Student Research Project Updates

Digital Empowerment: Exploring How Fully Online Learning Communities Can Support Digital Competency Development

Jesslyn Wilkinson (M.Ed. Project – 2022)

Link to Project Document in OntarioTechU Archives. Click here to download.

Abstract: Online communities are shown to positively affect teaching practice and digital skills when used as a model to develop professional learning. This research investigates the digital competence level and experiences of faculty participating in one such learning initiative, Ontario Extend. This learning initiative is described as a form of Fully Online Learning Community (FOLC), a refinement of the CoI model which fully integrates the affordances of digital spaces and tools. In an effort to better understand the experiences of faculty in this type of learning community, six college faculty were recruited from those who had completed Ontario Extend. Using the Digital Competency Profiler (DCP) (Hunter et al., 2018), a profile was developed of the current digital competence levels reported across technical, social, informational and epistemological orders. Results indicate the highest competence exhibited in the technical and social orders. In a follow-up focus group, faculty reported that their changed digital competence boosted their confidence, their ability to analyze technological solutions using a framework, their pedagogical intentions and increased their iterative behaviors when trying a solution. They discussed the significant impact community has played in continuing to support their digital competence, they way the experience shaped their self-conceptions as digitally capable practitioners and peripheral thinking and decision-making skills they developed in the process. Further implications for research are discussed.

Keywords: fully online learning community, digital competence, professional learning

Exploring Internet Research Process and Construction Tasks as a Technological Skill Development Tool

Andrew de Koning (M.A. Thesis – 2022)

Link to Thesis Document in OntarioTechU Archives. Click here to download.

Abstract: Continuous digital skill development is important in today’s workforce due to ever-evolving technologies and workforce expectations. Despite widespread access to technology, young adult learners do not possess stronger overall technological skills than their older counterparts, and there is a tension in technological skills development where strong technological skills can be associated with high computer usage while learners with low technological skills tend to avoid computer usage. This study aims to help develop technological skills through a combination of research process frameworks and constructionist creation tasks. This framework is designed to remove barriers often seen as inhibiting computer usage. This two-phase study utilizes a mixed-methods methodology through the use of a pre-task survey, a live construction task, and a post-task questionnaire. Participants were asked to create a brochure in Microsoft Word for a tourist attraction with the assistance of the Internet. After the brochure was complete, participants were given an opportunity to reflect on the learning experience. Participants that spent more time creating were found to be more likely to report technological skill development. Changes to the task design were recommended for future studies.

Keywords: technological skill development; digital skills; digital competencies; constructionism; internet searching; research process; exploratory searching; task design; mixed-methods

Reimagining Assessment and Evaluation in Ontario’s K-12 Schools

Michael Marchione (M.A. Thesis -2022)

Link to Project Document in OntarioTechU Archives. Click here to download.

ABSTRACT: This study explores the provincial document of Growing Success (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010) for Ontario’s K-12 schools, interrogates recent literature since 2010, and examines the current themes that emerged surrounding assessment and evaluation, in order to suggest possible directions for a potential new framework that is research-based and founded in the literature. An initial framework is proposed by the researcher that shapes the keyword searches of the data collection. Using template analysis, a form of metasynthesis analysis, the researcher uses nVivo to identify and code major themes in a body of literature since the implementation of Growing Success (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2010). Resulting from this template analysis, iterations are made to the initial framework as a suggested new framework for assessment and evaluation. The findings of this study consider curriculum design, the role of educators, learning environments, narrative documentation, and social justice & equity as central themes for this framework.

Keywords: assessment; empathy; metacognition; critical consciousness; social justice

Vision, Culture, and Image: A Systematic Review of Higher Education Online Branding

Chris Craig (M.Ed. Project – 2022)

Link to Project Document in OntarioTechU Archives. Click here to download.

ABSTRACT: Guided by The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA), the primary objective of this study was to gain insight into higher education online branding. An integrated mixed-method synthesis was used to summarize 76 qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method, peer-reviewed empirical studies from 2011 to 2021. The Vision-Culture-Image Alignment Model and Twelve Categories of Determinants of Selective Reporting were recruited to limit and outline potential bias and conflicts. The results reflect insights from over 100 countries, 2,400 institutions, 13,000 participants, 800 websites, and seven social media platforms. This review indicated that institutional brands often align with history, geography, and employment industries. While institutions have scaffolded digital technologies to extend their ability to connect, they often rely on low-engagement activities rooted in broadcasting information. Students, in turn, seek out institutionally-mediated technology to gain personalized insights into technological capability and culture. They also connect online to form subcultures more readily, and enhance their educational experience.

Keywords: higher education; brand; online learning; university; marketing

Generative Mechanisms of the Online Social Engagement of Autistic Adults and Adolescents: A Realist Synthesis of Literature Through the Lens of The Self- Determination Theory

Aneta Stolba (M.Ed. Project – 2021)

Link to Project Document in ResearchGate. Click here to download.

ABSTRACT: This realist synthesis of the relevant literature aims to (1) explore how autistic adolescents and adults engage independently in an online social context and (2) identify some generative mechanisms of their online social engagement through the theoretical lens of Self-determination Theory. Findings indicate that an online social environment fulfills the basic psychological needs of autistic adolescents and adults for autonomy, competency and relatedness. In addition, generative mechanisms were identified at individual, educational, and societal levels leading to a paradigm shift from empirical deficits to ontological equality. These findings could have implications on future research and autism support programs in pioneering a framework for social engagement in autism that emphasizes generative mechanisms as an autism-centred approach that can validate and meet the learning and social needs of autistic people.

Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders, Online Social Engagement, Strength-based Education

An Analysis of the Freedom of Expression Policy in Higher Education

Charanjeet Batra (M.A. Thesis – 2020)

Link to Thesis Document in OntarioTechU Archives. Click here to download.

ABSTRACT: This study examines free speech policy in general and specifically the free speech policy at one institution of higher education in Ontario, Canada, in order to better understand the complex interconnectedness between human rights and freedom of expression. The detailed, rigorous analysis of free speech policy was guided by Pal’s (2014) policy analysis framework, which encourages investigations of the normative, legal, logical and empirical aspects of a policy. The normative policy aspects include basic values and ethical principals underlying free speech policy. Also included here are Rogers’ (1969, 1995) freedom to learn within the context of humanistic education theory. The legal aspects include an examination of human rights and legal rights in Canada and Ontario. Logical analysis considers the paradoxes such as the paradox of tolerance (e.g. Habermas, 2003). The empirical elements of this study include a survey of students at one university asking about free speech and empathy. Students were also invited to engage in a knowledge co-creation activity working in an online community. This policy analysis framework provided a comprehensive way to investigate free speech. One unique contribution of this research is its cross-disciplinary approach to existing fields such as policy, law, humanistic education and technology. It explored new hitherto less-investigated relationships of free speech with empathy. The findings of this study indicate that a cross-disciplinary approach provides a comprehensive lens to understand the complexities of free speech and to inform related education research and policy analysis.

Keywords: free speech; higher education; Ontario; empathy, policy analysis