Exploring Transformative Online Learning in Ukraine
This international pilot course and research study explores relationships between dimensions of digital abilities, culture and collaborative online learning for educational transformation in Ukraine. It is conducted within the framework of a Canada-Ukraine research partnership between UOIT and Kyiv National Economic University. This partnership is UOIT’s first such partnership with Ukraine. [Keywords: online learning, Ukraine, culture, Hofstede, digital skills, learning for democracy | Project Code: EILAB-OLUA]
Ukraine, a country of 45 million people and about the size of Texas, is bordered by Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Russia and Belarus. The capital and largest city is Kyiv, located in the north central part of the country along the Dnieper about 80 kilometers south of Chernobyl. Ukraine gained independence in 1991, ending 72 years as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (BBC, 2015). Since independence, despite making important steps towards democratization, the hope of achieving full integration with Europe, and Western levels of socio-economic development, has not been realized (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2015). In fact, the transition from a communist economic and political model to that of capitalism has precipitated tumultuous periods of social change. From a general well-being perspective, Ukraine has a negative population growth, the second highest rate of death in the world, and a life expectancy 12 years less than the Canadian average of 81 (Loreman et al., 2016). From a psychological perspective, some Western researchers describe Ukrainians as suffering from a “post-communist syndrome,” with tendencies towards low self-confidence and pessimism about the nation’s future (Nikolayenko, 2009). Others identify low levels of trust (Rose-Ackerman, 2001) and social atomization (Pjesivac, 2014) as additional debilitating consequences of post-Soviet existence.
Ten years after the 2004 “orange revolution,” which demonstrated “people power” could matter in a post-communist world (Diuk, 2014), the 2013-14 Euromaidan revolution forced the removal of President Yanukovych from office after he had refused to sign a major economic agreement with the EU, accepting instead a deal with Russia (Onuch, 2014). A sense of triumph swiftly gave way to new challenges, including the annexation of Crimea, resulting war in the Donbas, devaluation of the Hyrvnia and rising food prices. Although the broader impact of Maidan remains a matter of ongoing research, the crystallization of shifting values and a new Ukrainian identity have been highlighted as important internal consequences (Diuk, 2014; Sviatnenko & Vinogradov, 2014). Externally, Euromaidan refocused attention on Ukraine’s resolve to distance itself from Russia’s control, increase integration with Western nations, and achieve greater democratic reform, including the transformation of higher education (Sviatnenko, 2014).
Although several social-constructivist online learning models have been developed for guiding course design, learning activities, roles and interactions, and efficacy research, all build on key ideas drawn from the American John Dewey (1897), the Russian Lev Vygotsky (1978) and the Swiss Jean Piaget (1959). These ideas establish a convergence of individual experience, collaborative discourse, critical inquiry and socio-cultural context as the foundation for democratized learning and social development.
Might social-constructivist online learning, like that implemented at UOIT (vanOostveen, 2014), aligned with Ukrainian culture and Euromaidan values (Sviatnenko & Vinogradov, 2014), become a model for democratized education in post-Maidan Ukraine? If so, this would address a significant gap in the literature and Ukrainian educational policy (Issa et al., 2014; Powell et al., 2015).
A review of the literature across three domains facilitated the selection of validated theoretical models and accompanying measurement tools to explore this question. These are: (a) General Technology Competency and Use (GTCU) framework and profile tool (Desjardins, 2005); (b) Hofstede’s dimensions of culture (Hofstede, 2001, 2011) and the cultural values survey instrument (CVSCALE) (Yoo, Donthu, & Lenartowicz, 2011); and (c)Community of Inquiry (CoI) online learning framework (Garrison, 2011) and survey instrument (Arbaugh et al., 2008).