Equity and Digital Footprint Project
Lead University: University of Newcastle
Lead Researcher: Rachel Buchanan
Research Team: Rachel Buchanan, Jill Scevak, Shamus Smith and Erica Southgate
Year Funded: 2014
Funding Received: $107,287
This project established an evidence base for the development of resources and strategies to educate undergraduate students in managing and curating their digital footprints for successful personal and professional outcomes. A multi-pronged, multi-audience communication and dissemination strategy was devised to ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds (e.g. Low SES; First-in-Family; Indigenous; Regional and Remote; and Disability) could develop essential digital knowledge and skills.
- The project objective was to build an evidence base for the development of resources and strategies to help students manage and curate their digital footprints. The components of this overall objective were to:
- investigate the digital footprint knowledge and behaviour of students from traditional and non-traditional backgrounds
- investigate the approaches of higher education institutions in educating undergraduate students about managing and curating digital footprints for successful personal and professional outcomes
- identify examples of evidence-informed practice for education of undergraduate students regarding digital footprint management
- devise a multipronged, multi audience communication and dissemination strategy.
- The key project activities to achieve these goals included:
- an online survey of 635 university students from 27 universities across Australia and focus groups with 30 students at the University of Newcastle (UoN).
- a desktop audit of 45 universities in Australia to examine the digital footprint resources that were publicly available for students’ digital footprint education
- a Delphi survey involving 53 experts in digital technology and education to seek respondents’ responses on best practice for digital footprint management.
- Over 75 per cent of students claimed that their university has provided them with no guidance on how to manage their digital footprints.
- Less than half of the 45 universities surveyed provide accessible information on digital footprint management.
- All of the 53 digital experts and university careers respondents agreed that there were equity/social justice issues around digital footprint management as currently not all students are being provided with guidance for the development of positive digital footprints. Students from low socioeconomic (SES) backgrounds were more likely to have never been given any guidance.
- There is a need for universities to provide guidance to students on the management of their digital footprints. The Delphi experts suggest that a holistic approach be taken, with government, universities, teachers, parents and carers, and students all needing to be involved and to be responsible.
- The project also found that student backgrounds played an important role in shaping the issues of digital awareness:
- Students’ knowledge of professional social media networks was influenced by their parents’ backgrounds (the more prestigious a student’s parents’ occupations, the more likely a student was to be using professional and social networks.
- As First-in-Family and low SES students are not coming to university with the same levels of information regarding professional networking, for the sake of equity, there is an onus on universities to explicitly provide this information.
- The project fulfilled its objective of developing an evidence base for the development of resources and strategies to help students manage and curate their digital footprints.
- The evidence demonstrated that university students (especially those from non-traditional backgrounds) required guidance for the development of positive digital footprints.
- Using this evidence, the project team aimed to develop resources for universities following Dr Rachel Buchanan’s trip to the United Kingdom to meet other experts in this field and collaborate on developing resources based on international best practice.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.