Research Methodological Issues with Researching the Learner Voice

Research Methodological Issues with Researching the Learner Voice

Gráinne Conole (The Open University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-120-9.ch042
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This chapter provides a summary of current research exploring students’ use of technologies. It focuses in particular on a case study carried out in the UK, which explored the use of technologies by students in four different disciplines. The case study included an online survey, audio logs and interviews. The findings suggest that students are now immersed in a technology-enhanced learning environment and use technologies extensively to support their learning activities. It points to changing digital literacy skills and has profound implications for educational institutions in terms of how courses are designed and delivered and in how students are supported in their learning.
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A Timeline Of Some Key Learner Experience Research

This section highlights some of the key research looking at students and their use of technologies over the past five years. In the space permitted I cannot hope to do justice to the wealth of literature on this topic; instead I have cherry picked a few examples, which typify the general trends being observed across most of the studies. Oblinger and Oblinger’s book (2005) provides a useful starting point in terms of recent research in exploring students’ use of technologies. It acted as somewhat of a watershed in terms of tuning into the increasing research interest in studying how students are interacting with technologies and how this might be changing the ways in which they were learning. Terms such as “Netgeneration”, “Nintendo kids”, “Millenials” (amongst others) typify this movement (see for example Tapscott, 1998; Prensky, 2001; Kennedy et al., 2006, Baird and Mercedes, 2006; Oblinger and Oblinger, 2005, Morice, 2000). In the introduction to the book ‘The NetGeneration’ Oblinger notes “We hope this book will help educators make sense of the many patterns and behaviors that we see in the Net Generation but don’t quite understand” (Oblinger and Oblinger, 2005:7). The general arguments the book puts forward are that:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web 2.0: This is a term coined in 2005 by O’Riley. It refers to the recent wave of technologies and tools associated with the web, which emphasis the user-focused, collaborative aspects of the affordances of these technologies. It contrast with the first phase of web technologies which were essentially information focused. Social networking is a term also used to describe many of these technologies.

The LXP Project: The JISC-funded LXP project was a project funded under the first phase of the JISC learner experience programme. It is a case study that is included in this chapter.

Audio Logs: Collecting data on what students are doing with technologies via audio logs is a relatively underused but very effective method for collecting data. In particular it has proved useful in terms of eliciting students’ emotive and in situ experiences.

Methodological Issues: This refers to the methodological issues that arise specifically with trying to understand what students are doing with technologies. It includes references to the typical methodological approaches that are being used and the associated methods.

The Learner Voice: This is a term which had come into use in recently years to describe research which is exploring the ‘learner voice’ or student experience. In particular it has been appropriated to refer to students’ use of and experience of technologies.

Affordances: “Affordance” refers to the perceived and actual properties of a thing, primarily those functional properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used. It originates from work on Gibson in the 1970s and has been used in relation to technological affordances in the last decade or so.

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