Though highly contestable, it’s not uncommon to hear of a particular challenge facing university students; the transition from learning environments which are structured and (partially) directed by educators, to the “wilds” of employment, where they must demonstrate skills, competences, and offer valuable knowledge and experience to prospective employers.
Viewed in this light, the formal university student is something of a caterpillar, cloistered and tentative, until blooming through authentic and real world experiences, becoming valued, and valuable. The issue of employability generates heated debate regarding educational futures and highlights tensions concerning the role of universities and the linking of educational practices to employers’ needs.
Micro-credentials are a topic of interest in this debate, as Brown and Nic Giolla Mhichíl (2021) illustrate using a different four-legged animal metaphor. As we have previously reported through the NIDL blog, issues regarding micro-credentials and employability are the central theme of a forthcoming special issue of the International Journal ofEducational Technology in Higher Education(ETHE), co-edited by Dr. Mairéad Nic Giolla Mhichíl and Prof. Mark Brown, of DCU, in conjunction with Prof. Beverley Oliver, emirata of Deakin University. The special issue theme is…
“Micro-credentials and the Next New Normal in Digitally Enhanced Higher Education Ecosystems”.
The recent explosion of interest and literature on micro-credentials and the worldwide growth of new policy developments suggests the special issue is timely.
The newly-published first piece, authored by Marcelo Fabián Maina, Lourdes Guàrdia Ortiz, Federica Mancini, and Montserrat Martinez Melo, of UOC, is titled “A micro‐credentialing methodology for improved recognition of HE employability skills”. The article reports findings from an innovative, mixed-method pilot study conducted in Eastern Africa. The authors foreground this study in the challenges described above, “to provide students with the option to accumulate meaningful, skills-focused digital credentials in order to meet today’s workforce requirements.” (p.2). The article presents a detailed methodology for developing skills through student articulation both within learning content and employment contexts, as illustrated below.
Student articulations were collated into an ePortfolio, following which students were awarded a digital badge as a micro-credential. An innovative element of the study was the use of a cross-sectoral sample, containing students (n=169), lecturers (n=13), and employers (n=24).
Lecturers were positive in response to the innovation, particularly regarding outcomes assessment, with seven (of 8) viewing it as helpful in this regard. Qualitative findings also demonstrated that lecturers valued the “contextualisation of evidence” (p. 10) within student accounts, which prompted many to consider how they could incorporate demonstrable evidence within wider teaching practice. Students were also very positively disposed towards the project, with a particular interest in how the use of an ePortfolio could support constructive and iterative engagement, with one student noting:
“Due to the feedback I got from my teachers and the employer about my evidence in the ePortfolio, I realized that there are some aspects that I needed to improve in my professional development”.
Employer attitudes are understudied as regards micro-credentials, and findings were interesting in sharing further insights from this perspective. As the paper reports, some “commented that the badges and the attached evidence provide a clear view of the candidate skills that is due also to the availability of rich information that complements what is reported in a traditional curriculum vitae” (p. 14).
Putting it into practice
In a strong discussion, the authors synthesise their findings and highlight several positive elements that the programme provoked in educators, students, and employers. Sagely, they also note that…
“this approach could be challenging when dealing with a large number of students” (p. 16).
This observation arising from the study would appear a common challenge and tension when considering the simultaneous pressures of teaching at scale and attempting to enable and encourage more innovative personalised forms of learning.
A broader, pressing issue regarding micro-credential adoption is the lack of efficacy and applied implementation evidence. While a discourse of micro-credentials as “solutions”, “key tools” and “huge for the future of work” is prevalent amongst media and industry commentators, scant evidence exists to support this discourse. This article is refreshing as a contextual, pedagogically-grounded and applied example of a successful pilot programme, which generated diverse perspectives. The authors are realistic in noting that this is a small-scale pilot. Still, educators and course designers interested in micro-credentials will find much interest in this piece. They should look forward to the further articles coming shortly in this timely, special issue.
Following last week’s release of our “good reads” for 2021 in the more general area of Digital Learning, we are pleased to share with you a separate collection of articles with a specific COVID-related focus. As evidenced by the COVID-19 Higher Education Literature Database (CHELD) (Butler-Henderson, et al., 2021), a wealth of literature has been published since March 2020 reporting on the world’s response to the COVID crisis. Indeed, Version 2 of the CHELD database, which contains publications up to 30th June 2021, lists 738 journal articles with a COVID-related learning and teaching focus.
Special Issue Journals
Further evidence of the academic and research community’s response to documenting the impact of the pandemic is apparent through the number of COVID-related special issue journals published over this period. Some of the [open access] special issue journals published over 2021 appears below:
Special issues related to the COVID pandemic also featured in several traditionally restricted access publications, although some articles in these journals were openly available. A selection of journals published in 2021 includes…
Two of the above journals contain a collection of articles specific to the Irish context. While there have been several reports published by government agencies and professional bodies on the Irish experience during the pandemic (e.g., ISSE, IUA, National Forum, QQI), a recently published journal article by Cullinan et al. (2021) adopts an interesting methodology to illustrate how the lack of Internet access impacted on the quality of student learning. Despite its focus on Irish higher education, the methodology and more particularly the findings are likely to resonate with educators working at other levels in both developed and developing countries. For this reason, we recommend the following article to you…
Cullinan, J., Flannery, D., Harold, J., Lyons, S., & Palcic, D. (2021). The disconnected: COVID-19 and disparities in access to quality broadband for higher education students. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18 (26), https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00262-1
Contributing to New Knowledge
Last year, in producing our 2020 collection of COVID-related “good reads”, we noted the risk of becoming swamped in ‘special issue’ journals, which may do little to contribute to new knowledge. This comment was made in the context of ‘Emergency Remote Teaching’ and what appeared at the time to be efforts to reinvent the ‘online learning’ wheel in early COVID-related publications. More specifically, we noted the tendency to ignore or give little regard to the wealth of pre-existing theoretical and empirical literature in the field of online distance education.
While this year’s analysis of the literature suggests more evidence of past work informing current research, there is still a question of whether we are using the best theories and asking the right questions.
Reeves and Lin (2020)in an article we profiled last year raised thisconcern and Castaneda and Williamson (2021) reiterate the point in their call for more critical research on educational technology in post-pandemic times. Arguably, there is a danger of what some call ‘learnification’ where too much focus is being placed on the ‘how’ and teaching is being reduced to a series of handy hints intended to promote student engagement. Therefore, in selecting our list of “good reads” for 2021 we paid particular attention to the types of questions being investigated and the potential to challenge conventional wisdom and open new avenues of knowledge.
We wish to emphasise this point as sharing our NIDL “good reads” always runs the risk of being perceived as nothing more than academic grandstanding and an opportunist publicity stunt.
This criticism is something that we are conscious of even though our underlying motivation in taking considerable time and effort to critically review the published literature is:
to enhance our own depth of understanding
to help promote a culture of professional reading
to provide a service to the wider research and professional community
This third point is one of the reasons why we support our top 10 “good reads” with details around the selection methodology and a narrative explaining and justifying each article. The “good reads” do not just select themselves and feedback suggests that both readers and authors representing the chosen works appreciate this narrative and our own constructive insights. Speaking of authors, we also like to think the exercise helps to acknowledge their valuable contribution to the field and brings more attention to other good reads by the same research teams that might not be known to everyone.
On a related point, however, there is emerging evidence of the academic ‘gaming’ of the COVID experience, as evidenced through an interesting analysis of educator tweeting during early days of the pandemic.
Carpenter et al. (2021) report that alongside and sometimes entangled with information broadcasting and knowledge sharing, “…there was also a great deal of self-promotion” (p. 1).
We are probably guilty of engaging in some of this activity ourselves in sharing news of several COVID-related projects that our NIDL team has undertaken. Accordingly, we have taken care in this year’s selections not to promote any of our own research or development activities and to give particular attention to reporting major literature reviews, insightful institutional case studies and personal narratives that offer valuable lessons for practitioners, educational leaders and/or policy makers. We trust there is something for most people amongst our top 10 COVID “good reads” and they alert or help to steer educators to some publications that may be new to them.
The Top 10 Articles
We have chosen not to rank the top 10 articles that follow as this would be counterproductive to the purpose of this exercise. Instead, the order they appear below reflects the narrative we have chosen to write to help connect the research and to explain why each article was selected. We begin by introducing several major literature reviews and then shift to the voice of educational leaders and more insightful personal narratives, ending with some valuable institutional case studies.
In total, the top 10 articles represent the works of 46 authors from 11 countries, with 34 residing in the UK and Europe. .
Thus, there is a strong Northern Hemisphere bias to the “good reads” as a further seven authors reside in Canada or the United States. Although we strive to offer some diversity in our selections, with a short-list of 43 articles identified for closer ‘slow’ review, three of the “good reads” in the final list come from one journal. However, in terms of diversity, the contributing authors in these three articles are spread across the UK, Germany, Spain and Korea. Another two articles are drawn from three journals respectively, which means that the top 10 selections come from only five journals, partly a reflection of the special issue factor. One article is produced by a single UK author, another is co-authored by two Korean colleagues and eight are written by multiple authors, which does help to enhance the broader representation of the literature.
Crompton, H., Burke, D., Jordan, K., & Wilson, S. (2021). Learning with technology during emergencies: A systematic review of K-12 education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 52 (4), 1554-1575. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.13114
This article recognises that technology is often utilised in response to a crisis and the COVID pandemic is not unique in this respect. What makes this study unique is that it reviews the K-12 literature on remote education during an emergency prior to the pandemic. The article provides a systematic review of the literature for 11 years up until December 2020. Adopting the PRISMA selection process, the review includes 60 articles from 48 countries. Notably, most of this literature reports localised emergencies rather than anything on the scale of the COVID crisis, but this does not prevent the study from identifying a set of useful recommendations for teachers, school leaders, policy makers, and funders. A number of gaps are also noted in the literature, including the lack of research arising from the experience in developing countries. Notwithstanding this point, we selected this article as it provides a useful baseline of research on emergency remote education.
This article reports an early rapid review of the COVID-related literature focusing on learning, teaching, and assessment approaches in higher education. It adopts a clearly outlined methodology to synthesise findings from peer-reviewed articles which report on the experience immediately following the start of the pandemic. The research objective was: (i) to summarize the impact of COVID-19 as reported in currently available studies; (ii) to investigate the measures which were put in place following the lockdown of educational institutions; and (iii) to assess gaps in knowledge and understanding and identify possible future research directions. The sample of literature totalling 39 studies was published between March 1st 2020 and July 10th 2020. Notably, two independent assessors evaluated the search results, although they are not formally acknowledged at the end of the article. Not surprisingly, the early literature is dominated by US articles (n=11), with China (n=5) and multiple country papers (n=5) making up the second-largest source of studies.
The review stands out for its focus on assessment and how changes in teaching delivery have required people to collaborate at different levels in educational institutions. It also gives consideration to how people from Black, Asian, and Minority groups (BAME) are more likely to be seriously impacted by the pandemic and calls for more targeted support and research in this area. In a similar vein, the review notes the need for more research on lesser developed countries along with the importance of hearing the student’s voice.
Bond, M., Bedenlier, S., Marín, V.I., Händel, M. (2021). Emergency remote teaching in higher education: Mapping the first global online semester. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18 (50). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00282-x
This article responds to a plethora of studies now investigating a range of topics related to the move to emergency remote teaching, especially over the first semester. The review is framed by three well-crafted research questions: (i) Where, when and by whom has research on teaching and learning in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic been published? (ii) What are the characteristics of, methods used, and topics studied in teaching and learning research in higher education during the COVID-19 pandemic?(iii) What technology has been used during emergency remote teaching in higher education?
Once again, guided by the PRISMA reporting guidelines, the study reports a systematic mapping review that describes 282 primary empirical studies with a higher education focus. Therefore, the sample of this review is considerably larger than Khan (2021) reports in the previous article, which is partly explained by a close off date in the first week of December 2020. Notably, as the author team is trilingual, studies written in English, German or Spanish were targeted for potential inclusion using language-specific databases. In total, the review is sourced from 155 unique journals and reports the work of 1,019 authors across 73 countries. Leximancer is used to present various characteristics of the sample which enhances the article’s readability and interpretation of the findings.
Reiterating an earlier concern, only 10% of the of studies in this sample adopted a theoretical framework. This finding along with other methodological weaknesses led the authors to conclude that emergency remoted teaching resulted in “emergency remote research”. Another finding is that educators appear to have employed synchronous delivery and collaboration tools as they “…had the urge to re-create communication and interaction situations that are found during in-person lessons on campus” (p. 19). The review raises several questions for the future about whether we can expect the greater digital transformation of the sector, especially given the relatively limited range of educational technologies used to support teaching, learning and assessment.
Laufer, M., Leiser, A., Deacon, B., de Brichambaut, P.P., Fecher, B., Kobsda, C., & Hesse, F. (2021). Digital higher education: A divider or bridge builder? Leadership perspectives on edtech in a COVID-19 reality. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18 (51). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00287-6
This article begins with the premise that the direct positive relationship between educational technology and ‘better’ education has yet to be established, suggesting that other factors are also important in the digital transformation of education. The study is designed around two research questions: (i) Does the rapid digital push during the COVID-19 pandemic evoke positive and sustainable development for digital teaching and learning? (ii) How did higher education leaders experience the opportunities and barriers that arose during the rapid digital turn, specifically related to the edtech promises of access, learning outcomes, and collaboration?
While these are quite broad and challenging questions to answer the study reports the findings from three data collection cycles involving surveys and interviews with a total sample of 85 participants from 24 countries. Participants were educational leaders recruited through purposeful and snowball sampling, with data collection taking place between June and November 2020. Based on their diverse experiences, the article acknowledges that context is crucial as institutions have different starting points, barriers and constraints, and so on, which means there is “…there is no one-fits-all solution around digital learning” (p. 5).
The findings are presented according to micro (individual experience) and meso (institutions/systems) dimensions, with the authors illustrating the multiple layers that shape the ability to realise the potential of digital education. Not surprisingly, they identify from both the Global North and South how lack of access to technology and a stable internet connection is a major individual-level barrier. A myriad of issues is reported for women along with generational differences providing evidence of systemic inequalities. While the study is very broad and high-level, the rich inclusion of direct quotes from a diverse range of participants helps to illustrate the complexity of successfully implementing educational technology for learners, teachers, and institutions. This is the major contribution the paper makes to the literature.
This article offers a richer and more compelling global account and analysis of the COVID pandemic experience in terms of the impact on teaching and learning. It syntheses short testimonies and case material presented in two articles written one year apart from each other by a group of 84 authors from 20 countries. In the first article, our colleague Dr Jones Irwin provides one of 81 textual testimonies sharing his personal reflections and workspace photo submitted at the end of March 2020 (Jandrić, et al., 2020). Similarly, Dr Michael Hogan from the School of Psychology at NUIG shares his reflections from an Irish perspective.
The second article also consists of short testimonies and workspace photographs this time collected between March and May 2021 (Jandrić, et al., 2021). There are 74 testimonies with once again insightful contributions from two Irish colleagues, with Dr Irwin from DCU’s Institute of Education trying to find positives amidst the pain. Taken together the testimonies provide a valuable historical account of the response to the pandemic in the words of each author.
This latest article treats the testimonies as personal narratives, while also trying to make sense of them as a form of data. As data, the authors suggest they provide a much larger, powerful commentary on the COVID experience across the globe during this pandemic. The article is unique for the way it invites the reader to use both lens and endeavours to maintain a dialogic quality by giving voice to each author. While you need to read the description of the text and image analysis carefully not to lose a sense of the personal and emotional quality of the narratives, the interpretation of the data is anchored in the understanding that words gain meaning from the contexts in which they are used; and secondly that all knowledge is socially constructed.
Accordingly, the authors ask how does data and narrative interact in a unique study of this type, which they call a postdigital methodology of data-narrato-logy. The final section of the paper is quite theoretical in terms of exploring what data-narrato-logy might look like and might be more relevant to researchers than practitioners. In carefully following this line of discussion, there is a question of why the authors did not offer their analysis and (re)interpretation of the data to the 84 participants as a third round of critical reflections. This might be the next step to help extend and enhance the trustworthiness of the analysis, especially given the commitment to collaborative writing and shared voice.
VanLeeuwen, C., Veletsianos, G., Johnson, N., & Belikov, O. (2021). Never-ending repetitiveness, sadness, loss, and “juggling with a blindfold on:” Lived experiences of Canadian college and university faculty members during the COVID-19 pandemic. British Journal of Educational Technology, 52 (4), 1306-1322. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.13065
This article tells an insightful story of the lived experiences of Canadian faculty members during the early months of the pandemic. It adds an even stronger human dimension to the above studies by reporting vivid descriptions of academics’ experiences of their upended work lives from home offices whilst teaching geographically dispersed students. Adopting a phenomenological approach, the article is based 20 in-depth interviews with faculty holding varied academic appointments at universities across Canada. What will resonate with many educators is how the early months of the pandemic were exhausting and at times overwhelming, with as the authors describe “…a cycle of never-ending repetitiveness, sadness and loss, or managing life, teaching and other professional responsibilities with little sense of direction” (p. 1306).
In light of the methodological failings of a plethora of “emergency remote research” identified by Bond et al. (2021) in one of the above articles, this study stands out for being anchored in a solid phenomenological method which, despite the small sample, paints a very real and compelling picture of faculty experiences that serve to remind us what it felt like to live through this time. It makes a valuable contribution to the published literature by providing a holistic view of the pandemic experience, going beyond the transactional activity of merely continuing to deliver the curriculum. For this reason, the article may well be frequently cited by educational historians as a valuable primary source record of the COVID pandemic over the next century.
Littlejohn, A, Gourlay, L, Kennedy, E, Logan, K, Neumann, T, Oliver, M, Potter, J., & Rode, JA. (2021). Moving teaching online: Cultural barriers experienced by university teachers during Covid-19. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, (1): 7, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.5334/jime.631
This article provides an interesting institutional case study on the experiences of academics and professional service staff at University College London during first weeks of the move to online teaching and working from home during the pandemic. Similar to the first article in our collection of “good reads”, the paper begins by reminding us that this is not the first time higher education institutions have had to shift their practices in response to a crisis, noting the SARS outbreak, the 9/11 terrorist attack and Hurricane Sandy (unofficially known as Superstorm Sandy).The difference they suggest is that this crisis is on a global scale and there may be no return to the previous ‘normal’.
A unique aspect of this study is that it involved a survey where university staff were invited to share an image that represented their experience of working from home under the lockdown. Participants were also asked to comment on the image and write short narratives about their experiences of teaching, research and working from home. Data from 412 survey responses and 32 follow-up interviews are reported as the authors trace the varying ways people characterised themselves during the first months of lockdown (from March to July 2020). Arguably, the image analysis is contextually richer than the text and images analysed by Jandrić et al. (2021) as the narrative is linked to the image and reflects the story from a single institution.
It is noteworthy that the findings highlight how institutional support services “…underwent a metamorphosis to support the transition to online teaching” (p. 1). This adds a further layer to understanding the institutional response to the crisis, but the study also reports that insufficient attention was given to the ‘identity crisis and threats perceived by academic staff who had limited online teaching experience. Amplifying the findings of other research, the authors report how teaching staff tended to focus on transferring their traditional ways of teaching to the online environment, as opposed to more fundamentally changing teaching practice. Thus, traditional face-to-face teaching was used as the default model for emergency remote teaching. While this finding adds to the weight of evidence showing how pre-existing beliefs and pedagogical approaches mediated practice during the COVID crisis, the study goes further by raising the significance of cultural barriers as persistent obstacles in adopting more productive engagement with new models of digital education.
At the same time, the research reports that there were limited resources available to learn how to teach online with a short timescale and institutional policies and infrastructure had not been developed to support the pivot to emergency remote and online working. As a result, such efforts were challenging for staff who often did not have dedicated workspace at home and for those with caring responsibilities. Coupled with the extra support needed by students during the crisis, these factors contributed to added emotional dimension to already-full workloads. The authors conclude with several broad recommendations noting how several forms of disadvantage need to be acknowledged and supported if universities wish to create a sustainable and just working environment.
Lee, J., & Jung, I. (2021). Instructional changes instigated by university faculty during the COVID-19 pandemic: The effect of individual, course and institutional factors. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18 (52). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00286-7
This article offers a contrast to the narratives presented in the two above papers by providing a statistical analysis of quantitative data collected through an online survey. The contrast between numbers and narrative—for better and worse—along with the context of the study which involved a sample of 201 South Korean university faculty considered to be at the beginner level of online teaching, are the main reasons we chose to include this article.
The study adopts Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory as an umbrella framework, placing a strong focus on the relationship between individual experience and interactions with surrounding contexts. It also draws (uncritically) on several other theories and models related to technology adoption to support the analysis. The research is designed around two main research questions: (i) To what extent did university faculty change their emergency online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic? (ii) How did factors at the individual, course, and institutional levels contribute to the changes that faculty instituted in their emergency online teaching? Data collection was from May 2020 to July 2020, although the paper is short on details in terms of how participants were invited to contribute to the study. Unfortunately, despite reporting a breakdown of demographic data, this shortcoming in terms of documenting the sample recruitment process, with little contextual analysis, limits the weight that can be given to the findings.
The results show, nevertheless, that few faculty engaged in critical course redesign and ‘redefinition’ through new digitally enhanced teaching and learning approaches was rare. Moreover, there was limited evidence of changes in beliefs about online teaching, which supports previous research showing that new educational technology is typically mediated by, and assimilated within, pre-existing pedagogical beliefs (see for example, Tondeur, et al., 2017). The study also offers several theoretical and practical implications. Firstly, theoretically, it is important to recognise that planned voluntary adoption of new educational technology is different from urgent change required in the face of a crisis. Secondly, the authors recognise that the method applied in this study is insensitive to capturing faculty beliefs or subsequent changes in their beliefs. They conclude that a more phenomenological methodological approach is required, pointing towards a valuable line of future inquiry and highlighting the need for more longitudinal research, which combines numbers with narratives.
Rapanta, C., Botturi, L., Goodyear, P., Guardia, L., & Koole, M. (2021). Balancing technology, pedagogy and the new normal: Post-pandemic challenges for higher education. Postdigital Science and Education,3, 715–742. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42438-021-00249-1
This article helps to advance the COVID story by looking at the experience one year on, with the intention of understanding how to bridge the gap between online and in-person teaching beyond the pandemic. It follows up on a paper identified in last year’s list of “good reads” by the same authors reporting four expert interviews. In contrast to what Bond et al. (2021) reports in one of the above articles, the paper begins by suggesting there is increased openness due to the COVID crisis towards learning innovation that was not as evident before. Accordingly, the article is refreshingly built around the language of opportunity and sets out to support more innovative teachers in post-COVID campus-based institutions, with the goal of helping to mainstream their efforts within their organisation.
A brief summary of relevant literature helps to establish the context and the paper then repeats the same interview approach as last year. The sample is somewhat unusual as the authors are also the interviewees. Although there is no reference to a specific methodology, such as Self-study, the responses to the five questions offer quality and depth of expertise that makes for insightful reading. We found they provide a valuable source of critical self-reflection if you consider your own answers to each question as you read through the article. Importantly, the work is firmly anchored in the area of learning design but from a whole organisation perspective, with strategic decision-making at the heart of the institution.
One of the most timely and valuable contributions is the question of whether we should be focusing on the digitalisation of higher education or rather a ‘Pedagogisation’ of technology use in higher education? While this question could be rephrased in more simple terms, and incorporate an even stronger student perspective, it helps to shift attention to pedagogical innovations and the outcomes we seek through new educational technology. Similarly, the article adds to the weight of evidence rejecting binary conceptions between offline and online forms of teaching and learning.
Gourlay, L, Campbell, K, Clark, L, Crisan, C, Katsapi, E, Riding, K., & Warwick, I. (2021). ‘Engagement’ discourses and the student voice: Connectedness, questioning and inclusion in post-Covid digital practices. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, (1): 15, 1–13. https://doi.org/10.5334/jime.655
This final article in our collection begins with a brief summary of the contemporary literature on student engagement, noting this remains a contested phenomenon and complex field of practice. The reality is that ‘student engagement’ can mean different things to different people, as Kahu (2013) observes in her seminal work in this area. The theoretical framing of the present study recognises the risk of related concepts such as active learning leading to various forms of performativity in students and “…an over-emphasis on ‘learning’ over teaching may lead to ‘learnification’, rendering the idea of the figure of the teacher as somewhat redundant” (p. 3). In briefly commenting on a recent Jisc guide on “Active Learning in a Digital World” (Barrett, 2020), the article points out how the more everyday literature often does not fully recognise the complexities of student engagement.
Set against this review of the literature, the next section reports on two projects at University College London which investigated student perspectives on digital engagement during the lockdown. The two studies although separate shared a common commitment to the institutional notion of a ‘connected curriculum’ requiring a strong student-staff partnership. Thus, the two studies are noteworthy for the way they incorporate students in the research design and the article is co-written with students as authors. In discussing the findings, the authors argue that these student accounts of learning during lockdown challenge some of the mainstream assumptions about student ‘inclusivity’, academic ‘community’, and teaching which encourages a rich, deep and meaningful online experience.
They suggest the importance of relationality, belonging and an ethos of care, which needs tobe positioned as central to the development of digital education and the practices of student engagement. In concluding, the authors return to how student engagement has been under-theorised, especially in online learning contexts, with an over-emphasis on learning ‘activity’, while giving insufficient attention to students’ “…ability to be ‘active’, their willingness to participate and their sense of belonging, all necessary for engagement to take place” (p. 11). This article should be essential reading for anyone wishing to better understand and promote a holistic and multifaceted conception of student engagement in the context of digital education.
The task of selecting this year’s “good reads” has proven once again to be invaluable in helping ourselves to ‘slow’ read and make better sense of the literature. It has demonstrated how the COVID pandemic has helped to advance scholarship and the depth of understanding around implementing new digital models of education. We believe the articles that we have selected this year provide an excellent overview of the COVID experience one year on and together they make a good reader for postgraduate students wishing to pursue research in the area. This year’s exercise has also got us thinking about introducing a monthly online journal club, “Reading at the Edge of Digital Education” (REDE), that is open to all educators interested in participating in rich conversations based around a chosen article. This group might also play a role in selecting our future “good reads” as we collectively share our insights, interpretations and critical reflections. Watch this space for more information.
Butler-Henderson, K., Tan, S., Lalani, K., Sabu, K. M., Kemp, T., Rudolph, J., & Crawford, J. (2020). Update of the COVID-19 Higher Education Literature Database (CHELD v2). Journal of Applied Learning & Teaching, 4(1), 134.137. https://doi.org/10.37074/jalt.2021.4.1.22
Carpenter, J., Trust, T., Kimmons, R., & Krutka, D. (2021). Sharing and self-promoting: An analysis of educator tweeting at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Computers and Education Open, 2, 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.caeo.2021.100038
Castaneda, L., & Williamson, B. (2021). Assembling new toolboxes of methods and theories for innovative critical research on educational technology. Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research, 10 (1), 1-14. http://dx.doi.org/10.7821/naer.2021.1.703
Cullinan, J., Flannery, D., Harold, J., Lyons, S., & Palcic, D. (2021). The disconnected: COVID-19 and disparities in access to quality broadband for higher education students. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18 (26), https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00262-1
Tondeur, J., can Brank, J., & Ertmer, P.A. (2017). Understanding the relationship between teachers’ pedagogical beliefs and technology use in education: A systematic review of qualitative evidence. Education Technology Research and Development, 65, 555-575. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-016-9481-2