Tracking Transformations in Humanities and Social Sciences Education: Student and Staff Use of Digital Technologies is an ongoing research project of the Digital Humanities Laboratory (DHLab), Department of English. The proposes to survey the use of digital technologies amongst students and academic staff of the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo in three components.
The first component is a survey aimed at developing an empirically-informed understanding of the relationship between our undergraduates and digital technologies. The survey investigates what students understand by digital technologies; the frequency and purpose of their use of such technologies; and their overall perception of digital technologies in terms of learning. To complement the student perspective, the DHLab will also conduct a similar survey and follow-up Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with academic staff, focusing on their use of digital technologies in their teaching and research.
The second component of the project focuses on the use of technology by, and its impact on, a specific undergraduate population: students with disabilities. Though the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo has been increasingly encouraging the use of digital technology for pedagogical (and research) purposes, several challenges to using the faculty’s Learning Management System (LMS) have been highlighted by students with disabilities. Given the increasing use of blended learning worldwide, the rising number of occupations that require at least some digital expertise, and the various means by which technology can support the very learning process, it is imperative to create an equitable educational experience for all groups of students, disabled or otherwise, where engagement with the digital sphere is necessitated. Therefore, through FGDs involving students with disabilities and staff, and in-class observations, this component aims at exploring how technology can be used to facilitate the pedagogical experience of students with disabilities
Thirdly, the project proposes to examine digital research ethics. Considering that the humanities has strived for higher ethical standards – demanding better research ethics and treatment of subjects – the lack of DH-specific ethical frameworks is concerning. The DHLab established at the Department of English provides a fertile ground for research on ethics in digital research as it unfolds, considering its set of reputed as well as novice researchers working on a diverse range of areas linked by their overarching digital humanities approach to study. Therefore, studying the ethics followed by individual researchers when approaching the digital would provide an insight into how the Global South, with its deep-rooted cultures and prominent digital divide, think of ethics in digital research. Following a qualitative research methodology, the proposed study attempts to map these different approaches taken by the researchers affiliated to propose a model for an ethics framework in digital research that fits the context of the Global South.
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