Nowadays, digital media, including the Internet, video, social media, and more, undoubtedly have become a part of everyday life, though a few decades ago, no one could have predicted it. It goes without saying that digital technology has tremendous advantages over analog. Digital media is a new form of communication, referring to the process of the development of digital technologies. Modern higher education tends to abandon traditional forms of education that do not take into account the individual abilities of each student
. The modernization and globalization of digital media set a new goal for education: in particular, the improvement of the quality of education. The renewal of education requires the development of innovative models in learning programs and methods. With this in view, the paper aims to examine several forms of digital media comprising social media, 3D technology, and others in the context of higher education, resulting in the concise analysis of advantages and disadvantages of digital media.
In the framework of globalization, it is impossible to overestimate the significance of digital media that is mobile, interactive, and dialogical. The implementation of the key direction of modernization of higher education demanded rethinking the teaching experience, and understanding what should be changed, from the perspective of the development of the students’ interest in the process of education (Mcdougall & Potter, 2015).
It became apparent that the use of traditional methods was not enough, and digital media was recognized as an effective means of higher education. Consequently, permanent changes occurring in digital media should be adequately and promptly reflected, both in the educational process, and in educational materials.
Digital Media Usage Patterns and Access
Students might utilize digital media by various means, including social media, online journals and magazines, video, websites and mobile applications, and other ways. It should also be noted that the modern digital media environment provides the opportunity to study in any place and at any time, without limitations related to the location and the availability of special equipment (Terras, Ramsay, & Boyle, 2013). In this regard, it is necessary to pinpoint the principal functions of digital media, as follows:
- analytical – often accompanied by a statement of the facts, commentary about them, their analysis, and evaluation;
- informative – passes diverse cultural, historical, and scientific information and contributes to the replenishment of the fund of knowledge of the readers, listeners, and viewers;
- moral – the media reflects the moral and aesthetic priority patterns of social behavior, principles of morality, and aesthetic taste, as well as ideas of good and bad;
- exposure (ideological, social, managerial, and regulatory) – media influences attitudes and behaviors, especially during the so-called inversion or change in society during mass socio-political actions;
- hedonistic – aimed at providing entertainment, relaxation, recuperation, and meeting the aesthetic needs of the audience.
Forms of Technology-Based Learning Used for Educational Purposes
There are different approaches to the classification of digital media used in higher education, depending on the parameters underlying the classification. Traditionally, media and communications are distinguished by the method of information transmission, including press, radio, cinema, television, video, and computer networks, as well as channels of perception that might be visual, audio, and audiovisual. Digital media also might be classified according to the following criteria:
- place of learning (individual, group, home, etc.);
- information content (ideological, political, moral, informative, aesthetic, ecological, economic);
- functions and purposes of use (receipt of information, education, communication, the solution of domestic problems, entertainment, social management);
- feedback from the individual (development outlook, self-knowledge, self-education, self-assertion, self-regulation of the state, socialization).
However, it seems appropriate to consider several forms of digital media in detail.
Social Media as a Means of Student-Centered Learning
Higher education is obviously affected by the global digital process. A new educational paradigm appeared, based on a change in fundamental concepts concerning personal development through education. Precisely speaking, student-centered learning and active cognitive learning are involved in the higher educational process, in dialogue with the teacher, and in creative activity, that are far from a simple reproduction (Moran, Tinti-Kane, & Seaman, 2011).
The modern student should not only have certain knowledge and skills, but also be able to learn: to seek and find the necessary information, to use a variety of sources, and to develop continuously (O’Keeffe & Clarke-Pearson, 2011). In this connection, social media can be used to resolve various problems, such as the organization of group work, long-term project activities, international exchanges, mobile continuing education, and self-education.
Social networks such as Facebook or MySpace are gaining more and more popularity among students. Roblyer, Mcdaniel, Webb, Herman, and Witty (2010) report that “it is still unclear whether or not Facebook and similar resources have a future as a mainstream communication tools in our society” as there is a slight trend of fleeing from it (p. 138). Another important trend in the area of social media is blogs. On the technical side, a blog is nothing more than a website. However, authors have a number of practical skills, the most important of which is the considerable use of hyperlinks (for example, to other blogs).
These relationships between blogs allow building the so-called blogosphere to communicate with others who are exchanging information. The emergence of micro-blogging, where message size is limited to a fixed number of characters, such as Twitter, strengthened the role of blogs in the process of informing. Besides, social software allows sharing online resources: bookmarking (Delicious), scientific publications (CiteULike), photos (Flickr), music (Last.fm), or video (YouTube).
All of these applications realize the same approach, where each user attracts stakeholders to the resource based on the description, tags, and in other ways. Due to the fact that the resources mentioned need to be relevant to a greater or lesser extent, as someone took the time to post the content, these programs are a powerful tool to provide access to knowledge. Tags and keywords attract students to a particular resource.
Online Journals and Magazines Expand Intellectual Horizons
Digital media offer new opportunities for the creation of information storage, its organization, and methods of users’ access. Nowadays electronic databases are replacing print resources, based on the electronic representation of most of the information being promptly available on global computer networks, regardless of time and location of users. It is impossible to imagine the higher educational process without such electronic libraries of scientific and educational resources as the Project Gutenberg Free eBook Library, Elsevier, or Pearson. Electronic libraries as information systems are characterized as follows:
- global access to the system in a Web environment;
- metadata support for the system and the users;
- inclusion of heterogeneous information resources;
- distribution of information resources;
- existence of materialized and virtual collections;
- integration of information resources at various levels;
- use of the interface with high level semantics, etc.
Online journals and magazines expand intellectual horizons and provide new opportunities for working with large volumes of information, for example, consistent, selective, or parallel viewing of multiple documents; multifaceted search throughout the entire volume of information; or required documents or fragments thereof, both in paper and other media.
Completing the definition of the term digital library, it is necessary to note that one should not equate it with a set of digitized collections and tools. The electronic library should be more broadly understood as a medium that combines collections, services, and people to support the full life cycle of creation, dissemination, use, and storage of data, information, and knowledge. Therefore, the main objective of e-libraries is to integrate information resources and their efficient navigation. There are plenty of online databases that include magazines, peer-reviewed articles, and other academic resources that might be used, either in class, or during home assignments.
Websites and Mobile Applications
Websites and mobile applications might be considered as a means of information processing in a special form. First of all, they uncover an area of processing of the hypertext. For example, reports or multimedia presentations might be created and demonstrated with the help of the abovementioned tools. What is more, working with electronic dictionaries, encyclopaedias, or Internet portals concerning certain subjects promotes effective learning.
However, different universities use different theories, such as constructivism, behaviorism, or connectivism, and, therefore, various websites (Altuna & Lareki, 2015). Through a variety of digital media opportunities, educational materials are expanding the ways to use them as a means of visual representation of information.
Information resources within the global Internet provide a unique opportunity to make a virtual journey through world-famous treasures of the arts, history, or famous places such as the Hermitage, the Louvre, or the Metropolitan Museum, affording opportunities to see works of genius. Multimedia encyclopaedias and telecommunication technologies are helping in the study of the works of great masters of the past and present, who have had a huge influence on world culture.
For example, “Web 2.0 technologies enable hybrid learning spaces that travel across physical and cyber spaces according to principles of collaboration and participation,” state Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes (2009, p. 247). At the same time, websites and mobile applications are tools for the development of the theoretical background, the formation of imagination along with the development of the creative abilities of students.
It goes without saying that digital media offer a great variety of communication opportunities. For instance, interactive tables allow students to learn to communicate and solve problems together, and video conferencing systems allow communicating with people from different countries and regions (Vogler, 2013). As a rule, communication is provided through a combination of computers situated locally or around the world, mostly in the form of e-mails or videoconferencing, in which students and teachers can communicate across any border and distance.
The use of electronic means of communication often brings some novelty effect, which may lead to a motivated and entertaining presentation of the material. Digital media allow people to reproduce communications, cultural artefacts, works of art, books, and more, but also change people’s ways of thinking. The twentieth century has provided a new technology that creates a completely new reality, which is often called virtual. It is the reality where everything is possible.
Mind-controlled technology allows the teacher and students to see and hear each other and work with the same document, while in different locations. To display the educational content, the interactive screen and a separate screen for the teacher’s image are used and transmitted with high-quality picture and sound. It creates the effect of the presence of the teacher in the classroom that is important for successful learning (Lewis, Cidon, Seto, Chen, & Mahan, 2014). Brain-controlling systems might be able to serve as a real help for people with limited mobility, as well.
3D Technology Visualization
3D technology offers a new level of visualization. This contributes to a bright and close-to-the-actual perception of the material world of objects, and enables students to obtain a deeper understanding of the surrounding world, as well as to recreate historical events. 3D technology provides the equipment for visualization of educational content and application of the projection of 3D technology. Dalgarno and Lee (2010) claim that “multi-user 3-D environments can allow learners to carry out tasks together rather than just communicate” (p. 22).
Moreover, students can create content and then modify it, for example, in the case of projection on convex surfaces. 3D printers provide a way out of the flat world and teach the materialization of complex things. Consequently, students might provide a non-standard use of 3D technology and, thus, remain engaged in the learning process. It ensures a simulation of reality, allowing identification of complex relationships that are not available in the process of perception through mere observation.
Leveraging Innovative Learning Technology
The technological revolution and, as a consequence, the ubiquitous purchase of laptops, desktops, and mobile devices fundamentally changed the principles of information search as well as strategies and forms of social interaction. Interactivity as a global trend in the digital media world allows the audience, and students in particular, to become both an accomplice and a co-author of the media.
The invasion of digital media reduces the time gap between the event and its reflection. In this new environment, it is of great importance to develop media literacy, which implies the ability to filter information properly (Gui & Argentin, 2011). In this connection, it is necessary to educate students to think critically while applying digital media. The following aspects of the necessity of a digital media education include:
- development of long-term education;
- establishment of the public educational system;
- information and communication technologies in supplementary education;
- distance learning;
- resolution of psychological and pedagogical problems;
- use of multimedia technology in education;
- globalization and integration of educational services;
- educational impact of information technology.
It should also be stressed that digital media integrates students in their learning and helps them to create innovative ideas. The study examining the social environment of the #WalkMyWorld project revealed that “educators shifted from consumers to producers of digital content” (Wise & O’Byrne, 2015, p. 405). The result also illustrated the engagement and the increased motivation of students.
In their turn, Ramsay and Terras (2015) propose a mindful awareness of digital media use. In other words, scholars exhort students and teachers to control the information under study and avoid inappropriate content. Additionally, Warburton (2009) considers the following affordances of digital media:
- extended interactions;
- visualisation and contextualization;
- exposure to authentic content and culture;
- individual and collective identity play;
- immersion in a 3D environment;
- simulation (reproduction of context);
- community presence;
- content production (p. 421).
Thus, there are numerous affordances that assist in leveraging innovative learning technology. Higher education based on new principles means independence, cooperation, interaction, and creativity. In order to promote a digital media-based education, the teacher might utilize the introduction of new forms of learning, creating a new role for the teacher, actively including digital technology in the learning process by providing free access to media resources. The implementation of such a change in the higher education system largely depends on the willingness and initiative of teachers to work with different digital media devices.
Potential Constraints to Digital Media Adoption
According to Howard, Curwen, Howard, and Colon-Muniz (2015), “Interactions between students and school personnel that blur the line between official school business and personal lives can leave students feeling that their privacy is being infringed upon” (p. 1012). Sometimes, students prefer not to use such social networks as Facebook or MySpace for an educational purpose. At the same time, the authors of the research call for paying attention to gender, as they state that females tend to feel even more uncomfortable than males while using online social communication in class.
Among other constraints, one might note some demographic enablers “such as younger age, higher socio-economic status, educational opportunities, and good proficiency in English” (Terras, Ramsay, & Boyle, 2013, p. 168). Likewise, socio-economic status might affect digital learning within an educational context. Precisely speaking, the psychological dimension plays a paramount role in media adoption. Consequently, the teacher has to be aware of the above issues while preparing for lessons.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that digital media might be considered as technical devices for creating, recording, copying, printing, storage, distribution, and reception of information exchange between an author and the audience. At the same time, digital media is seen as a complex means of human exploration of the world in its social, moral, psychological, and intellectual aspects.
Under the conditions of an individualization of training, it is necessary to take into account the principles of student-centered learning: in other words, recognition of the intrinsic value of the individual as an active subject of knowledge, reliance on the students’ experience, focus on self-development, and self-education of students.
In order to provide an adequate digital-media-based education, it is essential for the teacher to apply the different means that were described above. At the same time, it is also of great importance to take into account possible constraints, including demographic or psychological enablers, along with affordances such as interactivity, creativity, and engagement regarding digital media, to provide appropriate higher education.
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