Adapting to Disruptive Times: Factors Facilitating or Inhibiting the Switch to Online Teaching in Higher Education

Promovend: Tomas Kaqinari
Keywords: Higher Education, Digitalisation, Digital Transformation
Gutachtende: Elena Makarova, Jacques Audran
Projektbeginn: HS2020

Educational technology includes a variety of digital tools and applications and is conceptualised, as Ross, Morrison & Lowther (2010, p. 19) describe, as “a broad variety of modalities, tools, and strategies for learning. Its effectiveness, therefore, depends on how well it helps teachers and students achieve the desired instructional goals”. Is technology effective for learning outcome? Published first as well as second-order meta-analysis prove that technology, although depended on numerous variables, has a positive effect on learning, even if only to a small degree (Tamim et al., 2011, Schmid et al., 2014). The empirical findings draw the question: What are facilitating and inhibiting factors for technology integration in higher education and how can the existing positive effect be amplified? Various studies identify facilitating variables on faculty's use of technology for teaching, for instance self-efficacy and self-perception (Buchanan, Sainter & Saunders, 2013), perceived usefulness of digital tools (Marzilli et al., 2014) and received institutional support (Sahu, 2020). On the other side, a potential barrier for online teaching is the lack of a proper support and preparation of faculty e.g. through peer feedback, content specific and student assistance, institutional infrastructure, instructional design support and continuing pedagogical and didactics education (Marek, 2009). A recent study shows that overall faculty rank LMS (learning management system) highest in interest for receiving training and information, although the interest rises with experience in online or hybrid teaching. Moreover, faculty are more likely to participate in workshops, web resources and one-on-one support (Coles, Martin, Polly & Wang, 2020). Cook, Ley, Crawford and Warner (2009) found a distinction of motivational factors in the digital teaching of so-called 'digital natives' and 'digital immigrants'. While the former group is confident in the use of digital tools and therefore intrinsically motivated primarily by their commitment to their students, the latter group considers technical support, higher salaries and other monetary and nonmonetary benefits to be motivating factors for digital teaching. Further studies show that not only internal (attitude, self-efficacy, competencies) but also external factors (characteristics of the tools, institutional processes, support, compensation, etc.) contribute to successful digital teaching and transitional phases (Reid, 2012; Marek, 2009).

Research questions
The aim of this study is to identify factors that facilitate and inhibit a successful transition of university teachers to digital teaching and the use of digital tools. These are on the one hand internal factors such as competencies, attitudes, self-efficacy expectations and behaviour, and on the other hand external factors such as institutional structures, support services and the relationship with staff and students (Buchanan, Sainter & Saunders, 2013). The current critical Covid19-related teaching situation has the potential to reveal both weaknesses and functioning practices of today's digital teaching at universities (Crawford et al., 2020). The following research questions arise in this context:

• How do university teachers and students perceive the transition to digital teaching?

• Which internal and/or external factors facilitate or inhibit the transition to digital teaching and the use of digital tools?

• What differences of transitional factors exist between universities located in Switzerland, France, Germany, and the UK?

• What are key components of successful integration of educational technology in higher education?

This project is part of an international research collaboration which conducted the study The Transition from Conventional Teaching to Online Teaching: Organizational and Pedagogical Issues among university teachers and aims to examine the migration from conventional teaching before the Covid19-outbreak to the digital realm in higher education. Numerous universities around the globe participate in the research project. An identical core questionnaire has been used by all participants to enable cross-cultural analysis, who were free to make additional adaptions to their specific university environment. This dissertation project will focus on European universities from the Germany, France, UK and Switzerland. The inquiry has been active through the critical spring semester 2020, in which all participating universities were closed due to the Covid19-pandemic. Analysis of variance and structural equation modeling will be applied to identify key factors of a successful transition to online teaching. A qualitative follow-up study will be conducted for which university teachers as well as students will be interviewed based on preliminary findings won in the quantitative study. The sample will be recruited at the three Eucor universities of Basel, Haute-Alsace, and Strasbourg. The data basis allows a cross-cultural comparison and therefore a considerable outcome of the study. During the qualitative phase in-depth semistructured interviews will be conducted (Mayring, 2002). The interviews will be audiotaped and transcribed verbatim, followed by a thematic analysis through coding using MAXQDA qualitative software.

This accelerated transition to the digital age is a challenge for university teachers, but there is also some potential for innovation and professional development (Watermeyer, Crick, Knight & Goodall, 2020). In response to the closure of universities, governments and institutions have taken a wide range of measures to ensure the maintenance of the courses offered (Bozkurt et al., 2020). From a scientific perspective, it is essential to review the effects that have been achieved in this way, so that both institutional and individual resources as well as obstacles faced by university teachers in the transition to digital teaching can be identified, thereby ensuring the sustainable planning and design of tomorrow's higher education.


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