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  • Writer's pictureAdobe

Improving student outcomes: Quantifying the impact of creative skills on college and career

As the world of higher education undergoes seismic shifts, our community of institutions and educators remains focused on ensuring students get the most out of their college experience and preparing them to thrive in tomorrow’s workforce. We wanted to understand the exact impact of cultivating creative skills, those most in-demand in college and the job market, to equip schools and students with measurable and actionable insights. The results are exciting! In a climate where students are questioning the value of a college degree, I hope these insights will motivate students and schools alike to invest in creative and digital literacy skills — to improve student outcomes and career success.

Today I’m proud to announce Improving Student Outcomes: Quantifying the Impact of Creative Skills on College and Career, first-of-its kind research in partnership with Civitas Learning and LinkedIn which measures the effects of integrating creative and digital literacy skills across general higher education courses, and the impact of these skills on career trajectory.

Our latest study shows that not only do creative and digital literacy skills deliver better student outcomes in class, they deliver better outcomes for the institutions that invest in teaching them. When schools maximize their investments in Adobe Creative Cloud across the curriculum, students who are least likely to progress see a bigger benefit, proving creative and digital literacy skills can even serve as an equalizer. And beyond graduation, these skills are also a catalyst for long-term career success.

Demonstrating the measurable impacts of creative and digital literacy skills

Civitas worked closely with three universities, University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA), California State University Fullerton (CSUF) and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) to measure the impact of investing in tools that nurture creative skills. Positive, measurable results were revealed in each school, and those with the widest adoption of Creative Cloud — where students engaged in dynamic, interactive learning by creating videos, prototypes and digital portfolios — saw the largest benefits.

I caught up with one of our close partners in the study, Melissa Vito, who serves as UTSA’s vice provost for academic innovation. “By providing critical support programs and trainings for faculty, we ensured that the integration of Adobe Creative Cloud into coursework accelerated students’ use of these tools,” she explained. “Ultimately, their academic success compounded as they used Adobe’s tools in other courses and beyond the classroom.”

Additionally, in partnership with LinkedIn, we looked at data from nearly five million global hires and recent grads to determine what — if any — changes they saw in career trajectories from incorporating creativity into online profiles.

By analyzing student outcomes like course mastery (earning an A or B), course grades, term GPAs, and retention, as well as career growth of those with essential skills, we can now demonstrate what we’ve long believed: creative and digital literacy skills are key to improving student outcomes while in school, helping institutions meet their goals for retention and engagement, and unlocking professional opportunities.

Some highlights from the Civitas research reveal:

  • Students in classes that use Creative Cloud achieve better academic outcomes than students in classes that do not. For example, UTSA students in classes with Creative Cloud integration saw 4.5 percent increased course mastery across disciplines — from courses in Humanities, Business and STEM.

  • Schools see more students returning term to term when digital tools are integrated into the curriculum. Not only do schools with Creative Cloud see improved academic outcomes, they see students staying engaged, and therefore enrolled, longer. UTSA students who used Creative Cloud and were in the bottom quartile — those least likely to persist to the next term — were 8 percent more likely to return to school than those who did not use Creative Cloud.

  • The benefits were even greater among underrepresented students. UTSA, a designated Creative Campus, saw especially high increases in course grades among Black and African American students (2.2X), those in the bottom academic quartile (1.7X) and students in their first term of school (2.4X) compared to the average performance of students using Creative Cloud.

Helping students succeed beyond the classroom

In addition to these measurable outcomes in school, I’m excited to share the role creative skills play in success throughout students’ careers.

We know from global LinkedIn data creativity ranked as the #1 most in-demand workforce skill in 2019 and 2020 and, as LinkedIn’s Pal Petrone noted in 2019, “Strengthening a soft skill is one of the best investments you can make in your career, as they never go out of style. Plus, the rise of AI is only making soft skills increasingly important, as they are precisely the type of skills robots can’t automate.”

This new LinkedIn new data reinforces the tangible impact of creative skills on career trajectory well beyond graduation:

  • Demand for creative skills is accelerating. The volume of hires possessing creative skills has grown 78 percent in the past two years, and new grads in diverse job functions secured between 3-16 percent higher starting salaries when they listed creative skills on their LinkedIn profiles compared to those who did not possess or promote these skills.

  • Creative skills promote ongoing career growth. In the past three years, professionals with creative skills saw up to two to three times higher salary increases compared to those without, across nearly every major industry and job function. These skills also seem to offer downside protection for industries most impacted by the pandemic, such as hospitality.

Building on data about the role of creative skills in college admissions and the hiring process, this study advances our drive to uncover innovative teaching strategies with long-term impact and equip all students with the tools to reach their goals. Our work is far from over, and I look forward to the many initiatives we have in the pipeline. From donating $1 million to three universities as part of our Anchor School Program, to convening education thought leaders at Adobe MAX, our annual creativity conference later this month, I’m energized by what we can achieve together as we reimagine a brighter future for education and the next generation.


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