3 roads to digital literacy.
All leading to student success.

A recent strategic brief by the New Media Consortium identifies 3 models of digital literacy. According to respondents, any of the following three models would be welcomed by teachers and students alike—Universal Literacy, Creative Literacy, or Literacy Across Disciplines.

Establish the fundamentals of
digital literacy on your campus.

Universal Digital Literacy

A familiarity with using basic digital tools such as office productivity software, image manipulation, cloud-based apps and content, and web content authoring tools.

Universal Digital Literacy requires hands-on experiences. It’s the approach preferred by Gen Z.


Both students and teachers agree the hands-on approach ranks at the top for their preferred learning method.
  • Doing & Creating

  • Watching

  • Online Research

  • Collaborating


They also agree that the old ways of teaching fall at the bottom
  • Listening

  • Reading

  • Writing

[Students] need to be able to adapt as situations change and be confident in moving across the digital space.

—NMC Higher Education Survey Respondent,
Digital Literacy, An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief, Volume 3.3, October 2016

Both teacher and student believe Gen Z is not fully prepared for the future. Teaching Universal Digital Literacy is a step in the right direction.


  • 87% Students agree
  • 91% Teachers agree

“[Digital literacy] initiatives have the potential to generate more excitement around learning for students, especially as their growing fluency enables deeper connections with others and equips them with a new lens to critically evaluate the world around them.”

—NMC Releases Horizon Project Strategic Brief on Digital Literacy, NMC.org

Teachers want to make changes in the classroom to better prepare students for the workforce. Many of these changes can be introduced with digital literacy.


  • 66%

    of teachers want more opportunities for hands-on learning.

  • 52%

    of teachers want to evolve the teaching curriculum.

  • 40%

    of teachers want more ways for students follow their curiosities.

  • 39%

    of teachers want more technology in the classroom.

Adopt a more advanced digital
literacy so students stand out.

Creativity Literacy

Includes all aspects of universal literacy and adds more challenging technical skills that lead to the production of richer content, including video editing, audio creation and editing, animation, an understanding of computational device hardware, and programming — along with digital citizenship and copyright knowledge.

Skills for a more creative tomorrow.

Creativity is essential to students’ future careers.
  • 85% Students agree
  • 91% Teachers agree

“By infusing Adobe technology and training into the fabric of student life, we're unlocking student success and professional development on a mass scale, responding directly to the needs of employers and graduate schools as well as students and their families."

—Vincent Del Casino Jr.,
Vice Provost for Digital Learning and Student Engagement and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, University of Arizona

Life after college—creative literacy lets students stand out.

  • 5 to 1

    5 to 1 hiring managers prefer creative skills over conventional skills.

  • 9 out of 10

    9 out of 10 hiring managers agree creativity is key when evaluating candidates.

Adobe Creative Cloud is one of my most valuable tools. It’s the canvas that allows me to express myself and build ideas that positively impact my community.

—Seun Ajewole,
MBA Student, Northeastern University

Make digital literacy as integral to
coursework as reading and writing.

Digital Literacy Across Disciplines

Diffused throughout different classes in appropriate ways that are unique to each learning context. For example, sociology courses can teach interpersonal actions online, such as the ethics and politics of social network interaction. While psychology and business classes can focus on computer-mediated human interaction.

In the job market—hiring managers feel these are the most essential skills for new hires.


  • Tech-savvy

    88% of hiring managers feel tech proficiency is a must.

  • Communicate with digital and visual media

    82% of hiring managers want candidates that can express ideas with digital and visual content.

  • Creativity

    76% of hiring managers seek candidates that show creativity.

Infusing digital skills into every subject ensures they can apply it to any situation.


94% Teachers

94% of teachers feel their students will work in careers that don’t exist yet.

Everyone wants more creativity in every classroom.


  • 76% Students agree
  • 75% Teachers agree

“By bringing digital creativity into non-traditional creativity areas—English and Rhetoric for instance—we’re augmenting our students’ critical-thinking skills with the kind of creative invention that drives the most successful high-tech industries today.”

—Dr. Jan Rune Holmevik,
Associate Professor of English and Co-Director for the Center of Excellence in Next-generation Computing and Creativity, Clemson University

Ways to add creativity in schools and universities:


  • Give them tools and training

  • Provide hands-on learning opportunities

  • Make it integral to the curriculum

By honing my design skills with Adobe Creative Cloud, I’m differentiating myself and creating a strong first impression that helps kick start my future academic and career goals.

—Vincent Fu,
Computer Science student , University of Utah

See how you can provide the digital literacy skills with Adobe Creative Cloud to prepare your students for a digital future.

Get the details

Learn more about the 3 models in the report,
Digital Literacy An NMC Horizon Project Strategic Brief.

Read Now