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ICT: Challenge, Change or Opportunity in Doctoral Research Processes?

Wednesday 3 July: Conference day one, 11:30am – 12:00pm parallel session



Room 3 – 303-G15 Sem



Dr Sara Stein
University of Otago, New Zealand

Dr Kwong Nui Sim
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand



Information communication technologies (ICT) have become a ubiquitous aspect of today’s higher education. The increasingly complex inter-relationship among ICT, learners and teachers shows that there is a need to explore how ICT and higher education intersect. At the level of doctoral education, current evidence-based studies are limited, with only a few examining student practices (e.g., Oliver, 2011). The current study sought to make sense of the roles played by ICT in doctoral research and how/if that role is being capitalised upon to enhance the facilitation of research processes.



The study’s aim was to explore supervisors’ and students’ perceptions of the role and place of ICT in doctoral study. Data were gathered through a three-tier participative drawing (e.g., Wetton & McWhirter, 1998) and discussion process, examining how supervisors support students, and how students use ICT to advance research processes. Within an interpretive enquiry and analysis framework, several themes emerged leading to relevant outcomes and implications.



Participants expressed perceptions of ICT as a ‘challenge’, ‘change’ or ‘opportunity’. The challenge perception was expressed through descriptions of difficult encounters with ICT, often related to adopting and manipulating ICTs. This suggests possible limits to digital capability.

Other views highlighted change, stressing that changing ICT in work and research processes meant that well-learned practices needed modification. The worth of investing time and commitment to change was questioned by those expressing these views.

Views that emphasised opportunity accompanied comments about exploring and investigating, trying and testing, weighing options and making judgements in the light of individual and project needs, and ways of working.

Each perception was accompanied by expressions of risk: to quality, efficiency and effectiveness. However, for each perception, the nature of that risk was qualitatively different.



The study provided insights into student and supervisor perceptions of roles of ICT during doctoral research processes. Whether ICT is viewed as a challenge, a change or an opportunity, there are complex human factors at work – including assumptions, attitudes and conceptions – influencing and determining perceptions and views, and how ICT are incorporated into research behaviour and practice.



This study revealed tensions and debates where ICT in doctoral research processes is concerned. It raises questions with respect to the nature of doctoral education and the explicit role that ICT does and could play in supporting and enhancing doctoral research processes.



Oliver, M. (2011). Technological determinism in educational technology research: Some alternative ways of thinking about the relationship between learning and technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(5), 373-384.
Wetton, N. M., & McWhirter, J. (1998). Images and curriculum development in health education. In J. Prosser (Ed.), Image-based research: A sourcebook for qualitative researcher (pp. 263-283). London: Falmer Press.


Presentation topic

Tertiary – Technologies

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