Digital Pedagogy Toolbox: Digital Literacy Outcomes

Post by Jessica Gemella and Anwen Burk, Curriculum Teaching and Learning Specialists, Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, Vancouver Island University

In higher education, digital technologies are essential for communication and information access, demanding specific skills of students and educators alike  (Digital Learning Advisory Committee, 2021). Likewise, online, blended, and hybrid learning environments require students to have diverse abilities, especially in content creation, to participate in online learning activities and assessments. These digital literacy skills remain essential as students transition into their professional careers. Digital literacy can be defined as a person’s knowledge, skills, and abilities to use digital tools ethically, effectively, and within a variety of contexts in order to access, interpret, and evaluate information, as well as to create, construct new knowledge, and communicate with others (Digital Learning Advisory Committee, 2021).

To enhance students’ digital literacy, we encourage educators to have open and honest discussions with students about the ethical use of current and emerging digital technologies. In this blog post, we present a digital literacy toolkit designed to cultivate these conversations in a way that is responsive to change and emphasizes the relationship between educators and students. Inspired by Fawns’ (2022) model of entangled pedagogy, which emphasizes the collective shaping of technology, teaching methods, purposes, values, and context, negotiated among teachers and students, our toolkit is intended to help instructors and students mutually shape the appropriate use of digital technology within teaching and learning contexts.

Evolution of a Digital Literacy Toolkit

In the summer of 2022, I (Jessica Gemella) stepped away from my teaching role at Vancouver Island University to become a curriculum teaching and learning specialist. In this role, I expanded on the groundwork laid by Dr. Sally Vinden by continuing regular online faculty discussion groups, known as The Digital Toolshed, via Zoom. In response to the faculty’s questions about selecting digital technologies for learning and teaching, I initiated a digital board (Padlet) to share resources and ideas in the Digital Tool Shop. The Digital Tool Shop offers a range of software applications, from basic word processors to specialized graphic design and programming tools. These digital tools are used in various settings to promote efficiency, access, and student engagement.

Notably, the Digital Tool Shop sparked conversation around ethical issues, privacy, and fostering appropriate behaviour in digital education. As a result, the Digital Citizenship Toolkit was introduced to assist instructors in enhancing students’ digital literacy.

Since the ability to distinguish between credible and inaccurate resources is foundational to digital literacy (Alexander et al., 2017),I, Anwen Burk, a curriculum teaching and learning specialist and a former librarian, was invited to collaborate on refining the toolkit. This collaboration culminated in the creation of a DIY Toolkit for Digital Literacy.

DIY Toolkit for Digital Literacy: Overview

The DIY Toolkit for Digital Literacy supports higher education professionals in facilitating discussions about the ethical use of digital technologies and meaningful engagement in online communities. It’s designed to help faculty co-create class agreements addressing ethical digital technology and media use, netiquette, and digital citizenship for well-being. Our intention is for this toolkit to be adaptable, enabling anyone to craft a class netiquette agreement that establishes guidelines and expectations for respectful and responsible online behaviour.


In developing our toolkit and consulting with faculty, we gained plenty of insights. Most relevant for educators is the need to (1) clarify expectations regarding digital tool use, (2) create community use agreements, and (3) deliberately address digital literacy by making learning outcomes explicit.

Clarify Expectations

Are you allowing students to use cognitive offloading tools for assessments? Examples of cognitive offloading tools are calculators, paraphrasing tools, search engines, and artificial intelligence. It is crucial to be clear and specific with students about whether using digital tools is acceptable while still accomplishing the established learning goals. For an example of how you might clarify what digital tools are permitted or not permitted in your classroom, see What Does AI Mean in Your Classroom? (Burk, 2023).

Create Community Agreements

Class agreements outline classroom behaviour and discussion norms and are collaboratively constructed by students and instructors. They lay the groundwork for a transparent and inclusive learning space by jointly establishing and clarifying these expectations. A community agreement helps students feel empowered, builds relationships, and fosters a culture of trust (Boston University Center for Teaching and Learning, 2022). One way of creating community agreements is through affinity diagrams (Dam and Siang, 2022), as shown in the DIY Toolkit for Digital Literacy.

Make Digital Literacy Outcomes Explicit

Student learning outcomes state what students are expected to know or be able to do on completing a course or program. While some course learning outcomes will focus on the content of the course, others may focus on skills. This is where digital literacy outcomes can fit into your course design. By incorporating digital literacy skills into the learning outcomes for the course, you can make space for deliberately addressing these skills in the context of your content.

When writing learning outcomes, begin with an action verb that is measurable and observable, then follow with a statement that indicates the depth of learning. Bloom’s taxonomy is often used when selecting verbs to clarify different levels of thinking, learning, and understanding. Given the availability of cognitive offloading tools like AI, Oregon State University has developed a guide based on Bloom’s Taxonomy that emphasizes high-level skills when developing learning outcomes. Lastly, include a context or criterion for acceptable performance, with words such as “by” or “through” (Centre for Excellence and Innovation in Learning, n.d.).

Oregon State University, Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised

We recommend adding digital learning outcomes to your course learning outcomes. You might begin by drawing from B.C.’s Post-Secondary Digital Literacy Framework, with outcomes that start with:

  • Evaluating the ethical and legal implications of collecting and disseminating digital information
  • Assessing the risks and benefits of having an online presence
  • Promoting healthy limits with technology to maintain well-being through reflection practices
  • Engaging in meaningful communication and collaboration with digital communities

A Call to Action

Our DIY Toolkit for Digital Literacy serves as both a guide and a call to action for educators and students to navigate the digital landscape collaboratively with ethics and awareness. In these times of rapidly emerging digital technologies and numerous tool choices, let’s help students choose wisely and prepare for what comes next.


Alexander, B., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., & Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). Digital literacy in higher education, Part II: An NMC Horizon Project strategic brief (Vol. 3.4, August 2017). The New Media Consortium.

Burk, A. (2023, September 1). What Does AI Mean in Your Classroom?: How Are You Going to Talk About AI with Your Class? The CIEL Blog.

Center for Teaching and Learning, Boston University. (2022, September 5). Creating community agreements with your students: A resource for instructors.

Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning, Vancouver Island University. (n.d.). VIU teaching and learning handbook. BCcampus.

Dam, R. F., & Teo, Y. S. (2022, May 2). Affinity diagrams: How to cluster your ideas and reveal insights. Interaction Design Foundation.

Digital Learning Advisory Committee. (2021). B.C.’s post-secondary digital learning strategy.

Fawns, T. (2022). An entangled pedagogy: Looking beyond the pedagogy—Technology Dichotomy. Postdigital Science and Education, 4(3), 711–728.

Oregon State University. (n.d.). Advancing meaningful learning in the age of AI. Artificial Intelligence Tools.