How Abilene Christian University Prepares Students for a Digital Future

As an Adobe Creative Campus, the university builds digital skills for its students and faculty.

Image of Abilene Christian University's campus.

Abilene Christian University (ACU) in Texas is forging a new path and introducing digital literacy at all levels of the university. The university is an Adobe Creative Campus, which means it has forged a deep partnership with Adobe to work toward a shared goal of fostering digital literacy. The school is training students, faculty, and staff to use Adobe Creative Cloud apps, as well as collaborating and sharing content with peer institutions, so even more students can gain digital fluency.

“Building digital skills align with the university’s strategic goals,” says Marisa Beard, Ed.D., director of educational technology and the Innovation Foundry, a teamwork and technology hub at the university focused on digital literacy. “The university started using Creative Cloud in classes such as journalism, mass communication, and art and design, but a variety of other traditionally non-creative departments also have successfully adopted the tools.”

In web development classes at ACU, for example, students are using Adobe XD, a UI/UX design and collaboration tool, to learn and prototype real-world user experiences. Students in the university’s agriculture classes use Adobe Premiere Rush, a video editing software, for a project focused on plastics and their environmental impact. Several anatomy and physiology classes use Adobe Premiere Rush to create teaching resources for different systems in the body. And in nursing classes, students will use Adobe Illustrator to create visual research presentations.

Access to Adobe Creative Cloud tools is positively affecting how professors think about, teach, and present course materials. In turn, this is making digital literacy a core part of what students learn and arms them with an invaluable skillset as they enter the 21st-century workforce.

Why digital literacy matters

While training students for STEM careers has become more of a focus throughout institutions of higher education, digital literacy may be just as important for creating a highly skilled and competitive workforce. Sixty percent of the world’s major economies are experiencing talent shortages, according to the Hays Global Skills Index. More middle-skill and high-skill jobs — from accountants and office clerks to software developers and lawyers — now require some level of digital fluency. Just look at most job postings online and you’ll most often see digital skills listed in the requirements.

“Digital literacy is becoming more and more important in our society, regardless of our field of expertise,” says Andres Saucedo, anatomy and physiology professor at ACU. “The vast majority of my students are pre-nursing. In the world of healthcare, being comfortable with new and changing technologies is crucial to be able to provide the best patient care possible.”

Although digital literacy is becoming a core competency for employment in the modern workplace, many colleges and universities are struggling to incorporate digital literacy tools and ways to build these critical “soft” skills into their curricula. As the cost of a college education continues to increase and as younger generations enter the workforce, schools have a duty to adopt new resources to help students develop the skills they need to excel both inside and outside the classroom.

All aboard

To maximize the impact of the Adobe partnership, ACU created a new position, Adobe Ambassador in the Innovation Foundry, and brought on learning technology specialist Amos Gutierrez for the role. Amos focuses on promoting Adobe Creative Cloud apps on campus including education and training for faculty and students in the form of workshops, labs, one-on-one instruction, and LinkedIn Learning videos.

“Technology is part of our world, and it evolves quickly. If we don’t know how to use it or learn it, we quickly get behind,” says Amos. “When I look at the skills employers desire for students and for employees, pretty much every industry is going to require the use of digital tools.”

Theresa Naldoza, Ph.D., department chair for the School of Nursing, says “Adobe is very well known in graphics, design, and photography, but it’s great to highlight that other departments like nursing see the value of digital literacy and that faculty are actively incorporating elements of it in their class projects.”

She said faculty members have largely embraced learning something new and have encouraged students by being honest about the fact that they, too, are learning right along with them.

Brent Reeves, Ph.D., associate professor of management science and computer science at the university, adds that one of the advantages of being an Adobe Creative Campus and using Adobe’s digital tools is that it helps students get a more professional introduction to a professional workflow.

“Having Adobe Creative Cloud on campus for free removes access and cost barriers for a more level playing field for all of our students,” he says.

ACU is just getting started. Through a faculty fellows grant program, at least 20 of its faculty members will be incorporating Adobe products into their courses, paving the way for more students to build their digital skills for a competitive advantage as they enter the job market.

“Learning digital tools isn’t just about how to use them,” Amos says. “It’s about knowing how to communicate effectively. It’s about learning creativity.”

Given ACU’s ongoing commitment to not just promoting digital literacy but taking active, decisive steps to help their students engage and excel, it’s clear these next-generation leaders will be far ahead of that game.

As an Adobe Creative Campus, ACU has committed to digital literacy and invested in student success by providing Adobe Creative Cloud tools to its entire student body and staff. Learn more.