Developing Digital Fluency in Higher Education: a study in the acquisition of digital capability by academics in Irish higher education settings

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Title: Developing Digital Fluency in Higher Education: a study in the acquisition of digital capability by academics in Irish higher education settings
Authors: Watts, Niall
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Date: 2018
Online since: 2020-09-11T10:07:06Z
Abstract: Higher education is facing the challenges of a growing and diverse student body and the potential of digital technologies for their learning. Digital fluency has become a major concept in technology enhanced learning (TEL) research, as digitally fluent educators can use TEL at the highest cognitive levels. This thesis contributes to our understanding of TEL, by examining the factors that influence the development of digital fluency among academic staff in institutions of higher education in Ireland and how such fluency can be facilitated and fostered both by the digitally fluent educators and by the academic institutions where they work. This question is examined through the theoretical lenses of innovation theories (Theory of Diffusion of Innovations and the Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology), Learning Design and Landscapes of Practice. The research takes an explanatory case study approach, drawing on a thematic analysis of eight semi-structured interviews with educators working in higher education in Ireland and of a national policy document, known as the Digital Roadmap (Phase 1). This analysis led to the identification of professional identity and institutional culture as themes to interpret the findings. The research found that enthusiasm, educational qualifications and prior experience of digital technologies were major influences in the development of digital fluency, which was an aspect of the participants’ professional identity. All were willing to help less digitally-proficient colleagues with advice and to present on formal courses. However, none wished to be seen as cheerleaders for technology. Those who developed an interest in TEL to improve their own teaching practice were keen to give informal demonstrations to colleagues but were less likely to be engaged in policy development than those who had developed their career around TEL. Both groups considered that accredited courses and informal learning were effective means of developing digital fluency. Educational technologists were considered to play a valuable role, particularly, when they went beyond guiding academics in institutional systems and enabled and encouraged them to explore other tools. This was considered to be a more sustainable approach as it helped the academics to develop their own fluency. Institutions can help ix with the sustainable development of digital fluency by providing technological and pedagogical support services and in some cases by offering awards. However, interview participants working in the university sector tended to be more sceptical of the value of awards and modest levels of funding than those working in institutes of technology. Institutional leadership can promote a culture of professional development which can be more effective where it draws on reflection on the participants own practice.
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Education
Qualification Name: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2018 the Author
Keywords: Higher educationEducational technologyComputer-assisted instructionIreland
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Education Theses

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