The Highs and lows of students' experiences with ubiquitous connectivity: investigating connections between use of new technologies and well being.
Authors: Salvagno, M.
Conference: Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology.Abstract:
Higher Education has seen a dramatic increase in the use of information and communication technologies in recent years. Universities around the world have built complex infrastructures implementing local networks, wireless networks, cloud services and virtual learning environments. The term “ubiquitous connectivity” identifies the increased time- and space-independent accessibility to people, information and services allowed by the development of technological infrastructures and devices. Evidence shows that Higher Education institutions tend to focus on the benefits of ubiquitous connectivity, while underestimating the actual impact that new technologies have on learners’ experiences and well-being. The main aim of this qualitative research was to address the gap in the literature by investigating highs and lows of students’ experiences with new technologies and ubiquitous connectivity concerning university-related activities; the study was thus able to identify how these technological advances affect students’ day-to-day social and psychological life and consequent well-being.
The methodology adopted was constructivist grounded theory which enabled a theory to be built through the data collected. Eighty-eight students from a British University were involved in the research (72 on-campus and 16 online students), using a variety of methods including: a qualitative survey, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Also, data were collected from 16 on-campus and online academic and professional support staff members from the same university using semi-structured interviews.
The data analysis suggests that new technologies and ubiquitous connectivity can help students to experience a sense of ease, freedom, engagement, and security in their daily activities. These four elements were identified as positively connected to students’ well-being and linked to the satisfaction of their psychological needs. However, students’ well-being seems negatively affected by their struggles in coping with the ubiquitous availability of resources. Three main categories were identified in relation to students’ difficulties: managing information availability, managing communication and managing expectations regarding reliability of technology, quality of materials and quality of support.
The results of the grounded theory process are discussed in the light of the literature in this field, and are compared to existing well-being and need theories. The original contribution to knowledge of this research is twofold. A methodological contribution was provided by using constructivist grounded theory as an inductive approach to investigate students’ well-being in technology-mediated learning environments. A theoretical contribution was offered by using the results to generate a model of students’ well-being in relation to the use of new technologies and ubiquitous connectivity.