In a previous blog, reporting on the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference, I mentioned ‘student centred’ approaches to teaching and learning with technology. Another presentation at the conference highlighted research from Malcolm Murray and his colleagues at Durham University (Murray et al 2014) in which the student was at the centre of the research. The students interviewed their peers in focus groups to get a picture of what works and doesn’t work with digital technologies in their learning. It was felt that this approach would give a clearer and more honest picture about students’ attitudes to and use of technology than could be gained via individual course or module evaluations.
The results show that students believe the institutional technology should match the usability of the technology they choose to use, that staff should be aware of the technology available to them and its potential to support learning, and that DIY provision is often favoured for collaboration. This information will be used to inform strategic planning at Durham.
Similar conclusions about the usefulness of the student voice for planning and development came out of extensive research in three Australian universities. They collaborated to try to understand “students’ experiences and expectations of technologies in everyday life and for study purposes”. The research used both a quantitative (Gosper et al 2013), and qualitative (Russell et al 2014) approach.
Their findings led to the development of a multi-level planning framework based on three different levels of technology provision:
1. Institutionally supported technology provision
2. Academic-led technology provision
3. Student-led technology provision
The levels are not defined by the attributes of the technology, but rather by the ways in which the technologies are used by teachers and students. This then has implications for infrastructure, planning and development, and the development of teaching and learning strategies.
Institutionally supported technology provision refers to mainstream technologies. These should continue to be supported, but should not preclude exploration of new technologies to provide greater diversity where it’s needed. Planning decisions need to support innovation, and the introduction of new technologies.
Academic-led technology provision can be regarded as part of the standard university technology offering, but not widely used across the university. This includes subject specific technology such as Mathematica, or AutoCAD, and technologies such as Skype, interactive whiteboards, podcasting, screencasts etc. The University needs to ensure that staff have the capability to use these technologies appropriately and with confidence, and make sure that there is a safe environment for these technologies to be trialled and tested. Effective planning requires that these technologies can be accommodated within the university’s infrastructure, comply with policy frameworks, and fit with programmes of professional development.
Student-led technologies are those technologies that are freely available and independent of the university. It includes technologies such as Google docs, search engines, and social networking. The planning implications for this include the provision of suitable informal learning spaces with good wireless connectivity and power supply. There is also a need to ensure the safe and responsible use of these technologies.
The conclusion is that the student voice is vital in developing learning technology policies and practice, and that the framework offers:
‘…a new way of conceptualising and making sense of a very complex environment. It offers a model for planning in relation to variable requirements in terms of technical infrastructure, support and professional development services and other organisational factors necessary to achieve a high quality, technology-rich learning environment.’
Gosper, M., Malfroy, J., & McKenzie, J. (2013). Students’ experiences and expectations of technologies: An Australian study designed to inform planning and development decisions. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(2), 268-282.
Murray, M; Loughlin, E; Skerratt, A; Tan, E. (2014) Student Voice: is honesty the best policy? Giving students control of TEL evaluations [PowerPoint slides] Presentation at Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference, Dublin, Thursday 1 May 2014.
Russell, C., Malfroy, J., Gosper, M., & McKenzie, J. (2014). Using research to inform learning technology practice and policy: a qualitative analysis of student perspectives.Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 30(1), 1-15.