USC Kids Tricked Out with Adobe Sweets


This fall, students at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism are being treated to an array of media software confections in the form of free access to Adobe Creative Cloud. The suite of online tools for print, web, video, photography and design, includes Photoshop, Premiere, Illustrator, InDesign and Acrobat. Undergraduates, grads, PhD candidates and professors will receive the software at no charge as long as they are enrolled. The standard membership plan for individual students and teachers is $240 per year. Full retail plans run $600 per year.

The first-time collaboration between Adobe and the University of Southern California is part of the school’s digital literacy initiative, which seeks to prepare students to function and thrive as digital citizens living and working in a culture that is increasingly participatory and collaborative.

“Offering students unlimited access to these tools, invaluable for developing skills for digital communication and collaboration, will give students a competitive edge in the classroom – and after they graduate,” said USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III in a press release.

“Digital literacy requires students to be adept at using digital tools to evolve from consuming information to producing it,” Wilson said. “Our students at USC Annenberg already are producers and networkers across multiple platforms of communication and journalism, and now they will have free access to these tools, which will help them further hone these skills.”

As reported in the USC newsletter, The Daily Trojan, the university first approached Adobe a year and a half ago with the idea of collaborating. Along with new classes, programs, disciplines and facilities, Adobe Creative Cloud is being positioned as a fully-integrated centerpiece of the school’s push into broad-based digital literacy.

Ed. Note:

With far too many cases out there of schools fumbling and stumbling in attempts to advance digital literacy, often by layering on technology that is poorly designed for the task and poorly supported, it’s nice to see an example of edtech done right.

A few of the reasons:

  • The USC Annenberg software deployment is strategic, not tactical. It’s based on a big-picture view of social and economic dynamics and is intended to serve the larger goals of the school and the mission of the university. 
  • The strategy emphasizes the importance of the digital triumvirate: skills, design and critical thinking. One without the others is like a lone musketeer, good to have around but not effective in the long run.
  • The software is being built into the curriculum and IT infrastructure, not just tacked on. The school’s financial commitment to the software deal extends well beyond the cost of the contract with Adobe.
  • Because all of the products in Adobe Creative Cloud are designed to integrate into a creative flow, the software will help knit the various media and communications disciplines rather than separate them into siloed skillsets. 
  • It’s free. Even though most USC students probably can afford the extra $240 per year, the no-charge policy creates zero barrier to entry.

The one criticism that could be directed at the school is the same that could be directed at any corporate enterprise that standardizes on a single software product or suite of products. The school risks becoming addicted to the tools from a single vendor, to being Adobe-centric. As with any software manufacturer, Adobe doesn’t get everything right and it is not always the most nimble in product design or innovation. Each of the tools in the suite has competitors and not all of the tools are first in their class. 

Given the fast-changing nature of media technology, the school would be well-advised to make a policy of introducing students to alternative and even competitive products. After all, the real skill to be learned is not how to use a tool or suite of tools but how to choose the right tool for the task.

That said, Adobe Creative Cloud is as close as it gets to a media and communications industry standard. Just as proficiency with Microsoft Office is often an asset for jobseekers, familiarity with the Adobe tools will provide a solid software foundation that will be a shiny gold star on every USC graduate’s resume. 


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