Using Digital Technologies to Aid E-Learning: A Pilot Study

Using Digital Technologies to Aid E-Learning: A Pilot Study

Michele T. Cole (Robert Morris University, USA), Daniel J. Shelley (Robert Morris University, USA), Louis B. Swartz (Robert Morris University, USA) and Blessing F. Adeoye (University of Lagos, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6162-2.ch002


This chapter presents the results of a pilot study conducted in the summer of 2013 in which researchers sought to discover how students and instructors at two universities were using selected digital technologies in their coursework. To the extent that digital technologies were being used, did students find their use to be helpful in learning course material? Researchers surveyed undergraduate students at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students at Robert Morris University in Western Pennsylvania. For the most part, comparing responses from both universities demonstrated similarities in how and what digital technologies were used in coursework. However, there were significant differences found when the uses of certain technologies were examined at each institution and how helpful to learning they were for students. There was also a significant difference found in determining how soon new digital technologies would be adopted.
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For online course design to be effective, instructors need to incorporate the “reality of the digital world” because the newest generation of learners is “hardwired” to use multiple types of Web-based media (Baird & Fisher, 2005-2006, p.10). For example, Huang and Nakazawa (2010) found that different Web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis, positively impact student learning by opening access to the instructor and to the other students in the course. In another example, this one focusing on students’ use of social media in a business communications course, Kelm (2011) found the students’ use of specific social media proved to be crucial in understanding the material.

Focusing on how Facebook was being used for instruction, Bosch (2009) looked at how students and instructors might use other digital technologies to enhance instruction and maximize learning. Others have looked at the use of digital technologies in course design. Greenhow, Robelia and Hughes (2009) reported on the potential of using interactive technologies in teaching and learning.

Otte, Gold, Gorges, Smith and Stein (2012) described the impact of academic social networks in building community and facilitating resource sharing, resulting in a growing adoption of technology for academic purposes. In another study of how students were using digital technologies in their coursework, Baggett and Williams (2012) found the ones most often cited as useful to learning were Facebook, Google+ and Tumblr. Huang and Nakazawa (2010) also found that digital technologies, specifically wikis, affected learning in a positive way in that their use provided broader access to others in the course as well as to the teacher. Referring to social media, Goatman (2011) pointed to its usefulness in accessing both course material and the instructor.

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