Interesting study shows why technology probably won’t be disrupting (higher) education anytime soon.

I won’t be blogging in July and a bit of August, spending time with my family but also spending time finishing some research papers myself and one related to this (Australian) study by Henderson, Selwyn and Aston I found via Jo Tondeur.

It’s still such a popular idea, education is on the verge of revolution because of technology. As Larry Cuban and others have mentioned, it’s a tune doing the rounds for over 30 years and articles such as this one try to cope with the fact that this disruption or revolution doesn’t seem to come.

In this new study the authors examined  via a survey (n=1658) how students are using technology and what they think of as being useful and by doing this answer the question why technology won’t be disrupting (higher) education anytime soon.

These quotes give you a fair idea:

“As such, the data presented in this paper point to clear gaps between university students’ actual uses of digital technology and the more abstracted rhetoric of  ‘technology-enhanced-learning’ and such like.”
“In particular, many of the reportedly ‘educational’ benefits of digital technology reported in this paper are more accurately described as concerned with the ‘logistics’ of university study rather than matters related directly to ‘learning’ per se.”
“…much of what students were reporting as ‘most useful’ about digital technologies related to what Denovan and Macaskill (2013) term ‘academic focus’ – that is, completing prescribed academic work and dutifully ‘performing well’. In this sense, digital technologies were most likely to be portrayed as supporting students’ organization of academic work and general ability to ‘manage academic demands’.”

“Put bluntly, then, the rather limited sets of digital practices highlighted in our data are those that best ‘fit’ the rather limited expectations and processes that currently constitute university teaching and learning.”

So, what about technology changing (higher) education?

Our study clearly finds digital technologies to be a central element of undergraduate education and associated with substantial changes to the ways in which students experience their studies. However, our analysis also suggests that digital technologies are clearly not ‘transforming’ the nature of university teaching and learning, or even substantially disrupting the ‘student experience’. This then raises the overarching ques- tion of what – if anything – needs to be ‘done’. University students are certainly finding and making good uses of digital technologies that ‘work best’ for them within the context of their undergraduate studies. However, these uses and practices are not the most expansive, expressive, empowering, enlightening or even exciting ways that digital technologies could be used.

Abstract of the study:

Digital technologies are now an integral aspect of the university student experience. As such, academic research has understandably focused on the potential of various digital technologies to enable, extend and even ‘enhance’ student learning. This paper offers an alternate perspective on these issues by exploring students’ actual experiences of digital technology during their academic studies – highlighting the aspects of digital technology use that students themselves see as particularly helpful and/or useful. Drawing on a survey of 1658 undergraduate students, the paper identifies 11 distinct digital ‘benefits’ – ranging from flexibilities of time and place, ease of organizing and managing study tasks through to the ability to replay and revisit teaching materials, and learn in more visual forms. While these data confirm digital technologies as central to the ways in which students experience their studies, they also suggest that digital technologies are not ‘transforming’ the nature of university teaching and learning. As such, university educators perhaps need to temper enthusiasms for what might be achieved through technology-enabled learning and develop better understandings of the realities of students’ encounters with digital technology.

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