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Thinking about the Base-lining Process

Well, time for some reflection. This has been encouraged by the questions below. But I think it’s always a good idea, anyways.

I personally got a lot out of our baseline process. I got an appreciation of just how complicated it all is- how many different needs and perspectives there are about digital literacy. And yet, that there are some things which are pretty unanimous.

Our survey gave us 170 responses from PGRs and told us a lot about them. We got to compare different colleges and departments, and look at how PGRs use technology differently in different fields. While it is true that most disciplines have unique ways of using technology, I think it’s a good point to make that most of the questions did not appear to be affected by discipline. People tended to use referencing software the same across the board, people tended to go to the same places in the same proportions for help with digital skills. People held similar feelings about whether digital technology will be integral to their career and their research.

In the baseline, I talked with a lot of different PGRs and I had a chance to really glimpse at how differently different people see digital technology. Some of them, I would walk into their office and they would have their screen up with 21 tabs open and music playing. Some would be reading a paper printed off. Some of them were quite passionate about their use of technology. And some of them were quite passionate that technology is not very important in the learning process. I came to appreciate that the University has a difficult role to play, pleasing everyone. What might end up happening is a lowest common-denominator. What I hope though is that our research can help see where there is an agreement, and so an obvious way forward. I feel lucky to have done this research, and with PGRs especially, because they really are at the cutting edge of digital literacies. They are the students of yesterday and the teachers of tomorrow!

Below are some thoughts about the questions of tomorrow’s webinar.

1. What are you planning to do with your baseline report? (Who do you want to see it, and how do you want it to influence them?)
We are now writing reports which will be delivered within the university, reflecting our research. This is in the form of one generic, internal report and a report for each of the five colleges. We are also taking into account our research in resources we are developing for our website around digital literacy, which will be aimed PGRs but also helpful for undergraduate students and academic staff.

2. What do you think you did particularly well in your baseline report? (Artefacts generated in the baseline process such as data, survey instruments, new or enhanced models, mappings, quotes and recordings etc etc can all be useful to other institutions, and ‘ticks in the box’ for your own project deliverables)
Our survey of PGR students was a big success, with 169 responses from all five colleges. The survey matches well with the Vitae areas of practice categories. We also obtained rich data from our interviews and focus groups. It was helpful that our baseline research was focused on a specific level of study, so we were able to obtain an in depth look at practices among those students.

3. What do you still need to know? (The baseline process often tells us more about what we don’t know than what we do – filling the gaps might be an important activity for the rest of the project)
We don’t know when it’s best to emphasise local, department level resources and to engage with small groups, and when it’s best to encourage people to use frameworks that are at higher levels (college, institution, regional training agreements, national, and international resources).
We know that PGRs want more information about training and digital tools being used outside of their discipline, we don’t know the methods they would comfortably take towards it. We also could do more work examining the barriers and possibilities in the institution around this.
More could be known about good practices in terms of digital literacy in our institution. Specifically, are there any good examples of practice that exist where students are encouraged to cascade skills, and can they be built on?

4. How has project thinking and/or planning changed as a result of the baseline process?

One big realization from the baseline process is that a lot of the technology use is actually quite similar across the colleges- there might be less departmental differences than one might imagine. So, this means that we could focus more on building generic resources than we may have thought previously.

1 comment to Thinking about the Base-lining Process

  • Hi Nicole, I think this bit of your post is pivotal:

    “Some of them, I would walk into their office and they would have their screen up with 21 tabs open and music playing. Some would be reading a paper printed off.”

    I think many times we want to categorise people by tools rather than mindset. 🙂

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