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Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Heydon, Rachel


This study is a systematic literature review of digital literacies and students in higher education. It sought to identify the state of knowledge on digital literacies in higher education including what studies have been conducted in this nexus and what remains to be known. The deductive themes drew on two prominent concepts of digital literacies: the Seven Elements of Digital Literacies (Jisc, 2014), and the Charter for 21st Century Literacies (Burnett & Merchant, 2018). The review’s methodology identified 23 studies published in the last five years across 21 countries. The findings suggest that researchers demonstrated interest in discussing how students utilize digital technologies for generating learning strategies that they can use beyond graduation. Additional pertinent topics include the digital divide, digital natives, information literacy, and media literacy, among others. Core recommendations include the creation of learning spaces that foster meaningful knowledge of digital literacies by universities and colleges.

Summary for Lay Audience

The world has long gone digital. By April 2023, the global count of internet users had reached 5.18 billion, representing 64.6% of the world's populace. Among these, approximately 4.8 billion individuals, equivalent to 59.9% of the global population, engaged with social media platforms (Statista, 2023). Information and communications technologies (ICT) are increasingly irreplaceable as resources for modern societies to organize themselves, mediating their economic growth and giving them access to swift information. Such information pervades communities and influences a number of fields, among them agriculture, health, and education, the latter being my focus in this work.

This review synthesizes 23 studies to identify the current state of knowledge on digital literacies in higher education, pointing out what has been studied and what potential problems future research might address. It is a systematic analysis of studies coming from 21 countries, offering a diverse picture of what it means to be digital literate in higher education settings. The findings suggest that universities are paying close attention to the development of digital literacies in their students, although they still have a long way to go to offer not only training that cater to the need for technical skills, but also a deep commitment to bridge gaps in digital access, creating an environment that fosters digital literacies for goals that surpass higher education, developing tolerance, critical thinking, and lifelong learning for all students. The review also gives recommendations for research and practice, including suggestions for more qualitative investigations in the field of digital literacies in higher education, and for more affective approaches from universities and colleges when teaching digital literacies, recognizing the value of students’ previous experiences and knowledge.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.