Doubling Down on Digital Literacy in Utah with Creative Tools

How the University of Utah uses Adobe Creative Cloud to prep students for modern careers.

The campus of the University of Utah.

by Karen McCavitt

posted on 03-05-2020

This summer, the University of Utah will cut the ribbon on a new residential complex unlike typical dormitories on most other college campuses. Indeed, Kahlert Village will be home to a variety of cutting-edge digital tools aimed at making technology and STEM education more accessible.

The largest building project in the 170-year-old school’s history, Kahlert Village will offer state-of-the-art housing for nearly 1,000 students to live, learn, and socialize while pursuing their education.

“Our lead donor Heather Kahlert has a vision of helping every student at the University of Utah become digitally literate,” says Ruth Watkins, president of the university. “So, Kahlert Village will include a Creative Commons area where Adobe Creative Cloud and other tools will be available to all residents.”

Kahlert Village is just the latest piece of a much larger modernization effort by the University of Utah to familiarize students with the creative apps they will need to succeed in a digital economy. As a member of the Adobe Creative Campus program, the University of Utah is driving innovation and empowering the future workforce by promoting digital communication skills across disciplines. For the past several years, the university has offered students, faculty, and staff free access to Adobe Creative Cloud.

“Adobe Creative Cloud tools encourage students to tell their stories, share entrepreneurial ideas, find investors and supporters, and sharpen their ideas,” she says. “Our partnership with Adobe has helped us in so many ways. As a designated Adobe Creative Campus we can connect and learn from other universities and share best practices on helping students build their digital skills.”

Storytelling for entrepreneurs

Kahlert Village is not the first innovative digital initiative at the University of Utah. One of the university’s earliest successes has been Lassonde Studios, a visionary five-story facility created as an incubator for student entrepreneurs from across disciplines.

Students work with the latest programs and tools, including Adobe Creative Cloud, to test ideas and get their businesses off the ground. Through Creative Cloud apps, students learn to design logos, create pitch decks, and edit videos that communicate complex ideas to potential investors and collaborators.

“We immediately saw the excitement across campus when we provided access to Adobe Creative Cloud,” says Cory Stokes, digital learning officer at the University of Utah. “Students quickly embraced it and started experimenting with all sorts of new ideas. We’re seeing faculty incorporating more creative assignments into their classes, showing how video and storytelling can be useful for all disciplines.”

Common toolsets

Adobe Creative Cloud includes more than 20 desktop and mobile apps and services to support a wide range of multi-disciplinary programs. With free access to Creative Cloud, the University of Utah gives students a common toolset that they can use throughout their educational careers.

“We know higher education is expensive for most students,” he says. “We want to give students every opportunity to succeed when they first arrive at the University of Utah. So, we are breaking down cost or access barriers and giving students access to Adobe Creative Cloud so they can focus on learning, collaborating across disciplines, and the impact they want to create.”

According to Stokes, the idea is to begin exposing students as soon as possible to the tools they will need to become better prepared for jobs in a digital world.

“Digital literacy is the currency of employment today,” he says. “There are a lot of things you can do in college to give you a good foundation, but solid digital skills and being confident in a digital world are what will help students get their first job out of college.”

Watkins agrees, saying that the university’s digital literacy focus cuts across the curriculum of nearly all its majors, from Spanish to business to pre-med to law and everything in between. But she said another reason why the university invests in this area is because there is a need for it across Utah.

“Send us tech-savvy grads”

Utah is known as one of the nation’s hotbeds for technology innovation. In fact, employment opportunities in Utah’s tech sector now support one in seven jobs across the state, making it the second-fastest-growing technology hub in the United States after Silicon Valley, according to a study from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.

“We spend a lot of time talking with businesspeople in Utah, and one message keeps coming through loud-and-clear: we need more University of Utah graduates,” says Watkins. “They want people in a wide range of fields. Graduates who are digitally literate. Who can use creative tools. Who can communicate effectively with others.”

Watkins continues, “We’re proud of our role in preparing students for the workforce and encouraging leaders of the future. We’re not just the University of Utah—we’re the University for Utah. With Adobe Creative Cloud, we can give our students the digital skills they need to help Utah and its economy thrive in the future.”

Watch the video to learn more.

An Adobe Creative Campus, the University of Utah is committed to digital literacy and had invested in student success by providing Adobe Creative Cloud tools to its entire student body and staff. Learn more.

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