Digital Transformation: Student Engagement 

What's this study about?

With the outbreak of Covid-19 and university closure world-wide, Higher Education (HE) institutions across the globe have been challenged to quickly adapt and adjust their face to face teaching methods with more digitally savvy platforms. While many universities already had online platforms to facilitate student engagement pre- and post-lectures e.g. access to lecture slides & recordings, e-books and online journal articles, surveys, polls and group-based forums, these options were always in addition to ongoing face-to-face instructional contact or in-person engagement. However, despite some familiarity with online learning the 2020 tectonic shift to complete digital dependency as a replacement for most physical interaction (with instructors and other students) has made a bold impact on how practitioners teach and especially on how students learn. 

This research project aims to ask students about their experiences of online learning, and while the data gathered will collate and give voice to the challenges and merits of being a user engaged with digital learning, it also hopes to illuminate how students have adapted their process of learning (i.e. becoming more self-directed and autonomous). Of particular interest is identifying some of the strategies students have organically devised to help support their learning, target their assessment outcomes and set up their prospects for future employment.  

Roehampton University:

School of Education Case Study

All students from the Department of Education at Roehampton University are invited to participate in a survey. Data will be collected in two stages: (i) 6-7 weeks into the first semester of blended /online learning and (ii) at the beginning of the next term. Students who participate in Stage 1 are encouraged, but not obligated to complete Stage 2. Likewise new participants in Stage 2 will be welcomed to the study. 

Investigating Student Responses Across Disciplines: Sciences (Biology) & Social Sciences (Education)

Of further interest is comparing the experiences of students from across different academic disciplines particularly between the sciences and social sciences, as both sets of students engage with different types of knowledge e.g. science labs versus teaching practicums, and prepare for different types of assessment and employment opportunities. Based on these different education approaches it is interesting to explore how students from diverse disciplinary background devise strategies to augment their learning. The data from this London based case study in the social sciences will be compared with a Melbourne case study of students from the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University to help determine patterns of student approaches and behaviour to digital transformation.  

Dr Thomas Hiscox - School of Biological Sciences 

Dr Hiscox's recent presentation entitled 'E-Learning in the Face of a Pandemic through Students' Eyes' (SRHE Event, Technology and the Post-Pandemic University, 2020) illuminated that COVID-19 presented a unique challenge for a foundation year Biology program with 1600 students enrolled across two international campuses.

Pre-COVID-19, a flipped classroom pedagogy was used, with the application of knowledge undertaken during weekly face-to-face workshops and laboratory sessions whereby students could explore the biological concepts in more depth. Face-to-face sessions previously had a high attendance rate, however, during the pandemic these face-to-face sessions were rapidly transitioned to online sessions with live-streamed workshops delivered via Zoom. The fortnightly practical sessions were transitioned to online demonstrations supplemented with small group online discussions and a single instructor.

 

However, students enrolled with a different expectation, hence the question was how did the transition to an entirely online model of teaching affect the student experience? Voluntary student surveys revealed that the majority of students that attended the online workshops found these effective and engaging, despite only 61% of respondents attending less than half the sessions over the semester. Given this, we were interested in why so many students chose not to participate; did the transition to fully online learning influence their decision to not participate?

 

Thematic analysis of the student feedback highlighted that a significant proportion of survey respondents (35%) reported a lack of motivation as a reason they chose not to participate in the online activities. Students also expressed difficulty in managing their workloads (20.5%), with a smaller percentage (less than 2%) citing that these sessions were not engaging or not interesting. With restrictions against large gatherings expected to continue deep into 2020 and possibly into 2021, the key question is what changes can be made to improve student participation in online learning and engagement? We will discuss some interventions that we have taken in our program to combat this and discuss their success.

Collaborative Findings & Details:

Research is currently on-going, if you would like more information on the data and study findings please get in touch. If you would like to collaborate in a like-minded project please contact us.

© Melissa R. Jogie, November 2020