Simple steps improve digital learning – Eurasia Review


“Building social relationships can be lost when education is digital. This network building is normally done through coffee breaks, shared lunches and in the queue at the toilet or at the coffee machine, ”explains Gunhild Marie Roald, associate professor in the Department of Education and lifelong learning from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The relationships between people, the way we learn and the way we build networks change in part when we can no longer meet face to face and look each other directly in the eyes.

The researchers looked at what they call “relationship building in digital classrooms,” where students and teachers use digital platforms in education.

Career Supervisor Camilla Hellesøy Krogstie at UiO Career Services, Associate Professor Patric Wallin and Senior Lecturer Kristin Landrø at NTNU’s Department of Education and Lifelong Learning also participated to the research group.

New platforms can offer more community

Researcher data material consists of student diaries and focus group interviews from a digital continuing education course.

“Maybe the sense of community and belonging changes as new platforms are introduced.”

The participants did not really experience being part of a learning community. But Roald thinks it could be due to the teaching aids used.

“For this course, we used the Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform, which only allows you to see four faces on the screen at a time,” he explains. Roald wonders if the sense of community and belonging is changing as new platforms have been used during the pandemic.

Even digital mixing is now possible, such as through the Kumospace platform. There, people can meet in a digital corner and talk together in pairs, then move on to the next person.More community in small groups

The researchers were surprised to find that relationship building can also work well digitally as long as participants come together in small groups.

“Our teaching is linked to vocational guidance. Much of it relies on students practicing specific counseling skills to each other in groups of three who have come together in digital group rooms, ”says Landrø.

“The conditions were well suited for building relationships in small groups.”

“We were very excited to see how it would work. It takes great confidence to give yourself. This applies both when you are in the role of supervisor, as an advisor and as an observer who gives feedback to the supervisor afterwards. All of this happens with people you’ve never met before, ”says Landrø.

The results show that the conditions were well suited for relationship building in small groups. Several students said that they quickly developed confidence and security, so they had the courage to try out counseling techniques and share personal issues and feedback with each other.

Most people like breaks

The teachers were very careful to add breaks between teaching sessions, which most of the participants appreciated.

“The lunch break was used for all kinds of activities,” says Landrø. Participant activities, including starting bread dough, going for a walk, having lunch outside, taking down their laundry and performing work-related tasks.

But participants who chose to continue working during the break did not enjoy the breaks as much as those who used the breaks for personal activities. Those who were working would sit in the same place and might get impatient for the class to resume.

But for some, taking a break from the classroom helped them process the day’s course material and deepen their learning experience.

“In this way, activities related to our private life can positively contribute to the learning process. The alternation between our professional life and our personal life creates a more lively dynamic. The two can have a positive influence on each other, ”says Roald.

The combination may be the best

Digital platforms are also making us more accessible than before, for better or for worse. It can be tempting to sacrifice free time for just one more small meeting or post. But that doesn’t just apply to the digital world.

“It’s important to remember that humans depend on social contact and our social relationships.

Veslemøy Berg recently graduated from NTNU with a thesis on what happens to social interaction between students when university education is done digitally. Associate Professor Patric Wallin was his supervisor and project partner.

“In our increasingly digitized daily life, it is important to remember that humans depend on social contact and our social relationships. This is something that cannot be replaced by digital learning platforms, ”says Berg.

His study shows that students prefer physical learning environments. But they are also open to combining physical and digital meeting places in their studies.

Berg believes that a combined solution can meet the social need while enabling a more practical and innovative curriculum.

Knowledge is not the only important thing

Berg emphasizes that designing an education plan for higher education requires more than just a technical understanding of the field being studied.

“We must also take into account the moral dimension of education. The time for study and higher education is not only a time for acquiring knowledge, but also a time for developing as a person interacting with others, ”says Berg.

So far, the research findings have been published as a chapter in an international book on digital learning titled Design courses with digital technologies. The research group also published an article in the central Norwegian regional newspaper Adresseavisen.

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