Is Online Technology the Hope in Uncertain Times for Higher Education?

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102). This special issue belongs to the section "Technology Enhanced Education".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 January 2024) | Viewed by 13921

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Hunter College and Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY 10017, USA
Interests: education leadership; education policy; online and blended learning; multimedia instructional models; research methods

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The coronavirus pandemic has required all organizations to examine how they will function in the years to come. Private corporations are dealing with major issues, such as remote work, changing markets and customers in the era of Amazon.com, and costs. The same is true in higher education, as institutions of learning migrate to online technology to support instruction, academic services, and administrative efficiency.  Even before the onset of the pandemic in 2020, higher education had been evolving to a more online environment, with some predicting significant upheaval, while others suggested a more deliberately careful approach to technology.

Drew Faust, former President of Harvard University, in a message to the World Economic Forum, in 2015, described the following three major forces that will shape the future of higher education:

  • The influence of technology;
  • The changing shape of knowledge;
  • The attempt to define the value of education.

In reference to technological change, she gave the following statement:

“So much of what humanity has achieved has been sparked and sustained by the research and teaching that take place every day at colleges and universities, sites of curiosity and creativity that nurture some of the finest aspirations of individuals and, in turn, improve their lives—and their livelihoods. As the landscape continues to change, we must be careful to protect the ideals at the heart of higher education, ideals that serve us all well as we work together to improve the world.”

On the other hand, Joseph Aoun,  President of Northeastern University and author of Robot Proof, Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, acknowledged colleges and universities as among the fullest expressions of human culture ever evolved and perhaps the most effective institutions for intellectual advancement ever developed and went on to caution that if they fail to respond creatively and deliberately to the technological challenges that they face, “they will wither into irrelevance”.

In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. The Editors seek to provide a forum for academic leaders and researchers around the globe to consider whether online technology can serve as a vehicle of hope for higher education to improve instruction, to make college more affordable, to mitigate the increasing costs, and to ensure  marginalized populations can access education.

  • Manuscript deadline: 1 October 2023
  • Abstracts deadline: 28 February 2023

Prof. Dr. Anthony G. Picciano
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • online technology
  • enhanced education
  • adaptive learning
  • higher education in an online environment
  • higher education in the age of artificial intelligence
  • online instruction and academic services

Published Papers (10 papers)

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13 pages, 570 KiB  
Article
Connecting Prescriptive Analytics with Student Success: Evaluating Institutional Promise and Planning
by Catherine A. Manly
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(4), 413; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14040413 - 16 Apr 2024
Viewed by 256
Abstract
Data-driven educational decisions enabled by online technologies hold promise for improving student performance across the full range of student dis/ability, even when efforts to design for student learning requirements (such as through Universal Design for Learning) fall short and undergraduates struggle to learn [...] Read more.
Data-driven educational decisions enabled by online technologies hold promise for improving student performance across the full range of student dis/ability, even when efforts to design for student learning requirements (such as through Universal Design for Learning) fall short and undergraduates struggle to learn course material. In this action research study, 37 institutional stakeholders evaluated the potential of prescriptive analytics to project student outcomes in different simulated worlds, comparing hypothetical future learning scenarios. The goal of these prescriptions would be to make recommendations to students about tutoring and to faculty about beneficial course redesign points. The study’s analysis focused on the alignment of resources, processes, and values for feasible institutionalization of such analytics, highlighting institutional core values. In the postpandemic mix of online and on-campus learning under increasingly constrained resources, educational leaders should explore the potential competitive advantage of leveraging data from online technologies for greater student success. Full article
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9 pages, 214 KiB  
Article
Developing a Next-Generation Model for Massive Digital Learning
by Chris Dede and William Lidwell
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(8), 845; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13080845 - 19 Aug 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 3362
Abstract
A decade ago, massively open online courses (MOOCs) were heralded as the solution to universal, global access to higher education. While they failed to reach this vision, primarily because of teaching-by-telling and learning-by-listening (a PDF of the residential classroom), MOOCs provided the foundational [...] Read more.
A decade ago, massively open online courses (MOOCs) were heralded as the solution to universal, global access to higher education. While they failed to reach this vision, primarily because of teaching-by-telling and learning-by-listening (a PDF of the residential classroom), MOOCs provided the foundational models and infrastructure for emergency remote learning in the pandemic. Reports of remote learning’s death post-pandemic are greatly exaggerated, since the world is now irreversibly hybrid—and will stay that way because many people and organizations value the new opportunities this presents. From now on, when students leave the shelter of classrooms to interact with the world beyond schooling, they must have skills for adept performance both face-to-face and across distance. Colleges, universities, and regions that force all teaching and learning to be face-to-face are dooming their graduates to reduced agency in every other aspect of life. As discussed in recent reports from Harvard, MIT, and Stanford, innovative approaches to digital learning were developed during the pandemic that are now improving campus-based learning. Insights from these approaches offer the opportunity for student engagement at scale, taking advantage of strengths of online instruction such as collapsing time, bridging space, personalizing via rich datastreams, using AI-based instructional assistants and learning partners, delivering content and experience across universities, and sustaining online learning communities after formal instruction ends. Combined, these advances can enable next-generation massive digital hybrid learning, a means to achieve the aspirational vision of universal global access to higher education. A coalition of higher education institutions could begin to realize this vision, an essential step in enabling all learners to survive and thrive in our increasingly turbulent, disruptive global economy and civilization. Full article
13 pages, 266 KiB  
Article
Addressing Language and Study Skills Challenges in Online Undergraduate EMI Courses
by Lucas Kohnke and Andrew Jarvis
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(9), 958; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13090958 - 19 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 885
Abstract
English-medium instruction (EMI) is taking hold within higher education in non-Anglophone settings, but there is insufficient research into the challenges students encounter when taking EMI courses online. This exploratory quantitative study conducted in Hong Kong examines the language and studying challenges faced by [...] Read more.
English-medium instruction (EMI) is taking hold within higher education in non-Anglophone settings, but there is insufficient research into the challenges students encounter when taking EMI courses online. This exploratory quantitative study conducted in Hong Kong examines the language and studying challenges faced by undergraduate students when in-person classes were suspended due to COVID-19. One hundred thirteen first- and second-year students completed a questionnaire, rating their perceived challenges in the areas of writing, speaking, reading, listening, and study skills. The results showed that they faced particular challenges with reading and study skills (especially self-motivation), as well as vocabulary range, which affected more than one skill. Corroborating existing research, students with less secondary school EMI experience reported greater challenges. As providing English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses is a primary way to support the language skills of students in EMI settings, we offer guidance to EAP practitioners who seek to help their students overcome the challenges identified in this article. As online technology continues to deliver content in tertiary education, EAP courses must be closely aligned with the language and study skills needs of students in digital EMI environments. Full article
21 pages, 1955 KiB  
Article
Investigating Online versus Face-to-Face Course Dropout: Why Do Students Say They Are Leaving?
by Alyse C. Hachey, Claire Wladis and Katherine M. Conway
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(11), 1122; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13111122 - 10 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1560
Abstract
Despite more focused attention in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, high online attrition remains both a concern and a mystery; gaps in our knowledge exist as to why students so often do not complete online courses. Pre-pandemic, and using a sample of [...] Read more.
Despite more focused attention in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, high online attrition remains both a concern and a mystery; gaps in our knowledge exist as to why students so often do not complete online courses. Pre-pandemic, and using a sample of 780 students who dropped out of fully online courses (or the same course face-to-face) from a large university system in the Northeast U.S., students were explicitly asked about their specific reasons for course withdrawal. All students enrolled in a fully online course (or a face-to-face section of the same course) at the City University of New York (CUNY) in fall 2015 were invited to take the online survey from which this study data was taken. Results indicate that there were distinct differences in the patterns of reasons given by online and face-to-face students: although the perceived quality of the instructor/instruction was deemed important to student persistence in both modalities, it seemed to be of greater importance face-to-face than online. Furthermore, issues related to time were found to be more prominent reasons for dropping for online learners than face-to-face learners. Findings from this study shed new light on the impetus for online attrition, with implications for online policy and course design in a post-pandemic era. Full article
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15 pages, 1854 KiB  
Article
Digital Collaboration in Higher Education: A Study of Digital Skills and Collaborative Attitudes in Students from Diverse Universities
by Andrés F. Mena-Guacas, Jesús A. Meza-Morales, Esther Fernández and Eloy López-Meneses
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(1), 36; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14010036 - 28 Dec 2023
Viewed by 989
Abstract
The current study examines the relationship between digital competencies and collaboration attitudes among higher education students. To do so, data from 1316 students from 10 Spanish universities were analyzed and collected through a questionnaire named “Basic Digital Skills 2.0 of University Students” (COBADI [...] Read more.
The current study examines the relationship between digital competencies and collaboration attitudes among higher education students. To do so, data from 1316 students from 10 Spanish universities were analyzed and collected through a questionnaire named “Basic Digital Skills 2.0 of University Students” (COBADI®—Registered Trademark: 2970648). To provide context for the sample involved in this study, it is noteworthy that 50.5% of participants typically prefer to access the internet from home. Furthermore, it was observed that most of the respondents engage with the internet for over nine hours daily. The analysis of the results was conducted by calculating correlations between digital competencies and students’ collaboration attitudes. These correlations were computed using the Python programming language, with the libraries employed being pandas, numpy, and matplotlib. Students who perceive themselves as more competent in using digital tools tend to have a slightly higher disposition to collaborate with their professors in virtual environments. Some competencies are more closely associated with collaboration than others, with those that exhibit a stronger connection being key focus areas in teaching and curriculum development. Full article
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23 pages, 2007 KiB  
Article
Student Ratings: Skin in the Game and the Three-Body Problem
by Charles Dziuban, Patsy Moskal, Annette Reiner, Adysen Cohen and Christina Carassas
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(11), 1124; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13111124 - 11 Nov 2023
Viewed by 823
Abstract
To capture the student voice, university researchers examined the high-stakes Student Perception of Instruction form, administered online to students each semester, allowing them anonymous feedback on their courses. A total of 2,171,565 observations were analyzed for all courses each semester from fall 2017 [...] Read more.
To capture the student voice, university researchers examined the high-stakes Student Perception of Instruction form, administered online to students each semester, allowing them anonymous feedback on their courses. A total of 2,171,565 observations were analyzed for all courses each semester from fall 2017 through fall 2022. The results indicated that 68% of students responded identically to each of the protocol’s 9 Likert scale items, essentially straight-lining their rating of instruction and casting doubt on the validity of their engagement with the process. Student responses by various University demographics are presented. We discuss the potential influences of students’ reactions and present a possible model for effective teaching and evaluation. Full article
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19 pages, 2034 KiB  
Article
Digital Learning Transformation in Higher Education: International Cases of University Efforts to Evaluate and Improve Blended Teaching Readiness
by Charles R. Graham, Ganbat Danaa, Tserenchimed Purevsuren, Adriana Martínez, Cinthia Bittencourt Spricigo, Barbara Maria Camilotti and Tserenkhand Batsukh
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(11), 1143; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13111143 - 15 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1599
Abstract
The global pandemic of 2019 brought heightened awareness to institutions of higher education of the need to engage in a digital transformation that extends beyond university business operations to the pedagogy of the classroom. This paper is a case study that explores three [...] Read more.
The global pandemic of 2019 brought heightened awareness to institutions of higher education of the need to engage in a digital transformation that extends beyond university business operations to the pedagogy of the classroom. This paper is a case study that explores three international cases of universities in Colombia, Brazil, and Mongolia that are at different stages along the path of a digital pedagogical transformation. This article tells each story, including (1) what is driving the local need to engage in digital transformation, (2) what the major challenges and barriers are to achieving a transformation, and (3) what efforts are being made to help each university to move along the path towards adoption and change. It concludes with discussing three major themes that emerged from the case studies: (1) the role of local policy in shaping digital transformation, (2) the importance of developing human capacity with technology, and (3) the potential for digital transformation to bring hope. Full article
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13 pages, 261 KiB  
Article
Social Media and Artificial Intelligence: Critical Conversations and Where Do We Go from Here?
by Julia Lynn Parra and Suparna Chatterjee
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(1), 68; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14010068 - 08 Jan 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1595
Abstract
Prior to and during the pandemic, social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook emerged as dynamic online spaces for diverse communities facilitating engagement and learning. The authors of this article have explored the use of social media with a focus on Twitter [...] Read more.
Prior to and during the pandemic, social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook emerged as dynamic online spaces for diverse communities facilitating engagement and learning. The authors of this article have explored the use of social media with a focus on Twitter for engagement and student-centered design of online courses in higher education. As with all technology, social media is also riddled with complex issues and unfortunately, is increasingly considered unsafe. Students have often been hesitant in their use of social media, especially for coursework and unfortunately, this hesitation has only worsened. Considering this and recent developments, social media has become a questionable tool for use in education, yet remains integral to the lives of many, both personally and professionally. The emergence and popularity of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools such as ChatGPT, Lensa AI, and Canva Magic Write present new challenges and opportunities and cannot be avoided by the educational communities. Is there hope for social media and AI tools during these uncertain times? Through the combination of a current literature review and qualitative collaborative autoethnographic research, the authors take a step back and engage in critical conversations about what we have learned from our uses of social media for engagement and learning in our online courses, with a focus on (1) the intentional uses of social media, (2) the challenges and concerning issues of social media tools, and (3) exploring the implications of artificial intelligence. Centering on the theme of “hope,” the authors navigate these educational and technological landscapes and answer the question “where do we go from here?” The authors are faculty at a southwest border university teaching preservice and in-service teachers alongside those who want to learn more about education and design with learning technologies. Their voices represent faculty, teachers, and students who are engaging with and immediately impacted by the challenges and opportunities of rapidly advancing technologies. Full article
14 pages, 426 KiB  
Article
Future Potentials for International Virtual Exchange in Higher Education Post COVID-19: A Scoping Review
by Gregory C. Weaver, Paige L. McDonald, Gordon S. Louie and Taylor C. Woodman
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(3), 232; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14030232 - 23 Feb 2024
Viewed by 830
Abstract
(1) Background: International virtual exchanges (IVEs) are here to stay. The coronavirus pandemic of 2019 (COVID-19) necessitated global virtual interactions to solve wicked problems. Within industry during the pandemic, the use of online technologies expanded at a never-before-seen rate to form global partnerships [...] Read more.
(1) Background: International virtual exchanges (IVEs) are here to stay. The coronavirus pandemic of 2019 (COVID-19) necessitated global virtual interactions to solve wicked problems. Within industry during the pandemic, the use of online technologies expanded at a never-before-seen rate to form global partnerships At the same time, higher-education institutions lessened traditional international offerings, reimagining “campus” education using “just in time online education”. Still others leveraged international partnerships to fully embrace IVEs. Adopting virtual learning technologies to support global exchange in this way develops the knowledge and skills required in a post-pandemic world. To continue to shape knowledge that supports international collaboration toward addressing increasingly complex societal issues, higher education must learn to leverage IVEs, addressing issues of access, equity, and cost. (2) Methods: This research was conducted according to the “Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews” (PRISMA-Scr) guidelines. It systematically analyzed the literature published since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, exploring methods, models, and the outcomes of IVE in higher education. (3) Results: The findings demonstrate the potential for IVE to be scaled across higher education to promote the knowledge and skills required by a global ecology. Full article
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15 pages, 1266 KiB  
Article
The Future of Postsecondary Education in the Age of AI
by Alfred Essa
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(3), 326; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14030326 - 19 Mar 2024
Viewed by 730
Abstract
This paper examines a possible future for postsecondary education in the age of AI. The consensus view among economists is that AI is a general purpose technology (GPT), similar to the steam engine, electricity, and the internet. As a GPT, AI will be [...] Read more.
This paper examines a possible future for postsecondary education in the age of AI. The consensus view among economists is that AI is a general purpose technology (GPT), similar to the steam engine, electricity, and the internet. As a GPT, AI will be the main driver of innovation for the foreseeable future in most sectors of the economy, including education. As AI evolves, it holds the promise of fundamentally redefining the educational landscape, influencing not only current practices in institutional management and pedagogy but also shaping future trends in learning, evaluation, and accreditation. While traditional college-aged students have received significant attention in educational studies, this paper emphasizes the needs of adult learners as lifelong learners and explores how AI-driven innovations can enhance their educational experiences, offering personalized and flexible learning solutions. This paper also argues that a dramatic breakthrough is needed in the cost–value equation for education to support workforce development and lifelong learning. Full article
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