Equipping Higher Education Students with Digital Skills for the Post-Pandemic World

Equipping Higher Education Students with Digital Skills for the Post-Pandemic World

Aslı Günay
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8626-6.ch004
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The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a digital transformation in global higher education because universities were forced to close, and higher education students faced interrupted education processes. Currently, online learning in higher education is a new phenomenon, and the pandemic has highlighted the importance of digital skills for higher education students for both new distance teaching and learning methods and the new labor market. The longer universities remain closed, the more higher education students will lose their future, resulting in a permanent loss of digital skills for the post-pandemic world. Accordingly, this study presents the current situation of higher education students relative to the pre-pandemic period and offers recommendations about the importance of equipping them with digital skills. In this context, this study overviews the level of digital skills of higher education students by synthesizing and comparing current data from reliable international institutions and provides an overall assessment.
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The fast and wide dissemination of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has created completely new economic competition conditions for countries since the beginning of the knowledge-based economy. While ICTs have altered or eliminated numerous work settings, jobs, industries, and socio-economic activities, they have also created new labour market conditions (Nyiri, 2002). Today, new technologies have continued to be the main drivers of disruption in labor markets around the world. For example, new technological innovations such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things have already had a widespread impact on the existing workplace (World Economic Forum [WEF], 2016). Furthermore, digitalization in working life is growing and changing rapidly, and it is apparent that the new types of employment that are being created and those that are being lost are not the same (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2018).

The Covid-19 pandemic was discovered in China in November 2019. Globally, as of 22 October 2021, there have been 242.348.657 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 4.927.723 deaths (World Health Organization [WHO], 2021). However, the Covid-19 pandemic is not only a health crisis, it has also changed the world economy forever and impacted the lives of most people. Global output is projected to rise by 5.7% in 2021 after a 3.4% contraction in 2020, but the recovery still remains uneven (OECD, 2021a). Moreover, digitalization and access to ICT infrastructure for remote work have become more important than ever before. Before the pandemic, overall, global competitiveness improved by 1.3 points in 2019, driven mainly by the increase in ICT adoption (WEF, 2019). Globally, internet users have doubled since 2010, surpassing 50% of the world population, and every sector of the economy has seen a fast uptake of digital technologies (WEF, 2020a). Despite this progress, the digital divide, the gap between individuals with regard both to their opportunities to access ICT and to their use of the internet for a wide variety of activities, is still on the rise around the world since only 53.6% of the global population can use the internet (OECD, 2001; WEF, 2020a). As people adapt to living and working online, internet usage has nearly doubled since the pandemic began, with OECD countries having roughly twice the number of high-speed mobile Internet subscriptions per inhabitant as non-OECD countries (OECD, 2020). This digital divide between countries is one of the main challenges for countries to rebound their economies during the Covid-19 pandemic, and some people and firms will most probably be worse off than in the pre-pandemic world due to the huge digital divide around the world.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also had a severe impact on higher education as universities closed their premises and countries shut their borders in response to lockdown measures (Schleicher, 2021). After a massive expansion in higher education in the last few decades, more than 227 million students were suddenly disrupted in 2020 by university closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], 2021). The pandemic has forced universities to explore new ways of teaching and learning, including distance and online learning (United Nations [UN], 2021). Globally, the number of online courses has risen steeply during the pandemic. However, the long-term closure of universities poses a great risk for students' future since they will probably fall below the minimum proficiency levels in both theory and practice (UN, 2020). In particular, students who don’t have access to digital devices and/or web access at home due to the digital divide are at risk of falling behind. Currently, most universities around the world are preparing for a safe and effective digital learning environment by altering their normal schedules and organization at the institutional and national levels (Aristovnik et al., 2020). Therefore, the pandemic has also dramatically changed higher education with the distinctive rise of online learning or the global dependency on digital technology, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Labor Market: Place where workers and employees interact with each other.

Problem Solving in Technology-Rich Environments: Using digital technology, communication tools and networks to acquire and evaluate information, communicate with others and perform practical tasks.

Unemployment: Individuals who are employable and actively seeking a job but are unable to find a job.

Digital Divide: Disparity between individuals with regard both to their opportunities to access ICT and to their use of the internet for a wide variety of activities.

Higher Education: Educational qualification awarded upon successful completion of specific educational programs in universities and equivalent institutions.

Lifelong Learning: Any learning activity that an individual engages in throughout his or her life to develop his or her knowledge, skills, interests, and qualifications with an emphasis on personal, social, and occupational aspects.

COVID-19 Pandemic: A disease caused by a new coronavirus, which has not been previously identified in humans, discovered in China in 2019.

Digital skills: Ability to use, access, filter, evaluate, create, program, and share digital content.

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