Tag Archives: education

Demographic Variables and Academic Discipline as Determinants of Undergraduates’ Use of Electronic Library Resources in Federal universities in South-west, Nigeria

Reviewed By: Amy Budzicz, Joanna Delgado, Keith Chong

Link to article: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/2164/


Ebijuwa and Mabawonku’s study seeks to build on existing research that suggests that electronic library resources are underutilized in Universities throughout Nigeria. While previous research suggests that the low usage of electronic resources is caused by a number of factors including a deficit in technology literacy, and user attitudes, this study examines other potential factors more closely, using opt-in descriptive survey research to look for discrepancies in electronic resource utilization based on the factors of age, gender, and academic discipline. The study claims that age is the most prominent determinant of electronic resource usage, though it notes that the vast majority of respondents were between the ages of seventeen through twenty five years of age with a mere 1.7% of respondents being twenty nine or older. The results are compared in the study’s literature review to the findings of similar research written by information scientists in the United States, Malasia, Chile, and various other countries and for the most part seem to corroborate the existing findings; that age, rather than gender or academic discipline, is the demographic that can be used to predict electronic resource usage most consistently.

Core research questions

The research questions of Ebijuwa and Mabawonku’s 2019 study examine whether the usage demographic usage statistics of electronic library resources correlate to variables such as age, gender, or academic field of study of undergraduate students in federal universities in South West Nigeria. It questions existing studies and research, that focus on why universities report low usage of electronic library resources (including wealth disparity, low levels of technology literacy, and over all user attitudes), and asks whether there are other factors that contribute to this lack of technology adoption.

Methods used

This study surveyed six federal universities in Southwest Nigeria, comprised 140,351 undergraduate students. To narrow the survey pool, the study broke down the number of responders by looking at specific academic areas, and specific departments within those areas. Observing that academic disciplines were common among the six schools, the study was able to categorize academic discipline into 12 departments from 4 subject areas. These were Arts: English, History, Philosophy; Engineering: Electrical and Electronics engineering, Civil Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering; Science: Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics; and Social Science/Humanities: Economics, Sociology, and Psychology. The study comprised of an opt-in survey which resulted in 30,516 respondents. Only 5% of respondent submissions were used in order to narrow the study further, leaving a sample size of 1,526 students. Each of the 1,526 students received a questionnaire asking questions of discipline, age, gender, and types and reasons for using Electronic Library Resources.

Findings and Conclusions

According to Ebijuwa and Mabawonku, age is the only factor that played a consistent role in the findings on whether or not age, gender, and academic discipline affects undergraduates use of electronic library resources. For example, patrons using the library were mostly between the ages of 20-22 years old using electronic library resources for class assignments, projects, scholarship opportunities, research, online applications, and personal use such as, news and email, etc. Gender and academic discipline were not affected because of inconsistent results. For example, “Okiki and Ashiru (2011) who found in their study more male (53.82%) than female (46.18%). However, the result obtained in this study contradicts those of Ukachi (2013); Ebijuwa (2018) whose studies had more female than male students” (Ebijuwa & Mabawonku, 2019). Another interesting finding is that there was no consistent pattern between undergraduates using electronic library resources and the number of different disciplines. For example, “Faculty of Science used E-journals, Ebooks, CD-ROM databases, OPAC and E-thesis more frequently than the faculties of Arts, Social Science and Engineering” (Ebijuwa & Mabawonku, 2019). At the end of this article, researchers recommend six different ways undergraduates can improve the use of electronic library resources. For instance, library staff should encourage, recommend, and promote toward undergraduates to use other electronic library resources instead of just prefer one over the other.

What can be gained by American Libraries?

Although the scope of this study was relatively small and focused on usages statistics of undergraduate students, their recommendations are applicable internationally, and across all manner of user demographics. Ebijuwa and Mabawonku make the recommendation that library staff can increase electronic resource utilization by encouraging users to explore all electronic resource options rather than using the same resource every time, and suggest adoption of “various motivation strategies to promote the use of electronic library resources among the undergraduates.” They further recommend that wireless should be available to undergraduates across campus rather than at libraries or specific buildings alone; which can be taken a step farther by public institutions as a recommendation to make free, easy access wireless available in all manner of public spaces to ensure seamless and equitable access.

Additionally, if the results of the study are extrapolated to user populations in general, and age tends to correlate to low electronic resource usage, then libraries need to consider how to bolster education for older patrons using electronic resources. More research should be done to examine demographics that correlate with low usage of electronic resources in American public libraries and how library systems can create and promote electronic resources for everyone.


Ebijuwa, A. S., & Mabawonku, I. (2019). Demographic variables and academic discipline as determinants of undergraduates use of electronic library resources in federal universities in South-West, Nigeria. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal). Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/2164

A critical take on OER practices: Interrogating commercialization, colonialism, and content

Reviewed By: Nichole Bonaventure-Larson, Bryan Duran, Mia Faulk, Ursula Lara, and Carlee Osburn

Link to article: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/a-critical-take-on-oer-practices-interrogating-commercialization-colonialism-and-content/

Article Synopsis and Core Questions
Sarah Crissinger’s 2015 article is concerned with critiquing Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA) in relation to commercialization, colonialism, content, and the changing landscape of the university when it comes to adjunct versus tenured faculty. In her critique, Crissinger address issues of labor, the corporatization of higher education, oppressive learning formats, imperialism, and technocratic discourse around development and the information poor in the context of OER and OA.
Sarah Crissinger’s 2015 article is concerned with critiquing Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA) in relation to commercialization, colonialism, content, and the changing landscape of the university when it comes to adjunct versus tenured faculty. In her critique, Crissinger address issues of labor, the corporatization of higher education, oppressive learning formats, imperialism, and technocratic discourse around development and the information poor in the context of OER and OA.
While libraries around the country are pushing for free resources such as OER and OA, Crissinger urges librarians to pay closer attention to contextualizing content rather than just collecting content in what can potentially become an educational “dump”. Crissinger (2015) writes, “A learning object with relevant context, an application that is not culture-specific, and the capacity to be truly localized and understood is more important than a learning object that is simply free.” At the same time, as universities are increasingly relying on part time / adjunct faculty who are urged to contribute to OER, an issue of labor inequality arises. Since unlike tenured faculty, adjuncts are not compensated for their research but instead by the number of classes they teach.

Answering Research Questions
Crissinger uses existing critiques of OER and OA by Drabinski, et al. (2015), Cheney (2015), Shirazi (2015), Winn (2012), Burkett (2000), and Christen (2011), to answer her research questions. She determined it was best to explore OA along with OER considering they both share similarities that allow lessons learned to be applied to both. Crissinger uses critiques to explore the issue of labor, the tenure structure, and the unwillingness of universities to fund projects they are willing to promote. Crissinger analyzes critiques that explore oppressive learning formats, economic and social inequality, the “information poor” and the digital divide. Through these critiques Crissinger can reflect on OER practices.

Findings and Conclusions
Per Crissinger, access to OER is not the be all, end all. Simply increasing one’s access does not make them more knowledgeable or eradicate a digital divide. Social and global inequality cannot be reduced to a simple fix and access to OER. “Free and unrestricted access to OER is just one step in improving education, not the primary solution. Librarians are apt to do the integral work of reframing and complicating the OER movement. Our extensive understanding of copyright, instructional design, and discovery, combined with our interest in social justice, makes us natural leaders for helping others understand why Open Education matters” (24). Increasing the number of adjunct positions results in change to the labor system and the continued commercialization of higher education since adjuncts are paid per the number of classes they teach rather than the research they produce. “We must think critically about whether our open work is doing the social justice, political work we envision it doing. If we fail to ask these questions, we risk endorsing programs that align more with profit than with access” (10). Taking into consideration the goal of many academic libraries is to further the mission of their universities, we must consider how the marketization of OER compromises our ability to do the work we claim to value. “The politics of our campuses or leadership can limit how loudly our voices carry within our institutions (Acccardi, 2015). Still, our critical perspective is needed now more than ever” (Crissinger, 24).

Unaswered Questions and Future Research
Crissinger proposes some interesting further research at the end of her piece, but even these ideas did not touch on the potential for further research raised by her article. One of the considerations she mentions is the consideration of how librarians can better determine if an OER resource is one which provides good information and content, with context, or if it is not. This could be further expounded upon through research into a universal guide or standard set. Additionally, Crissinger discusses encouraging open pedagogy on campus. Crissinger (2015) states, “if faculty on campus are not integrating open pedagogy into their classrooms, it can be more difficult for librarians to do this as well.” Are there ways to combat this besides increased advertising and teaching? Would inclusion of OER in academic goals from an administrative position be possible? Lastly, one of the arguments mentioned, but not touched on, is the inclusion of a broader range of creators in the OER sphere. Crissinger (2015) quotes, “‘content creation…on the Web is currently heavily dominated by the developed and English-speaking world.”. How can librarians help to encourage the development of use of OER that is more inclusive, as well as more contextually focused and not an “information dump”? Is this a librarian’s role, and if so, how could this kind of expansion better serve the purpose of OER and academic research in the long run?

Answering Our Own Questions
Unfortunately, these questions are not easily answered. However, conducting further research on OER and OA would be a good starting point and may help to find the answers to our questions. Incorporating other viewpoints, ideas, and examples of how librarians are creating, sharing, and using OER/OA may help illustrate what their role is in promoting inclusion amongst contributors in the OER/OA sphere. Additionally, we can find the answers to our questions by doing what was suggested earlier; asking those questions aloud and as often as possible. We cannot expect to find answers and meet the challenges of OER/OA if we are not engaging in open and constructive dialogue with our peers and colleagues around the world. It is only after we have asked our questions aloud and engaged in collaborative dialogue that we will be able to give concrete answers, and move forward with making OER/OA accessible to everyone without devaluing information, the work of OER/OA contributors, and its content.

Crissinger, S. (2015, October 21). A critical take on OER practices: Interrogating commercialization, colonialism, and content. Retrieved from In the library with the lead pipe: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2015/a-critical-take-on-oer-practices-interrogating-commercialization-colonialism-and-content/

Examining Factors Predicting Students’ Digital Competence

Reviewed By: Reviewed by Natalie Enright, Chelsea Maradiaga, Bracha Schefres and Angela Yam

Link to article: http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol14/JITEV14ResearchP123-137Hatlevik0873.pdf

Article synopsis and core research question
In the research article “Examining Factors Predicting Students’ Digital Competence,” Hatlevik, Guðmundsdóttir, and Loi are interested in determining how users process information and to what extent are technological skills acquired. This paper addresses the levels of familiarity and understanding of information and communication technology (ICT) as assessed among Norwegian ninth grade students. Digital competence is defined as “the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that make learners able to use digital media for participation, work, and problem solving, independently and in collaboration with others in a critical, responsible, and creative manner.” (Hatlevik, Guðmundsdóttir, & Loi, 2015, p. 124) Due to the increasing variety of technologies in the daily lives of users around the world, this 2015 study holds an important role in analyzing digital literacy and how people acquire the relevant skillsets.
Three factors are identified as shaping the diverse technological experiences of students following the research results: digital competence, mastery orientation, and family background. Mastery orientation refers to how one’s attitude and actions approach learning or performance-related activities, while family background covers cultural, social, and economic demographic indicators. Eight hypotheses were formulated to frame the relationships between cultural capital, language at home, strategic use of information, academic achievements, and predicted digital competence.
Global efforts toward advocating and promoting digital competence aim to not only make technological tools more accessible for users to meet information needs, but they also encourage the lifelong development of online equity, self-representation, and exchange of information.

Methods used to answer the research question.
For this study a cross-sectional survey was used to analyze the data collected from a survey given to one class of 9th graders chosen by each of the 150 schools contacted to participate. The study was conducted in 2013. Potential participating schools were contacted using mail, e-mail, and by phone. “The final sample for this study was made of 852 students from 38 participating schools. The response rate at the school level was 25.3%” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127). There was no replacement for schools who did not participate.

The questions for the survey were comprised of themes based on the learning objectives for the completion of 10th grade. The themes included: “five questions about digital responsibility, three questions about digital communication, eight questions about how to retrieve and handle digital information, and ten questions about how to create and process digital information” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127).
Students were then asked how many books they had at home. The data collected from this part of a self-report questionnaire was used to establish cultural capital. Other answers to the self-report questionnaire were used to determine language integration and mastery orientation for each student. Three questions were asked to measure mastery orientation using Likert-type agree-disagree scale, ranging from Strongly agree to Strongly disagree. Results showed a score of 0.87 suggesting a high level of consistency. “The scale of marks/grades are 1(the lowest mark), 2, 3,4, 5 and 6 (the highest mark)” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127).
The comparative fit index (CFI) and the Tucker-Lewis fit index (TLI) are the two indices that were used to evaluate the fit of the model with the hypotheses. In order to estimate the misspecification of the model, the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) was calculated. (Hatlevik et al., 2015)
Finally, www.gsi.udir.no, a national database, indicated that on an average there were 2.19 (sd 0.71) students at each computer in the schools that participated in the study” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 128).

Findings and conclusions
The study found that 2.5% of students had no books, 10.2% had 1-10 books, 15.9% had 11-50 books, 15.4% had 51-100 books, 22.2% had 101-250 books, 17% had 251-500 books and 16.8% had more than 500 books. For languages spoken at home, studies found that 83.3% of students spoke Norwegian and 16.7% spoke another language other than Norwegian or combined with Norwegian.
The results from the theoretical model were statistically significant, however there were two questions which measured digital competence that had to be removed due to the factor loading falling below 0.20 and a new analysis was run. It showed acceptable results with values of CFI = 0.947, TLI = 0.943, and the RMSEA = 0.024 [LO 90 = 0.020 and HI 90 = 0.027].
An analysis of the theoretical model that was developed with eight hypotheses shows that all hypotheses are supported. From the structural equation modelling (SEM) approach, the study found that “students’ cultural capital and language integration at home is positively related“ (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 132) which has a positive forecast to digital competence. Looking at both of the student’s mastery orientation and previous achievements also provides positive outlooks to digital competence.
Limitations of this study includes having a response rate of 25.3% at the school level, schools and students with positive interactions towards technology could be overrepresented, and self-selection bias. However, there were variations between students’ digital competence, therefore it seems that there is a diverse sample of student participation.
This study’s findings shows diversity amongst the students regarding digital competence which is also supported by many national tests involving reading, mathematics, science and information literacy. It is up to the school leaders and teachers to identify the diversity in their students’ digital competence and take action to improve their student’s digital competence. They have to also take note that a student’s family background, previous achievements in school, and mastery orientation are related to their digital competence. Teachers would need to be aware of these factors when they are planning and conducting teaching, and helping students to develop adaptive methods for information use. “Digital skills and competence requires hard work and persistence as does developing other key competences such as reading, writing, or doing calculations.” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 133).

Unanswered questions and an attempt to answer them
The design of the test seems to evaluate a 9th grade students’ digital competence without the intervention of classroom instruction since students are tested on end of the year 10th grade material. If the test comprised of questions that were from the 9th grade curriculum or the test comprised of students who had just finished 10th grade, then the study would evaluate classroom instruction. However, to completely rule out the significance of classroom instruction on digital competence, a control group would need to be studied comprising of students who had just completed 10th grade and had been asked identical questions.
A second question that arises pertains to the use of quantity of books in the home as a measure of cultural capital. Understandably, the authors of the study wished to align their research that used books “in several other international studies” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 127), it is not considered to be sensitive or private information, and books can be counted fairly easily. However, in the 21st century this gauge may becoming less accurate as more people are moving away from print materials and towards digital books. It was not clear if the study included digital content as well. Perhaps a future study should address this issue and include digital as well as print material.
Finally, the study indicates that there is a positive correlation between cultural capital and language integration, factors that can be used as a proxy for student’s family background, as well as a student’s mastery in orientation is a positive prediction of digital competence. As such, the study recommends “more information about how teachers can help students to develop adaptive strategies for information use” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 132). This would suggest that the authors support culturally responsive teaching practices to mitigate factors that contribute to poor digital competence in students. While this may be true, it is important to note that the response rate was 25.3% at the school level. The study did not indicate if some of the schools were culturally diverse, lower academic performing, or were lower socioeconomic schools suggesting a possible poor test sample. The authors addressed this issue in the article noting that “nevertheless, the results from the study give insight into factors predicting digital competence” (Hatlevik et al., 2015, p. 133). Even so, the low response rate begs the question what results from a larger sample that includes all aspects of diversity would look like. It would be worthwhile to address these issues in further studies.

Hatlevik, O. E., Guðmundsdóttir, G. B., Loi, M. (2015). Examining factors predicting
students’ digital competence. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 14, 123-137. Retrieved from http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol14/JITEV14ResearchP123-137Hatlevik0873.pdf

Developing Voice in Digital Storytelling Through Creativity, Narrative and Multimodality

Reviewed By: Grace Song, Avery Campbell, Anna Johnson, Carla Axume, Millie Jones

Link to article: http://seminar.net/index.php/volume-6-issue-2-2010/154-developing-voice-in-digital-storytelling-through-creativity-narrative-and-multimodality

Synopsis / Summary (article’s core research question)
In this study, Monica Nilsson explores how digital storytelling has the potential to significantly alter the way children develop literacy and creativity, communicate experiences, explore new meaning and knowledge, and express themselves. Digital storytelling, in this context, is defined as “a multimodal narrative text comprising pictures, music, speech, sound and script.” Nilsson’s research revolves around a nine-year old boy, Simon, who struggles with reading and writing. When given the opportunity to express himself through digital stories, Simon becomes deeply engaged, which Nilsson argues is because digital storytelling became the trigger for his interest in literacy.
In her research, Nilsson explores this core research question: What impact does digital storytelling have on children’s ability not only to master structural writing techniques, but also “communicate experiences, explore new meaning and knowledge, and perform self-representation and self-expression,” and by so doing develop, “real voice” in their writing?

Research Methods Used
In her research, Nilsson analyzes Simon’s digital stories using multimodality and visual analysis. Machin (2007) defines multimodality as a way to express that “the way we communicate is [not done] by by a single mode…” but rather by a combination of visual, sound, and language (p. x). “Multimedial approaches systematically described the range of choices available and how they are used in context… [and] therefore describes the grammar of visual communication” (ibid. p. ix).
For structure in her analysis, Nilsson uses the three basic requirements of semiotic modes of communication: ideational (“states the affairs of the world” – e.g. yellow stands from sunlight or warmth), interpersonal (“represents and communicates the social and affective relationships towards what is being represented” – e.g. yellow stands for happiness), and textual (“about the coherent whole, genres, and how parts are linked together” – e.g. a color for headings to “show they are of the same order”) (Nilsson, 2010, p. 5).

Findings and Conclusion (of the article)
Digital storytelling provides many opportunities to engage students in different multimodal forms of learning, as in the case of Simon, who was effectively able to learn to read and write through digital storytelling. Although literacy is traditionally understood as learning to read and write, Nilsson describes literacy as “drawing conclusions, making associations, and connecting text to reality.”
From this study, Nilsson found that Simon was learning “interpersonal meta-function,” referring to the interaction between producer and receiver, as well as “textual meta-function,” or the linking of parts and their composition. All of this was possible through digital storytelling. Additionally, Nilsson found that Simon’s digital stories were not “randomly assembled images, music, speech, captions and sound,” but rather “consciously, creatively, well reasoned and well crafted composition(s).” Digital storytelling also furthered Simon’s understanding of literacy as a social and cultural activity.
Nilsson concludes that though digital storytelling is a different process for learning to read and write than traditional methods, expressing, creating meaning, and communication still hold the common value of both and provide a significant way of learning that helps overcome learning challenges.

As our group considers digital storytelling and the ways it supplements education-related research, we have several questions relating to both the article and digital storytelling in general.
One question regards teaching theory. How can digital storytelling be assimilated into school environments, but not forced upon students? Or should it be assimilated in such a way that students need to complete a graded digital storytelling assignment? In today’s education world, there are many thoughts on the different types of learners and standardization. Should digital storytelling be encouraged for those who are interested and naturally more creative, or should it be used to bring out the creativity of those who may not at first be interested?
Another question for consideration is how can digital storytelling be used in libraries? As libraries are constantly changing and adapting to newer technologies and ideas, librarians will need to provide programs and opportunities for patrons that optimize learning and engagement with library resources. How can digital storytelling be a part of this? As many educational researchers are now putting a great emphasis on early literacy, it is pertinent to consider how technology can be a part of digital storytelling in libraries, too?

Final Thoughts / Conclusion
When considering using digital storytelling in schools, but not forcing it on every student, optional or extra credit assignments may be considered. This option may replace traditional assignments for students who have kinesthetic learning styles, or who are simply interested in exploring a new learning method. Conversely, mandatory digital storytelling assignments are intriguing because they could help students unlock untapped creative potential, unrealized through traditional learning methods. Adding a digital storytelling element to school curriculums would help students think and express themselves in new and creative ways.
Digital storytelling can also help children and youth, like Simon, who attend their local library. The library provides another place, as well as additional resources and materials, for children and youth to effectively learn and become literate. As Nilsson’s argues, libraries promote literacy in children and youth by providing them a place to find their voices and connect to the texts they’re creating.

Machin, D. (2016). Introduction to multimodal analysis. London: Hodder Arnold. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=mwZfDAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=%22Introduction+to+Multimodal+Analysis%22+Machin&ots=84X_VkGPpt&sig=WedPbytmGnWOQJfqxOiZPs8CQZE#v=onepage&q=%22Introduction%20to%20Multimodal%20Analysis%22%20Machin&f=false

Nilsson, M. (2010). Developing voice in digital storytelling through creativity, narrative and multimodality. International Journal of Media, technology & Lifelong Learning 6(2). Retrieved from: https://doaj.org/article/17d2a778143742a78fe9f9d517b92e4d

Students’ Perceived Challenges in an Online Collaborative Learning Environment: A Case of Higher Learning Institutions in Nairobi, Kenya

Reviewed By: Loren Reese, Kara Trella, Maryanne Doran, Melissa Horton, and Brittany Ely

Link to article: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1768/3124

Article synopsis and core research questions

Muuro, Wagacha, Kihoro, & Oboko (2014) examined student perceived challenges of using online collaborative tools, such as Moodle and Blackboard, on Web 2.0 (and social media) while pursuing higher education in Nairobi, Kenya. The article states that online learning has risen in popularity in Kenya as a result of the increased demand of higher education. It goes on to address issues of faculty and infrastructure support for e-learning.

Using a questionnaire, a survey was conducted in two public universities and two private universities to identify perceived challenges by student respondents in their online collaborative learning environment. The authors state that three primary questions guided their research design: To what extent do students collaborate online while doing group work? What are the components of online collaborative learning, which learners perceive as challenging? And, is there any significant relationship between university type (public or private) and the perceived challenges in using an online collaborative learning environment? (Murro et al., 2014).

In their literature review, the authors focused on a philosophy of education termed constructivist theory, in that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. In seeking to define the term collaborative learning, the authors deferred to the 1999 Dillenbourg book Collaborative-learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches, which states that collaborative learning is a, “situation in which two or more people learn or attempt to learn something together.” Adding that the situation is collaborative if the participant learners are relatively at the same level and, “can perform the same actions, have a common goal and work together” (Dillenbourg, 1999).

Among various issues, five were identified as major challenges, these were: lack of feedback from instructors, lack of feedback from peers, lack of time to participate, slow internet connectivity, and low or no participation of other group members.

The goal of the research was to inform educators in Kenya as to how they can improve collaborative online learning to provide the best possible education success.

Methods used to answer the research question

The researchers relied on a descriptive survey, which allowed for the accurate summation of the varied and complex experiences of the study participants, and created a body of data that was substantial enough to enable meaningful statistical analysis. The questionnaire that they developed was based on conceptual elements that were brought to light in the literature review, and consisted of thirty questions. All but one of these survey items required Likert scale or multiple choice fixed responses, with just one open-ended question in which respondents were asked to describe their worst online group experiences.

The respondents were students at two public and two private Kenyan universities, and with the assistance of instructors, a purposive sample group of 210 students was identified, all of whom were taking at least one online course or module. Assistance from one or more experts was solicited to streamline the wording and content of the questionnaire. After a period of two weeks was allowed for students to complete the online questionnaire, there was an 87% response rate (Muuro et al., 2014). The authors noted that not all of the data analysis that they performed was included in this paper, and may eventually be included as an important component of a larger future study (Murro et al., 2014).

Findings and conclusions

The research found multiple issues the students faced with collaborate work at the Kenyan universities. The largest issues related to the ability to access online work and the lack of participation among group members.

Despite Nairobi, Kenya having one of the best internet infrastructures in the country, 30% of the participants reported unreliable internet service, which made accessing and participating in group work challenging (Murro et al., 2014). Murro et al (2014) report if places like Nairobi do not have adequate infrastructure, then not only does it need to be improved there, but in other areas of Kenya as well, so that more people can have the opportunity to go to a higher education institution.

Other issues that students had were finding time to participate in group work and lack of feedback from their instructors. Over 50% claimed that finding time was an issue and 47% claimed they were not getting enough feedback from their professors (Murro et al., 2014).

Unanswered questions and what future research might address

This study acknowledges that future studies should “adopt large scale empirical approaches” to encompass different universities and regions in Kenya (Muuro et al., 2014). Since the fiber optic network is well established in Nairobi, further studies are necessary to gauge internet connectivity in other regions and countries beyond Nairobi. The ability of users to join/utilize social networking sites to link with other students and faculty would be an interesting area of future research, as these types of sites could be crucial to online support and student success and retention.

Other possible future studies include investigating the effect of collaborative learning and critical thinking skills as well as, “improving the level of knowledge constructed in blended e-learning platforms”(Muuro et al., 2014). Challenges faced in using online collaborative tools, as well as determining the correlation between teaching ideologies and effective instruction, are areas that merit further examination. Ways to increase instructor involvement with collaborative work in order to support online students more effectively would also be interesting questions for subsequent projects.

This study reported a gap between workload distribution between online collaborative groups in public versus private universities. Public university students reported less issues with workload sharing than private universities (Muuro et al., 2014). One theory proposed for this discrepancy, is the ability of public university students to work independently, with less instructor oversight, than private university students. Future research could reveal the root causes of this difference and provide interesting theories in this area.

Although the research for this survey asked for demographic information, it was not used to analyze the results. But for this issue, and perhaps others, it might help to theorize why these are issues for the students. More in depth findings could result in looking at how gender, age, geographical region, education background, and socioeconomic levels affect the responses. There might be patterns among students with similar demographics that could point to areas that need improving in order to help students do collaborative work successfully.


Dillenbourg, P. (1999). Collaborative Learning: Cognitive and Computational Approaches. Advances in Learning and Instruction Series. Elsevier Science, Inc.

Muuro, M. E., Wagacha, W. P., Kihoro, J., & Oboko, R. (2014). Students’ perceived challenges in an online collaborative learning environment: A case of higher learning institutions in Nairobi, Kenya. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 15(6).

Education Remix: New Media, Literacies, and the Emerging Digital Geographies

By Sara Evans, Jessica Gilbert Redman, Joanne Rumig, & Marcia Seaton-Martin

Link to article: http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/dce1034_vasudevan_2010.pdf

Article Synopsis & Core Research Questions

Vasudevan (2010) explores the way in which emerging digital geographies are making a difference in the way our youth population are being educated today, whether in the classroom or outside the school, as well as how technology is changing the way in which they communicate with their peers and teachers. Her research focus is to examine the types of digital spaces that youth are participating in and how they can be incorporated into current education practices. YouTube, Flickr, and other digital literacies such as cell phones, mp3 players, social networking sites, and virtual worlds have all contributed to this movement where students are engaged in the learning process both online and in the classroom. This affects the instruction models and assessment tools already in place.

In this particular article Vasudevan examines the social media practices and the technologies used by two youths, Joey and EJ, that are currently involved in an alternative to incarceration program (ATIP). Using portable technologies, Joey and EJ explored digital geographies in various workshops and improved writing skills using various digital spaces. In both examples the relationships between literacies and modalities are highlighted, and how their experiences will shape curriculum design in youth education.

Methods Used

The primary methods employed are case study examples from Joey and EJ in the ATIP workshops. Both completed different creative projects in different cycles of the program. Joey’s project was a part of a digital media workshop, where students were asked to create “movies,” and EJ’s project was a part of a larger program called The Insight Theatre Project, where students were asked to co-write scripts which were performed by other participants. The researchers used ethnography styled approaches to examine the processes of the either student in creating their projects, though these approaches were complicated by the students immersion in virtual spaces where the researcher could not necessarily situate themselves.The focus, however, was examining how either project highlighted the digital literacy and level of media engagement of the student, and how either changed throughout the course and with the addition of more virtual spaces for the students to occupy.

Findings & Conclusions

As a result of the digital medial workshop, Joey was able to use a digital camera not only as a tool but as a space to show the layered geography of his life. He used his PSP as a tool to transfer files from the camera to his online profile, while gaining new skills of customizing backgrounds and uploading music and multimedia poems. Through the use of ProTools, Joey was able to create beats for his multimedia narrative and later create a collection of beats for other multimodal compositions. He got a renewed sense of exploring his personal history with the PSP and the digital camera.

EJ began to navigate new spaces, starting with writing blogs, which helped him develop more of an appreciation for multiple audiences. With the blogging and observations he made, he started to identify himself not only as an intern but also as an ethnographer. As his composing evolved, his digital geographies began to include Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. By accessing many digital composing spaces, EJ was able to participate in new communities, be recognized for new identities, and gain new audiences.

“By paying attention to digital geographies, particularly the navigation across digital spaces and orchestration of multiple modalities, educators can cultivate youth’ literacies while at the same time inspire new sites of education” (Vasudevan, 2010, p. 79).

Further Research Opportunities & Unanswered Questions

Given the few student examples we see, it would be interesting to see how students use the digital landscape on a wider basis. One student uses technology in interesting and unusual ways, but how common is this “thinking outside the box”? What percentage of students get to know their technology this well, so they are able to think up new ways to use the technology? It would be helpful to know what students are using and to what point they are being creative with technology.

We often see students who are so-called digital natives who do not have what many consider basic digital skills (e.g., being able to enter a web address in the address bar of a browser instead of using Google to find the site and then clicking on it from the search results). Based on these observations, how many students are actively and eagerly participating in furthering their technological skills and knowledge beyond what is required for basic interpersonal communication (texting, Facebook, etc.)? By this, what we really want to know is if the Joeys and the EJs of the student world are outliers or if they are the norm. How much technological inquisitiveness can we expect from the average student? Are they willing (and/or able) to go above and beyond the normal requirements of a task or project to learn new skills or to bring together disparate skills in order to create something new?

Is it logical to believe that schools should have such varied types of technology (such as gaming systems or different types of computer OSes) available to students, just in case they might be able to use it creatively? Beyond that, do budgets allow for this possibility?

With schools fighting the influx of technology by often passing “screens down” or “phone basket” (where students put their phones in a basket upon entering a classroom to avoid the temptation of looking at it throughout class) regulations school-wide, where is the happy medium to make sure students are using technology effectively but not tuning out during the school day?

Vasudevan, L. (2010). Education remix: New media, literacies, and the emerging digital geographies. Digital Culture & Education, 2(1). Retrieved from http://www.digitalcultureandeducation.com