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Doing Digital: Taking Digital Literacy to New Heights at WSSU

If the last two years have taught higher education any lesson, it has been that the momentum of digital literacy is accelerating at a high rate. Colleges and universities everywhere faced the issue of addressing ways to close digital gaps in populations of learners on their campuses. For those at historically Black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions, the gaps were three times as greater. For that reason, many corporations began to move forward and partner with institutions to support closing the digital divide among college students, specifically at HBCUs. Adobe is one of the companies whose Foundation made an open statement saying: 

The Adobe Foundation believes that when everyone feels respected and included, they can be more creative, innovative, and successful. We are committed to taking a leading role in shaping a world that is equitable and creates belonging. Our goal is to use our voice, invest our resources, and mobilize our employees to impact injustices that affect our employees, customers, and communities ability to thrive. Over the next five years, Adobe – in partnership with organizations like yours – hopes to support and prepare millions of historically underrepresented students and career switchers for in-demand tech jobs and meaningful career pathways.”

Winston-Salem State University became an Adobe Creative Campus in 2018, making us the first HBCU to have this designation. Being an Adobe Creative Campus means that the university has access to the full suite of applications and services of Adobe Creative Cloud. The suite includes industry-standard software for graphic design, video editing, web development, photography, and more. At that time, WSSU made a conscious commitment to providing Adobe Creative tools to students, faculty, and staff at no cost to them. Not knowing the impact of this decision, WSSU began a Digital Literacy Project, created a Digital Literacy Committee consisting of representatives from faculty, staff, students, and administrators, and launched programming and faculty development workshops. Since becoming an Adobe Creative Campus, these initiatives increased the way digital tools were integrated into instruction by faculty and differentiated ways that students could submit assignments in a more creative approach.

WSSU has become synonymous with digital literacy, digital fluency, and digital faculty development among the 62 Adobe Creative Campuses worldwide. Our model of implementation has been replicated at other HBCUs that have since become creative campuses. Currently, there are three additional HBCU Adobe Creative Campuses – Florida A &M University, Bowie State University, and Fayetteville State University. 

Decisions to launch digital literacy integration into curricula on campuses are not just about providing digital tools. Digital literacy integration includes sustainability planning by providing resources, training, and support for faculty, staff, and students. When some corporations commit to partnerships, often, it may mean giving a few pieces of equipment, and then the commitment ends. Adobe has been consistent in supporting WSSU with digital faculty development grants, funding for additional digital spaces on campus, training faculty to become Adobe Creative Faculty Fellows, and inviting faculty to attend Creative Campus Institutes across the nation. “Doing Digital” has become a culture at WSSU that we know not only helps students while they are enrolled but also provides them with the digital skills that many employers are requiring as they enter an ever-changing digital workforce. There is more to explore as WSSU continues to move to forward in helping to close the digital divide for our students and taking digital literacy to new heights.

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