Digital proficiency: Sorting real gaps from myths among higher education students

TitleDigital proficiency: Sorting real gaps from myths among higher education students
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsLucas, M, Bem-haja, P, Santos, S, Figueiredo, H, Dias, MFerreira, Amorim, M
JournalBritish Journal of Educational TechnologyBritish Journal of Educational TechnologyBr J Educ Technol
Date Published2022/04/11
ISBN Number0007-1013
Keywordsassessment, digital competence, employability, fields of education and training

Abstract Digital competence is among the basic key competences for digital learning and employability. For this reason, its acquisition and development should be on the agenda of higher education institutions (HEIs) who wish to prepare their students to thrive in an ever faster evolving digital labour market. However, the existence of a valid instrument that can help HEIs measuring and further integrating digital competence into pedagogical and organisational practices with sufficient precision is yet to be accomplished. This article provides a valid and reliable instrument to measure higher education students' digital competence on the basis of the European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens, also known as DigComp. The instrument was applied to a sample of 411 students from a mid-large public HEI and the results attest its validity and reliability. In addition, the study explores proficiency differences among students from different fields of education and training, and gender. Results demystify the idea that ICT students are more digitally competent than those in other fields of study, but suggest males score higher than females, which feeds into the ongoing debate of gender differences in relation to digital technologies and the readiness of females for the digital labour market. The results lead to clear implications for research and practice. Practitioner notes What is already known about this topic Digital competence is critical for higher education (HE) students to benefit from digital learning, strive in a digital society and increase employability prospects. There is a lack of valid instruments to measure higher education (HE) students' digital competence and facilitate the identification of digital competence gaps. Few studies focus on the relationship between HE students' digital competence, gender and fields of education and training (FET). What this paper adds A valid and reliable instrument based on a common European framework for digital competence. HE students lack the necessary digital competences to effectively cope with digital environments. Digital proficiency is particularly low regarding ?Safety?, ?Problem solving? and ?Digital content creation? competence areas. ICT students show less proficiency than those from other FET. Male students score higher than females. Implications for practice and/or policy The instrument can be adopted by different stakeholders to assess students/future job seekers' digital competence. HE institutions could benefit from such an instrument as a diagnosis to design specific teaching and learning strategies and target students' proficiency and particular needs. Tackling specific FET and competence areas can better support the development of students' digital competence and facilitate their employability prospects.

Short TitleBritish Journal of Educational Technology

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