Opinion: a faster way to job-ready graduate digital literacy and security

By Ian Lang

September 30, 2020


At its best, social media brings diverse communities together through shared mutual interests and has become an important educational tool for many during isolation.

Increasingly, though, fears arise over the hijacking of platforms by sophisticated players using advanced artificial intelligence. Where social media is being used to seed distrust in our government, education and values, visible government push-back can be seen as authoritarian and escalating further dissent. Soft power may help here.

Screen, IT and media education have a key role in Australia’s economic recovery, building a stronger economy at home and trusted influence off-shore.

The challenge is universalising our media and IT education capacity to equip every Australian graduate with better skills in digital literacy and security. There is hardly a job in modern business and government that does not demand it.

The proposed 2020 Higher Education Reform Package uses pricing to shift market demand for degree types that have remain unchanged since COVID. Government disincentivises communications studies through the lowest commonwealth contribution of Cluster 1 and the highest student contribution of Band 4. IT and creative arts hover in the mid-range of both. But the skills in each package are more fluid than price would suggest.

Micro-credentialing works for students by increasing access. Amending degrees by micro-credentialing — with its attendant complexity in recognising prior learning — might be a random way, though, of achieving a specifically national outcome like digital literacy and security.

Employers and professional associations too, may still demand the currency of known-quantity industry-specific degrees if it saves them from assessing individualised academic records presented in job applications.

Existing curricula change processes are robust, and can be accelerated if changes simply include cross-disciplinary electives already on the books.

The opportunity for a digitally advanced workforce is not in producing more media, communication or IT graduates — it’s obtainable simply by using existing process and teaching capacity to ensure degrees in every discipline, from teaching, to law, to sciences, can access appropriate digital literacy and security units somewhere during their degree.

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