Investigating impact of technology on faculty-student interactions

With a grant from the African Studies Center in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, UMSI Associate Professor Kentaro Toyama’s project studies the impact of digital technologies on educational outcomes in African universities.

Start date: 5/1/2015
End date: 4/30/2016

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Kentaro Toyama, who is also the W K Kellogg Professor of Community Information, is working with the University of Ghana’s John Boateng on this 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.

This project is funded by Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Africa Initiative Collaborative Faculty Seed Grant, a grant program managed by the African Studies Center in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. The collaborative grants support projects that promote and enrich existing STEM initiatives in Africa and support new intellectual engagements that extend scientific knowledge and nurture emerging STEM scholars on the continent. 


Investigating technology-mediated faculty-student interactions among Ghanian university students, African Studies Center, U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts: $8,000


Established in 2008, the African Studies Center (ASC) supports the exchange of scholars, faculty, knowledge, and resources between the University of Michigan and partnering educational institutions in Africa. A member of the U-M International Institute, the center fosters interdisciplinary research projects between the university and African partners to find imaginative solutions to real-world problems.