Mark Alexander Williams

Research Development EDU170

by Mark Williams

On with the show. After a summer full of family and friends visiting and work being full of project meetings, it's time to return to the MA. For the first part of the module we're encouraged to reflect on the previous module's pilot study write up and the initial research proposal.

The research question

Questions from the initial pilot study asked about experience of technology use in education across three years of typical undergraduate study. Feedback suggested I contextualise this outlining the importance of technology in the HE sector. The House of Lords recently asked educators and institutions to put “a greater emphasis on providing every citizen with adaptable digital skills.” (House of Lords, 2015). There is also a need to be more clear around terminology and helping participants and readers understand those terms used within the sector eg. ‘Educational Technology’, ‘Digital Literacies’ and ‘Digital Capabilities’. These terms are unfamiliar to students and some academic staff, so examples would help to frame the dissertation and clarify the research. The JISC/NUS Benchmarking Tool (Ap. 1) goes some way to explain the focus of the research. These benchmarks are starting points for the institution and through the extension of the research, I hope to develop the tool for use in Creative Education. Of particular interest to me as a researcher is the emerging practice of digital wellbeing. Feedback from the initial pilot study suggested a correlation between wellbeing and retention. Certainly, this link has been established (Ansari et al. 2010 and Novelli et al. 1992). A further question might ask “Are students who are more aware of their digital wellbeing more likely to remain in HE?”. It would also be interesting to explore further the idea of “exploring beyond the course” (Sharpe). In the same way as Are students making use of technology outside the ‘classroom’? If as UCISA suggest, student feedback is dominant factor for Ed. Tech use. Where are we seeking it?

Developing the literature review

Studies have also been made regarding the impact of learning technology on academic performance and retention. Heaton‐Shrestha et al. (2009) find “that students tend to be more positive than staff about the role of the VLE in enhancing their overall performance and experience… impacting satisfaction”

Recent conversations show digital wellbeing as an emergent theme in research into he digital experience. Fraser (2016) frames digital wellbeing within etiquette in a web that affords great degrees of openness and anonymity and Beetham (2015) in terms of caring for ourselves and each other and developing wellbeing as a Digital Capability. It would be worth further exploring the notion of the institution shaping the digital experience and impacting wellbeing.

I'll be looking closely at the outputs form Jisc's Digital Student project and have put our institution forward to pilot their digital experience survey tool.

Progressing the research

My initial intention with the pilot study was to make use of focus groups and questionnaires through ‘Partially Mixed Concurrent Equal Status Design’ (Leech and Onwuegbuzie, 2009). Due to resource constraints, I switched out the focus group and led with the questionnaire which in hindsight benefited the research as I had a broader demographic response and this allowed me to draw out themes of ‘institutional’ technology use and ‘social’ use. I would like to progress with interviews around the subject of digital wellbeing, as the subject matter may be sensitive so an individual approach might be better. I had previously written focus group questions which I will return to and refocus, around the outputs of the pilot study; institutional and social technology use, communication about technology and wellbeing. I had developed useful contacts through the pilot study of students in the final year of study and will have to build these relationships again to further the study. As students felt they did not understand the term 'learning technology' and 'digital wellbeing',I also have to think about how to get students critically engaged with the concept of wellbeing and technology in terms they are more familiar with.