Commentary

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University ICT practices

17 Apr 2014
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The issues involved in teaching and learning with ICT in universities are complex and can vary considerably between the differing contexts and traditions of a range of separate disciplines. Students have clear expectations about their capacity to access technology flexibility during their time studying at university. Although student expectations are not the only driver of university digital technology deployments, they are an important consideration.

A group of three universities in Australia collaborated in research to understand the ‘student voice’ in regard to the deployment of digital technologies. Over 10,000 responses to a multiple choice online survey were processed followed by analysis of over 13,000 responses to four qualitative open-ended questions. The research is seminal and two excellent reports have been provided. The first is a report of the multiple choice questions from the online survey called Students' experiences and expectations of technologies: An Australian study designed to inform planning and development decisions in which a number of trends are isolated. The survey examined the provision of institutionally supported, academic-led and student-led technology provision (p. 2). The second report is an analysis of the qualitative responses which reveal overwhelmingly consistent expectations from students. The qualitative report titled Using research to inform learning technology practice and policy: a qualitative analysis of student perspectives provides some deep insights into the views of students, as well as information about the progress of digital technology implementations following the survey, in those three universities.

The qualitative survey reported on student opinions from two particular items: ‘the most important ways that technology has assisted your learning at University’ and ‘ways in which the University could use technology to better support your learning’ (p. 3). Although students sought access and flexibility, they also regarded the learning management system as important; for example, ‘LMS plays a central role in providing access to study materials, lecture-related information and communication and that students value the flexibility and convenience of this access,’ (p.5) stated the report. The LMS interface was valued by the students as the face of the university and course information. However, greater LMS functionality and use was requested. ‘Students are clearly keen for their universities to provide more facilities and infrastructure, in particular campus computer facilities, Wi-Fi and support for (student-led) use of mobile technologies,’ (p. 7) suggests the report.

Students also commented on the tools and facilities available on the LMS and how the teachers used it. There was common agreement among the students that teachers' use of the LMS varied greatly and that there was a need for ‘teachers to make more use of the available (institution-led) technologies, in particular LMS tools and lecture recording systems’ (p. 7). They also asked that the basic LMS functions be used for ‘online assignment submission and feedback, teacher presence in discussion forums, quizzes and uploading of learning resources’ (p. 9). There would appear to be a clear need for ‘organisational support systems and staff development to ensure that all academic teaching staff can use learning technology effectively with their students’ (p. 10).

This research into the ‘student voice’ of university implementations of digital technologies provides some very clear insights for university planning teams that are responsible for digital technologies. The two reports provide both a quantitative and a qualitative view of teaching and learning with digital technologies from a user’s perspective and they make a significant contribution to our understanding of digital deployments in universities for teaching and learning.

This article was first published on the Australian Council for Educational Research's Digital Education Research Network 2 (DERN) and is reproduced here in whole, courtesy of DERN.

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2014
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