Use technology wisely

What is IT Mindfulness and how does it help effective online learning?

Updated - November 09, 2021 10:36 am IST

Published - November 06, 2021 03:24 pm IST

Promoting IT mindfulness is one way to boost learning effectiveness

Promoting IT mindfulness is one way to boost learning effectiveness

Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have forced educational institutions to shift from traditional face-to-face learning modes to online learning environments. This sudden shift resulted in enhanced IT demands that not all learners could cope with.

Reports during the pandemic highlighted issues such as learning and productivity loss, and emotional distress among students worldwide. During the pandemic, the students’ emotional state was such that many could not focus on learning. This also impacted their self-directed learning effectiveness, which involves both productivity and creativity. Productivity is the possibility of using technology to deliver efficient and better-quality academic output. Creativity implies the use of creative procedures in the learning process with IT tools. The key question is: what can be done to enhance the IT-mediated learning effectiveness during the pandemic and beyond? Promoting IT mindfulness is one way to boost learning effectiveness.

Specific traits

IT mindfulness is an IT-specific individual trait that can help users extract value from their IT use. It is noticeable when users focus on the present, pay attention to distinctive operational details, and display interest to investigate new features, with the overall goal of getting better insights and improving their functioning.

IT mindfulness is a dynamic and malleable trait that has four key dimensions: alertness to distinction, awareness of multiple perspectives, openness to novelty, and orientation in the present. Alertness to distinction is the capacity to recognise the differences between the capabilities of old and new features of an IT system

Awareness of multiple perspectives is the ability of users to observe different potential applications of feature sets that go beyond the intentions of the designers or managers. Openness to novelty is the capability to go beyond the standard features such as voice and text in IT and experiment with less familiar features such as Virtual Reality and screen sharing to increase productivity. Lastly, orientation in the present is the users’ competence to stay focused on the present and understand that their system use needs to vary in response to different contexts.

IT mindful users are more likely to identify the changes in their environment and the corresponding opportunities for action. They tend to have a systemic action repertoire, which allows them to use the technology in innovative ways, even in academic settings.

IT mindful learners can improvise on their prior knowledge structures and look for alternative solutions in the new IT-mediated learning context. They use IT for knowledge search, retention, and reuse that can help them innovate with IT for learning. Thus, IT mindfulness will provide students with a self-regulatory coping mechanism in the face of enhanced IT demands for learning during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

Contribution

The individual traits of the user influence the response to stressful demands as positive or negative. The resilience to cope with the sudden technological shift during COVID-19 is shaped by the learners’ perceptions about technology use, which are expected to influence their appraisals of technology-mediated learning. Students with low IT mindfulness tend to appraise enhanced IT demands as a hindrance as they evaluate the loss, fear, or harm from its usage, thus responding to them as negative or distress.

On the contrary, IT mindful students tend to appraise enhanced IT demands as a challenge to upgrade their skills and improve their flexibility, thus responding to them as positive or eustress.

Educators should take into consideration IT mindfulness in designing their technology-mediated instruction process. For students high on IT mindfulness, the switch to online learning would have been relatively easy.

Directed efforts are required to identify and train vulnerable students to enhance IT mindfulness. Educational institutions should proactively enhance the IT mindfulness of their students by actively teaching and training rather than sharpening their technological infrastructure alone.

This will help reduce any negative impact of online learning on student well-being, creativity, and productivity.

The writer is Associate Professor (Information Systems) at SP Jain School of Global Management.

This article is based on a study that will be published in the December 2021 issue of International Journal of Information Management, co-authored by Shalini Chandra; Anuragini Shirish, Associate Professor at Institute Mines-Télécom Business School; and Shirish C. Srivastava, Professor at HEC Paris.

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