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Conquering the divide: are free laptops enough? A qualitative exploration into the experience of Further Education students who received laptops during Emergency Remote Learning

Dunne, Leah (2021) Conquering the divide: are free laptops enough? A qualitative exploration into the experience of Further Education students who received laptops during Emergency Remote Learning. Masters thesis, Dublin, National College of Ireland.

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Abstract

Digital inequality is not solely a technological problem but reflects societal inequalities which already exist. These inequalities have been further compounded due to Emergency Remote Learning (ERL), which has been in place since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. ERL is a temporary and emergency response to continue education during a crisis, resulting in many face-to-face courses moving to an online delivery. Those already with access to technology and the skills to use technology have been given an unfair advantage during the pandemic over those who don’t. It is important for educational systems to provide equitable digital environments, where all students have the opportunity to be included and succeed. While providing better infrastructure is essential to improving digital inequality, the review of the literature shows that this is not enough to tackle this complex and multi-faceted issue. Understanding the needs of students is paramount to designing appropriate supports. The participants of this study are all Further Education (FE) students who received laptops from ‘Digital Divide’ government funding. The objective of this research was to understand the participants’ lived experience during ERL, to understand what role technology played in their ERL journey, and finally to see how the laptops they received helped or hindered their experience. This qualitative research adopts a phenomenological approach with interpretivist underpinnings, which are designed to capture the essence of the individuals’ lived experience. Using semi-structured interviews which were analysed using thematic analysis, three themes were chosen to best represent the data: (i) All Work and No Play (ii) New Laptop, New Beginning? (iii) Digital Competency. The findings show that ERL has been a lower quality experience for these students, who demonstrate strong feelings of alienation from their school community. While the laptop they received generally improved the quality of their experience it is clear that digital literacy skills determined how much functionally and use the students gained from their laptop. Recommendations include providing technical training and support for both teachers and students based on technological outcomes and further research to be conducted into faculty experience of the digital divide.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LC Special aspects / Types of education > Distance Learning
Divisions: Centre for Education and Lifelong Learning > Master of Arts in Educational Practice
Depositing User: Clara Chan
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2022 17:13
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2022 17:13
URI: https://norma.ncirl.ie/id/eprint/5290

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