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Online4EDU Research Report released


Research

As part of the Online4EDU Erasmus+ project, the context and use of online collaborative tools by teachers in Estonia, Germany, Latvia, and Lithuania were explored.

This research was aimed at informing the project’s goal of developing a blended learning course for teachers that introduces online collaborative tools in education. Such courses are very important, as online collaboration is now a crucial element in supporting the teaching process. Education needs to adapt to the potential of new technologies, such as online tools and social media. These technologies not only enrich existing learning practice, but they can open up the possibility to the educator of using different approaches to learning.

The research used three tools to help structure the curriculum that will form the basis for the Online4EDU programme. Desktop research investigated national policies and activities relating to ICT-facilitated education; quantitative survey research to gather information from teachers relating to their use of online collaborative tools; and structured interviews of national experts or stakeholders to add context and depth to the topic of the use of online collaborative tools by teachers.

The desktop research documented that current national thinking and practice from the four target countries. It identified:

  • Similar characteristics of the educational systems that have implications for the use of online collaborative tools in education
  • Activities to identify relevant competence requirements
  • Active engagement in promoting the use of ICT in education, but with significant national differences
  • The importance of teacher training and continuous professional development
  • The existence of a range of informal competence development activities relating to ICT in education

The quantitative survey gathered data from 2,819 respondents across the four target countries. Results provided a range of inputs into the breadth, depth, and context of the proposed blended learning course, which will also support individuals wishing to acquire an international certification in this area. Specific survey results indicated that common online collaborative tools were only used infrequently or never by a large proportion of respondents. Even the most common used tools - mobile devices - were used never or less than once a month by almost 60% of teachers. Overall the picture is one of infrequent and sporadic use across the population of teachers. Confidence varied between tools, but even for ubiquitous tools such as mobile devices and social media, on average more than 40% of respondents were not at all confident or only a little confident. This level of confidence indicates that there is a very substantial cohort of teachers who lack the confidence to use even common online tools in the classroom.

23 qualitative interviews were carried out with relevant stakeholders from the four target countries. These highlighted specific issues including:

  • The target audience of the project should utilize IT in their teaching
  • Current engagement with technology by teachers is sporadic
  • There are certain specific characteristics that Online4EDU should have to be effective
  • There are certain specific topic areas that Online4EDU should have to be relevant

In conclusion, the results indicated that the proposed programme is needed because of the relatively low level of skills and confidence demonstrated. The opportunity to engage in creative and novel ways with students - and to improve learning outcomes for them - will be lost if teachers do not engage with technology. The focus of the blended learning programme should be on building up from introductory skills to support the majority of teachers who lack confidence and experience in using these tools. The programme should be actively targeted and promoted to those teachers who are not currently engaging with technology and should be delivered in a flexible manner.

The complete Research Output document is available to download: www.online4edu.eu


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