January 21, 2017
In order for all individuals to benefit from engaging, effective and inclusive learning more should be done to enhance their digital competencies. Gaining access to this form of learning is conditional upon possessing certain technological skills with many experts arguing that the “right” skills for the 21 century are the digital competencies. It is a reason to worry that only 30-35 % of students in EU countries are digitally confident (Champoux, 2007; Garben, 2012). The reality is changing fast, the societies are based on information and knowledge but education systems are falling behind because they are not embedding digital literacy in all education systems (UNESCO, 2011).
Higher education and its components are changing fast and radically by globalization and technological developments. Ongoing developments are emphasizing the ability of learners to respond to an ever changing environment by continuously learning. It is expected that the demand for higher education will continue to increase and Europe will have to learn how to respond to this demand as well as how to respond to the competition with other educational powers. Literacy in technology is vital in this respect (Garben, 2012).
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have infiltrated all areas of life. In this respect the understanding of digital competencies has expanded from the basic skill of handling computers to the advanced skills of using and producing digital media, processing information, and participating in social networks to create and share knowledge. Furthermore, the application of ICTs in all levels of education can make the learning process more personal, adaptive and interactive (UNESCO, 2011) –hence less formal.
International evidence provides that digital literacy has positive impacts on learning outcomes. To illustrate, the study of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) show that students’ knowledge and learning motivation for English and Math increased fast when their digital literacy skills where improved and when classes where taught using ICT resources (UNESCO, 2011). Opponents of emphasizing digital competencies across all levels of education point to the fact that the link between more IT literacy skills and knowledge acquisition is not definite. An example is the study of Wecker et al. (2007) exploring the link between computer literacy and knowledge acquisition provided that there is no correlation between computer literacy and knowledge acquisition.
The European Commission noted that there are serious challenges for the EU higher education institutions and their over 20 million students (Eurostat, 2012). Notable challenges include adapting to globalization (European Commission, 2013b), utilizing new technologies to improve the quality of instruction across higher education institutions (European Commission, 2013c), and match learning to the needs of the society and labor market (European Commission, 2013d). Furthermore, experts note that EU higher education institutions continue to emphasize theory, intellectual abilities and provide a broad education as opposed to offering an education that relies on experience, and is specialized (Aguilera-Barchet, 2012). In addition, while European countries are increasing the number of students attending higher education institutions, it is expected that this increase in attendance will result in lower standards (Ellis, 2013) as opposed to an increase in the quality (Katsarova, 2015). Ultimately, reforms in education are a necessity as opposed to an option. While there may be struggles ahead, the reality is that future of non formal education is promising (Dib, 1988) and a viable alternative to the education needs of education systems across Europe.
Evidently, opponents note that once technological developments merge with learning environments, the learning experience will become individual and the use and outcome of technological applications will depend on the previous skills, abilities and knowledge of the learner. A considerable number of research studies provide that enhancing digital skills will improve learning and outcomes of the learning process. On the other hand, other studies imply that enhancing digital skills may have no implications for the learning process. Regardless, the implications of enhancing digital skills may be evident only once a considerable amount of time has passes- as opposed to short time outcomes. Conclusively, as technology is becoming a key part of life, its application to education is a matter of time, and so is the issue of including digital competencies in the curriculum.Arif Shala