to be considered seriously by universities. Institutes can thereby help people in succeeding in an age of digitization and communication and ensure their financial security.
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