Evaluating digital literacies of social work students

Paper to be presented at #husITa16 in Seoul, Korea, 29 June 2016.


Jimmy Young (California State University San Marcos, USA).


The purpose of this study is to enhance digital literacies through an educational intervention that included students using digital technologies in the classroom. A no comparison pretest-posttest design with a cross sectional survey instrument assessed student’s level of digital literacies across 12 domains (Literat, 2014) at the beginning and end of the semester over the course of three semesters. The hypothesis for the study is that a student’s level of digital literacies will increase after participating in a course infused with social media and new media literacies content (Jenkins et al., 2009).

A total of N= 76 undergraduate students participated with a mean age of 22 years old. The sample was predominantly female and Caucasian, although minority and male students also participated. Improvements were observed in digital literacy across the sample from pretest to posttest. A t-test comparison showed roughly a 25% improvement in digital literacy scores as a result of course participation. An ANOVA procedure was used to assess mean score changes along domains of improvement from pretest to posttest, and statistically significant differences were observed among students with increases in skill levels across all twelve domains. Findings from the data suggest that through participation in the course students experienced growth in digital literacy across all domains.

Based upon these findings the hypothesis is supported. Infusing courses with digital literacies can have the effect of increasing the digital competence and skills of students. This evaluation suggests that the mechanisms people use to engage with each other are evolving, and that social work education must evolve as well to include focused and targeted efforts that teach students how to improve their digital literacy as well as to engage thoughtfully and purposefully in digital spaces. In this way students will be able to leverage digital technology for social good.


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