Strategies for digital inclusion: towards a framework for embracing student diversity and sustaining engagement with blended learning.

Hart Clarida, B., 2017. Strategies for digital inclusion: towards a framework for embracing student diversity and sustaining engagement with blended learning. Doctorate Thesis (Doctorate). Bournemouth University.

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Abstract

Educators have long sought to use appropriate teaching methods in the classroom to improve learner outcomes and to address the diversity of learners by designing teaching and learning activities to complement different learner characteristics. Learners have been categorised by learning styles and demographics such as gender, age, ethnicity, geography, socio-economic status and educational background. Yet there is growing evidence that grouping learners according to their demographic and learner characteristics may not provide sufficient evidence to identify if or how learners will be engaged with elements of their programme of study. While the introduction of Virtual Learning Environments has supported the development of blended learning programmes, adopting a mix of face to face and technology based teaching methods, the technology has added a further dimension to the challenges of developing effective teaching strategies to engage learners. Technology can support student engagement which can conflict with conventional ideas about ownership and power in formal and informal educational contexts. Therefore, there is a need to explore the nature of student engagement in relation to digital inclusion and blended learning and produce a framework to guide educators. This research aims to develop a conceptual framework which can be used to develop effective teaching and learning strategies for managing student diversity in relation to experiences of digital inclusion and exclusion in blended learning programmes. This research focuses on student experiences of blended learning programmes to explore whether learners associate particular personal characteristics with a sense of digital inclusion or exclusion. Technologies were reviewed for their usefulness by collecting data from primary and secondary sources and an investigation was conducted of how a diverse group of learners identifies what on a blended learning programme they need to be effectively engaged with. A conceptual framework was created from the findings, which guides the development of strategies for digital inclusion. This research adopted a critical realist philosophical approach and used a qualitative methodology sequentially through four phases. Phase 1 drew on learner narratives using semi-structured interviews, to explore the many characteristics of the participants (n=16) in their own words and how these influenced their engagement with technology. Phase 2 involved interviewing a second sample (n=10) of participants from a different cohort to investigate themes which emerged from Phase 1 in more depth and to review the usefulness of current and emerging technologies by learners. At the conclusion of Phase 2, a preliminary conceptual framework was introduced, synthesising the outcomes of this stage. It was validated in Phase 3 by collecting data from participants (n=13) from a different HEI and from educators (n=4) from within the same HEIs as the samples from all three phases, using a mixture of survey, structured, semi structured and instant reaction mobile interviews and focus group methods. Phase 4 collated all the validations from Phase 3 to create a final conceptual framework, the Blended Learning Framework. This research suggests that while digital exclusion has been associated with gender, age, ethnicity, geography, socio-economic status, educational background, and learning styles, these characteristics could not explain why some learners feel included or excluded. For the participants in this research, digital exclusion was found to be influenced by organisational factors, such as elements of the programme content rather than learner digital literacy skills. This research suggests that current technologies, such as social media, and emerging technologies, such as Personal Learning Environments, may offer useful opportunities to effectively engage a diversity of learners on blended learning programmes. The resulting Blended Learning Framework addresses the findings from this research and reflects the three major themes identified: Technology; Pedagogy and Human. The Blended Learning Framework consists of ten elements divided into four specific sections: Preparation; Design; Engagement and Ongoing, and offers a variety of strategies that educators can implement before and during a blended learning programme to encourage inclusion. Staff appraisals of the conceptual framework suggest that it could positively influence digital inclusion in a blended learning environment. At the time of writing, no other study has examined learner characteristics identified by learners themselves which influence digital inclusion and exclusion in blended learning. Therefore, a conceptual framework created using the narratives of the learners provides a unique insight on which to develop strategies for embracing diversity and sustaining engagement with blended learning. The Blended Learning Framework is an original contribution to knowledge and provides guidelines for educators when designing and implementing blended learning programmes.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctorate)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Uncontrolled Keywords:digital inclusion; diverse student; blended learning; characteristics
Group:Faculty of Management
ID Code:27382
Deposited By: Unnamed user with email symplectic@symplectic
Deposited On:21 Feb 2017 16:02
Last Modified:21 Feb 2017 16:02

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