Toyama project studies impact of educational technology in Africa

With an $8,000 grant from the African Studies Center in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, UMSI Associate Professor Kentaro Toyama will study the impact of digital technologies on educational outcomes in African universities. 

Toyama, who is also the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information, will work with the University of Ghana’s John Boateng on the project, which will split students in a master’s level technology course into two randomly selected groups. One group’s out-of-class interactions with the instructor will be limited to email communications, while the other group will only interact with the instructor during his or her office hours. 

Toyama and Boateng will log data about interaction frequency and duration, issue two surveys, videotape classes and conduct several open-ended interviews in an effort to determine whether email or face-to-face interactions better supported student learning. 

The project hypothesizes that the frequency of interaction between students and the instructor will be higher through email, but students might feel a more direct connection with the faculty member via face-to-face meetings. Toyama and Boateng will seek to determine if one of the forms of communication has a greater impact on actual learning and class performance.

African universities have rapidly absorbed digital technologies, but the actual impact and value of these tools on learning process hasn’t been thoroughly investigated. The results from this study could pave the way for future work that investigates the best uses of various forms of technology in African education.

Posted April 21, 2015