Educating for Digital Futures: What the Learning Strategies of Digital Media Professionals Can Teach Higher Education

May 2016

Source: Innovations in Education and Teaching International, Vol. 53, No. 3, 306–315, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This paper investigates how universities might engage more effectively with the imperative to develop students’ twenty-first century skills for the information society. It examines learning challenges and professional learning strategies of successful digital media professionals.

The author conducted in-depth interviews with eight successful Australian digital media professionals working in micro-businesses.

The results of this study assert that the university maintains an important place in professional learning, particularly for the acquisition of generic/transferable capabilities such as critical thinking. However, the universities need to consider new pedagogic affordances of digital technology in the educational space.

The author argues that in traditional educational frameworks, universities package explicit and declarative knowledge into static curricular units and deliver them. However, much of required skill and knowledge base required in digital media is tacit, procedural and/or metacognitive. These skill and knowledge are therefore best learned in a situated and authentic context rather than a decontextualized classroom. Knowledge without a basis in authentic experiences remains inactive and the learner can lack a sense of its relevance.

The author indicates that in order to maximise the potential of authentic learning, work integrated learning should be infused into the overall course experience. The author suggest to use a model of learning process that maximises student engagement through activities such as guidance from expert modelling, and mentoring. Through these activities, the students gradually become more advanced contributors.

The learning occurs within a community of practice. Students are in regular meaningful contact with professional experts, more experienced digital media students and teachers who can support them with learning how to learn and making sense of their learning experiences.
The author claims that in this model, learning is harmonised with formal learning. The acquisition of capability occurs in cyclical manner between authentic activity and the physical or virtual classroom, with teachers scaffolding students’ processes of reflective metacognitive learning how to learn and emergent meaning making. The author argues, however, in order to make this happen, universities must realise that they are no longer the holders of special, advanced professional knowledge and skills. They must build strong partnerships with industry stakeholders, other universities and training providers.

The author concludes that this study used the learning challenges and strategies of digital media professionals to investigate what students in the information society should be learning, and how they learn best in the digital age. The author argues that key challenge for universities moving forward is about organisational culture, and reinventing the way they do things to better meet the needs of learners in a new age. 

Updated: Feb. 08, 2018