Web Literacy in Academia

Durham BB 2015 conference

The conference brought together examples of students as partners as well as question what this might mean to the future of education. The second conference keynote Radical Participation (slides below) was delivered by Doug Belshaw, web literacy lead at the Mozilla Foundation.

Doug spoke about a perceived value for academics to learn a certain literacy in order to come closer to the concept of students as partners, for example Facebook literacy, or Blackboard literacy. He defines the need for radical participation in order to succeed in this notion of partnership. Such engagement would fall into three key themes shown below.

Mozilla’s web literacy map


  • Composing for the web – Creating and curating content for the web
  • Remixing – Modifying existing web resources to create something new
  • Design and Accessibility – Creating universally effective communications through web resources
  • Coding/scripting – Creating interactive experiences on the web
  • Infrastructure – Understanding the Internet stack


  • Sharing – Creating web resources with others
  • Collaborating – Providing access to web resources
  • Community Participation – Getting involved in web communities and understanding their practices
  • Privacy – Examining the consequences of sharing data online
  • Open Practices – Helping to keep the web democratic and universally accessible


  • Navigation – Using software tools to browse the web
  • Web Mechanics – Understanding the web ecosystem
  • Search – Locating information, people and resources via the web
  • Credibility – Critically evaluating information found on the web
  • Security – Keeping systems, identities, and content

See webmaker.org/literacy for more about Mozilla’s work on web literacy.

A time when all academics are web literate

We need to ask ourselves honestly if such an ideal can ever be achieved? Indeed, I have seen a good number of new staff employed for their web and IT literacy skills over and above their subject based skills. From my own experience as a late starter to technology, messing around learning how new tools work and employing them effectively within pedagogy is extremely time consuming. I had the luxury of studying an MA in Online and Distance Education; so many hours were devoted to learning how these tools worked. I am not trying to make excuses for busy academics that never find the time to dabble with new learning technologies, I just wonder how they can when they teach, assess, produce research outputs, review course programs, manage staff and recruit new students.

Are we really expecting the impossible, or should there be a far greater focus on learning technologists working together at course level with academics to ensure real currency lies within the course’s pedagogy. One solution might be to offer student TEL ambassador scholarships whereby the student’s tuition fees are wavered if they become active partners and work to literally retain technical currency both within the course program and the people who deliver it.