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 are used 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 with all the new attack you're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and 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 ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Nicole Barbero, research scientists at Wgu labs. Nicole, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me. Really excited to talk to you today about the digital limitations of our digital...

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

...an overview on your college innovation network survey 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 research studies that we're doing within the college innovation network and our goal for the at Tech Student survey specifically was to take the opportunity that we had with working with so many different, diverse higher education institutions to really try to understand how students were experiencing online learning over the past year. Now that you know it is kind of this unprecedented, near universal shift to online learning and understand how they're experiencing how they're using education technology, to see if we can come out with any interesting insights that can lead to more targeted strategies to help students get the most out of their online learning experiences. So our goal is to keep running this every year and trying to kind of...

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

...students that maybe did an enroll in an online institution initially, we're kind of thrust into an online learning environment with a 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 up with technology for a long time, we found that there's a significant proportion of students reporting that they're really struggling with all the new at tech and specifically we found that about twenty percent of students reported that they're struggling to use the new attack in their courses. We found that about a third of students reported that they were having difficulty keeping up with all the new technologies across their courses this past year, and also about a third of students reported that most of the tech that they encountered in their courses were actually new to them, so they hadn't use these technologies before. And how confident students felt so these measures of ad text self efficacy that we had in our survey was actually one of the most robust predictors of their overall experience with...

...learning. So those that felt more confident, those that reported not struggling as much with the technologies, actually feel more prepared for next year. They had more positive learning experiences and overall, just had a better time, even in this, you know, kind of weird year that we had in higher education. So not all students love technology are really comfortable with it, and acknowledging that there's a significant portion of students that may be struggling a little bit more is a really important insight that can lead to some more actionable strategies to make sure that all students are getting the most out of their online learning experiences. Nicole, what does positive or necessary friction as part of the technology learning process look like, versus where we simply need to get better at providing stronger student technology support? I think that's a great question and, like any good teaching practices, you want to push students a 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 a little bit more creativity, that allows them to push a little bit beyond where they are without being too overwhelming. Is really kind of that ideal sweet spot for learning. So within the text base, although we assume that students know how to 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 moment to ensure where are their students in terms of their confidence and their ad tech abilities, their access to these technologies and how they're using them, to ensure that we're starting students at the right spot where they can actually learn about that technology get the most out of their learning experiences, but without feeling overwhelmed and having their lack of knowledge about the technology inhibiting their learning. So it really is kind of a sweet spot that we have to find. A push students will not pushing them so far that they...

...just become stressed out about learning the technology and aren't focusing on actually learning the content. Any specific suggestions for faculty who are incorporating attack, incorporating new attack into their classrooms on how to approach that minding this research? That's a great question. I think the biggest a few key takeaways and strategies to help students make sure that they're comfortable with attack and get the most out of the technology to enhance their learning. Is With any new technology, IT requires proper instruction. So how that would look in a specific course is rather than just linking the new technologies, instructors really need to ensure that they're spending some time demonstrating to students how these different technologies work and also explaining how those technologies are able to enhance their learning experience. And this 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 that class, 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 stakes assignments 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 how to use the technology. You demonstrate how to use it and incorporate that instruction of the technology and the course and integrating some kind of low stakes ways for them to engage with the techno nlogy. The goal here is to really identify any friction issues or any access issues with new technologies early on in the semester before it becomes a problem for the students learning experience. So another way that I address this I also teach on the side, so I do this in my own classroom, is I have a intro survey the first day of class and whatever technologies am using that course, I ask every student, do you have access to this technology? Are you...

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

...how helpful their institutions were and we found that only about fifteen percent of students reported that their institutions weren't helping them, you know, adequately solve their tech problems. So overall, institutions are 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 an important role. So students having a contact if they're having an issue with technology that they can, you know, reach out to and get some prompt answers. 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 their students are set up for success early on in the semester and then also creating peer 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 really taking a multi pronged approach across peers, within the classroom and within the institution overall can really help address, you know, the multitude of different technic issues that students may encounter. The cold wonderful thoughts. Thank you so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if they have any follow up questions? If you have any questions for me specific you can reach me at Nicole Dot barbarrow at WG doted you. You can also contact the college innovation network overall as well. I'm at CN at WG labs dot org if you have any questions for our organization more broadly, and you can check us out in our work at WG labs dot org for more information on what we do. It's wonderful work you're doing and we're so excited to see 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 new enrollment strategies. Kelix educations, data driven...

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

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