Digital Literacy Gives Students an Advantage at Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University At Dusk.

Winston-Salem State University is among the top 10 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. Founded in 1892, the institution has a long history of fostering the creative thinking, analytical problem-solving, and ingenuity needed for its students to transform themselves and the world. Its leaders know how digital literacy is a key skill that students need to succeed in a global marketplace.

Winston-Salem State University logo.

“Many of our students come from rural North Carolina, where they may not have high-speed internet, and many are the first in their families to attend college,” says Wanda White, Director of the Center for Innovative and Transformative Instruction (CITI) at Winston-Salem State University. “As the first HBCU to become an Adobe Creative Campus, we’re giving students tools they may not have access to—closing the digital gap and making them more competitive as they enter the workforce.”

In 2018, the university provided Adobe Creative Cloud to more than 5,100 students, nearly 350 faculty members, and more than 300 staff. Wanda and her colleagues in the CITI department have worked hard to drive adoption—collaborating with faculty to bring the digital tools into their classrooms. Her team focused significant effort into raising awareness of the tools and providing training up front.

“Adobe helped us run bootcamps for faculty members who were willing to become champions for the Adobe Creative Cloud apps—people who wanted to get started right away and inspire others to follow,” says Bart Ganzert, Senior Faculty Development Specialist. “We also conduct a Digital Literacy themed series of workshops to get faculty familiar with specific tools, from Adobe Spark to Adobe Audition and Adobe Premiere Rush.”

Already, 40% of students and 28% of faculty have adopted the apps, far exceeding expectations. And they’re showing just how resourceful and creative they can be in putting their new skills to good use.

A student studies a computer screen.

A first-year experience infused with digital skills

The First-Year Experience course was one of the first to adopt Adobe Creative Cloud. The First-Year Writing course was another. As required courses for all incoming freshmen and transfer students, the classes offer a great way to reach a large number of students.

“Our job is to acclimate students to college life, study skills, campus resources, and our tenets of social justice—so they learn what it takes to succeed,” says Keith Penn, University Program Specialist and Instructor for the First-Year Experience course. “We tell our students that Adobe tools are the gateway to their success because they give you the skills to do anything you want.”

Together with his colleague and fellow instructor Joe Baker, Keith has had success introducing Adobe Spark to new students. In the second semester of the year-long course, students are required to use Adobe Spark to present one tenet of social justice covered by Keith and Joe.

“It’s an awesome experience to see students use visual storytelling to convey their message,” Keith says. “Adobe Spark enables them to embed video and images into their presentations, which makes them much more powerful.”

The two instructors also lead a summer STEAM program, called Math Science Education Network (MSEN), for pre-college kids. They use Adobe Spark to create invitations, videos, presentations, and social media posts. They’re also planning to incorporate video production techniques into the program using Adobe Premiere Rush and Adobe Photoshop.

Biology gets creative with Adobe Premiere Rush

Meanwhile, biology classes are getting familiar with Adobe apps through Carly Kemmis, Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular in the Department of Biological Sciences at Winston-Salem State University. When the university became an Adobe Creative Campus, she was encouraged to attend a workshop on Adobe Premiere Rush. It quickly became an essential tool as she started teaching classes remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A professor stands behind a student and points to her computer screen to help her.

“There are 80 students in my biology class, and I need to make sure they can all access the material,” says Carly. “What worked really well for my online lectures was to create a handful of slides and record my presentation through Adobe Premiere Rush. Then I could use Zoom sessions to review the material and answer questions.”

She also started to have some fun with Adobe Creative Cloud apps.

“I came across a product called magic washberries, and I wanted to test the claims that these berries could be used to wash clothes,” Carly says. “I recorded my experiment with Premiere Rush and had students analyze the results. I also made a video on fermentation in my own kitchen, everything from beer and yogurt to hot sauce and kimchi.”

The videos infuse a new perspective into daily lectures and change the way students think about biology. Carly plans to bring Premiere Rush into her assignments as well, encouraging students to create their own biology videos.

Digital workflows streamline administration

The digital literacy initiative at Winston-Salem State University goes beyond the classroom. Manju Bhat, Chair and Associate Professor of Physiology in the Department of Biological Sciences, is working to champion Adobe Acrobat DC across campus.

“As an Adobe Creative Campus, we should take advantage of digital tools to streamline outdated paper- based processes and convert everything to digital workflows,” says Manju. “Adobe Acrobat is a perfect place to start because many people are familiar with it.”

Manju teaches anatomy and physiology in classes that can include as many as 120 students. He’s a self- proclaimed digital learning geek and, as a photographer, he uses Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom for personal projects. He plans to use Adobe Spark and Adobe Rush in his classes to have students create videos on health conditions. But what energizes him most is Adobe Acrobat.

“As department chair, I approve a lot of documents, and Adobe Acrobat Pro makes it possible to use digital workflows for faster routing and signing,” Manju says. “It’s not just for reading—we can edit, insert text, compile documents, and get things signed digitally.”

For example, the department now uses Adobe Acrobat to process forms for changing student majors, which alleviates the workload for everyone involved, including students, faculty, and staff. And since the COVID-19 crisis closed campus, the entire workflow has moved online. Manju predicts that paper-based processes won’t be making a comeback after the pandemic, and he’s already looking at new ways to use Adobe Acrobat.

“Course syllabi are sometimes 10 pages long, and I might need to make 120 copies to hand out to students,” he says. “By creating an electronic version and posting it in our learning management system, I can make my syllabus more accessible and user-friendly. I’m even starting to use Adobe Spark to incorporate videos, images, and narration—kind of a course teaser.”

Educating future leaders with digital literacy

The motto at Winston-Salem State University is “Enter to learn. Depart to serve.” As the university prepares students to serve as the leaders and problem solvers of tomorrow, there are few skills more crucial than digital literacy. Winston-Salem State University’s investment in digital literacy helps to level the playing field for its students and gives them a competitive advantage as they enter the workforce.

As an Adobe Creative Campus, Winston-Salem State University has committed to digital literacy and invested in student success by providing Adobe Creative Cloud tools to its entire student body and staff.