The Digital Limitations of our “Digital Native” Students

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Nicole Barbaro, Research Scientist at WGU Labs, joins the podcast to discuss their recent College Innovation Network EdTech student survey and the surprising takeaways regarding our students’ digital struggles in navigating pandemic-related EdTech.

Despite this idea that all students areused to technology. They have grown up with technology for a long time,we found that there's a significant proportion of students reporting that they're really struggling withall the new attack you're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, thebest professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their collegeor university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or toolsand resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETUpodcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with DrNicole Barbero, research scientists at Wgu labs. Nicole, welcome to the show.Thank you so much for having me. Really excited to talk to you todayabout the digital limitations of our digital...

...native students. But before we digin, can you give the listeners a little background on both Wgu labs andyour rule there? Yeah, WG LABS IS A nonprofit affiliate of Western GovernorsUniversity and we really function as kind of a research and development hub in theattach and online learning space. And my role for about the past year hasbeen with our college innovation network group, and at the College Innovation Network weare a broad network of now, I believe, thirteen institutions. We havesurveying over two hundred and Fiftyzero students, where we help connect at tech productsto universities and identify what those student needs are and try to fill those needswith different at tech products, evaluate how those are impacting the student experience andreally just trying to support the full life cycle of at tech adoption to solvenew problems in the higher education landscape. Love it, Nicole, to kickoff the conversation, can you give us...

...an overview on your college innovation networksurvey that sought to better understand our students online learning experiences during the pandemic?The CIAN AT TECH STUDENT survey is the first and a new series of researchstudies that we're doing within the college innovation network and our goal for the atTech Student survey specifically was to take the opportunity that we had with working withso many different, diverse higher education institutions to really try to understand how studentswere experiencing online learning over the past year. Now that you know it is kindof this unprecedented, near universal shift to online learning and understand how they'reexperiencing how they're using education technology, to see if we can come out withany interesting insights that can lead to more targeted strategies to help students get themost out of their online learning experiences. So our goal is to keep runningthis every year and trying to kind of...

...pick up on some of the nuancesof online learning and at tech every year as we move forward. It willbe fastening to continue seeing this longitudinal results over time and interesting insights. Youwere correcting the goal for you. What were some of the most surprising takeawaysfrom your research regarding the digital struggles of students that we may not have assumedhad many? Yeah, I think the most surprising result from this research forme was that the implicit assumption that students today, especially more traditional age collegestudents, are, quote unquote, these digital natives that have grown up withtechnology, they know how to use it and technology has kind of been seenas almost a non issue for students in terms of how they use it andthem using it in their courses. But surprisingly, we evaluated this novel conceptthat we're calling at tech self efficacy, and this is how confident students arein their ability to learn and adapt to these new education technologies in their coursesand especially over the past year, with...

...students that maybe did an enroll inan online institution initially, we're kind of thrust into an online learning environment witha lot of new education technologies to help facilitate their learning experience. So,despite this idea that all students are used to technology, they have grown upwith technology for a long time, we found that there's a significant proportion ofstudents reporting that they're really struggling with all the new at tech and specifically wefound that about twenty percent of students reported that they're struggling to use the newattack in their courses. We found that about a third of students reported thatthey were having difficulty keeping up with all the new technologies across their courses thispast year, and also about a third of students reported that most of thetech that they encountered in their courses were actually new to them, so theyhadn't use these technologies before. And how confident students felt so these measures ofad text self efficacy that we had in our survey was actually one of themost robust predictors of their overall experience with...

...learning. So those that felt moreconfident, those that reported not struggling as much with the technologies, actually feelmore prepared for next year. They had more positive learning experiences and overall,just had a better time, even in this, you know, kind ofweird year that we had in higher education. So not all students love technology arereally comfortable with it, and acknowledging that there's a significant portion of studentsthat may be struggling a little bit more is a really important insight that canlead to some more actionable strategies to make sure that all students are getting themost out of their online learning experiences. Nicole, what does positive or necessaryfriction as part of the technology learning process look like, versus where we simplyneed to get better at providing stronger student technology support? I think that's agreat question and, like any good teaching practices, you want to push studentsa little beyond their comforts. Movies.

That's really where the learning happens.But we also have to recognize that more scaffold it approaches that afford students alittle bit more creativity, that allows them to push a little bit beyond wherethey are without being too overwhelming. Is really kind of that ideal sweet spotfor learning. So within the text base, although we assume that students know howto use technology and in today's environment we all use technology to some degree, it really will pay off for teachers to just kind of take a momentto ensure where are their students in terms of their confidence and their ad techabilities, their access to these technologies and how they're using them, to ensurethat we're starting students at the right spot where they can actually learn about thattechnology get the most out of their learning experiences, but without feeling overwhelmed andhaving their lack of knowledge about the technology inhibiting their learning. So it reallyis kind of a sweet spot that we have to find. A push studentswill not pushing them so far that they...

...just become stressed out about learning thetechnology and aren't focusing on actually learning the content. Any specific suggestions for facultywho are incorporating attack, incorporating new attack into their classrooms on how to approachthat minding this research? That's a great question. I think the biggest afew key takeaways and strategies to help students make sure that they're comfortable with attackand get the most out of the technology to enhance their learning. Is Withany new technology, IT requires proper instruction. So how that would look in aspecific course is rather than just linking the new technologies, instructors really needto ensure that they're spending some time demonstrating to students how these different technologies workand also explaining how those technologies are able to enhance their learning experience. Andthis is a really great spot for, say the first day of class,but while you're explaining course operations and how...

...things are going to go in thatclass, actually show them the technology, show them how to use it,ask them to practice working with that technology and kind of early on low stakesassignments to get them comfortable while not being stressed out about, you know,a certain grade that's attached to it, but making sure that students know howto use the technology. You demonstrate how to use it and incorporate that instructionof the technology and the course and integrating some kind of low stakes ways forthem to engage with the techno nlogy. The goal here is to really identifyany friction issues or any access issues with new technologies early on in the semesterbefore it becomes a problem for the students learning experience. So another way thatI address this I also teach on the side, so I do this inmy own classroom, is I have a intro survey the first day of classand whatever technologies am using that course, I ask every student, do youhave access to this technology? Are you...

...confident in using this technology? Anythingyou want to know so I can identify the handful of students that may nothave access or may not feel very comfortable with that technology. I can addressthat before any assignments take place and see what we can do to ensure thatthey have a better learning experience. So those are a few kind of simpleways you can address that potential confidence gap early on in the semester. Thecoal love the advice per faculty. Finally, can we go up and leave uswith any next steps of vice our institutions and administrators in terms of howthey need to think about providing better student tech support overall. How should theyapproach this challenge? Yeah, I think you know, our survey speaks tothis a little bit and we found that about forty percent of students in oursurvey did encounter tech difficulties in the past year, and that includes either nothaving access to the technology that they need or having trouble with the functioning upthe technology when they were using it. Overall, in institutions are doing good. We did ask students, you know,...

...how helpful their institutions were and wefound that only about fifteen percent of students reported that their institutions weren't helpingthem, you know, adequately solve their tech problems. So overall, institutionsare doing well, but the tech support is only one piece of the puzzle. It really is a holistic approach that, you know, tech support plays animportant role. So students having a contact if they're having an issue withtechnology that they can, you know, reach out to and get some promptanswers. The other approaches within the courses themselves that are using the technology,similar to what I described. Faculty need to make sure that they're ensuring theirstudents are set up for success early on in the semester and then also creatingpeer support communities. Peers are a great resource as well. You know,students don't always have to rely on faculty or administrators and staff at the institution. If you connect peers with each other. Using some really great technology platforms.Students can help each other with issues...

...as well. So I think reallytaking a multi pronged approach across peers, within the classroom and within the institutionoverall can really help address, you know, the multitude of different technic issues thatstudents may encounter. The cold wonderful thoughts. Thank you so much foryour time today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if theyhave any follow up questions? If you have any questions for me specific youcan reach me at Nicole Dot barbarrow at WG doted you. You can alsocontact the college innovation network overall as well. I'm at CN at WG labs dotorg if you have any questions for our organization more broadly, and youcan check us out in our work at WG labs dot org for more informationon what we do. It's wonderful work you're doing and we're so excited tosee the results in subsequent years. Nicol thanks so much for joining us today. Thanks for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting newenrollment strategies. Kelix educations, data driven...

...enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth isuniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix hasjust published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand newcontent on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded todayfor free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth universityfrom Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe tothe shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening.Until next time.

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