Digitalisation has opened up opportunities for everyone to access quality education, without any time or geographical limitation. This digital democratisation made it necessary to identify some guidelines to learn how to navigate the digital world in a safe and effective way. The concept of “digital citizenship” was born in this context, to indicate a responsible and ethical use of technologies, for along with the benefits come many challenges and threats. For this reason, educational institutions play an important part in educating the users, and teaching how to make the most out of this precious opportunity.
Online education offers accessibility and flexibility, enabling learners to access courses and materials anytime and anywhere. This is especially beneficial for those who face geographical barriers, physical disabilities, or have a limited amount of time. Additionally, the range of course options is wider than usual, encouraging learners to pursue their interests and career ambitions without the need to depend on local institutions. Fostering self-paced learning allows individuals to learn at their own speed, and the overall personalised approach respects the diverse learning styles and preferences, enhancing comprehension and memorisation. The interactive nature of online learning platforms, such as MYSS (MY Smart School), also promotes collaborative learning and the exchange of ideas among students from various backgrounds, through discussion boards and virtual classes.
While providing all these advantages, online education also involves many challenges that necessitate the development of digital citizenship skills such as digital literacy and ethical use of technology. Moreover, it can involve navigating digital platforms in a responsible way, respecting intellectual property rights and being aware of cybersecurity threats. By integrating digital citizenship education into online courses, institutions can equip learners with the necessary skills to navigate the digital world effectively. In particular, a sense of responsibility and critical thinking skills would have to be developed in order to critically evaluate information sources, recognize biases, and understand the implications of digital footprints. Being a responsible digital citizen, would also mean learning how to engage in respectful online discussions and collaborate with peers from diverse backgrounds.
Educational institutions can play a crucial role in promoting digital citizenship among online learners. They can integrate digital literacy courses that focus on responsible online behaviour, critical thinking, information evaluation, and digital ethics, simply by including them in their curricula, across various disciplines. They can also raise awareness of cyberbullying and the importance of protecting personal information online. The safeguard of their digital identities, copyright laws, fair use, and proper citation practices, could be other practices to be taught to promote the ethical use of digital resources. As online education continues to reshape the educational landscape, it is important to educate digital citizens on the proper ways to inhabit the digital world, in order to make it safer, more accessible, and enjoyable by everyone.