Open Source Syllabus Repository; Education Technology: Helping or Hurting?

Andrade, Vernon, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Praphamontripong, Upsorn, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia
Jacques, Richard, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The use of education technology has greatly increased over the past two decades and it has vastly expanded access to quality education. However, with any emerging technology it is important to step back and evaluate what effects the technology. My STS research aims to examine the efficacy of education technology, identify failures of education technology, and provide recommendations to improve the use of education technology. For my technical capstone, I had originally planned on building an Education Technology tool to teach Computer Science students about Software Testing concepts. However, due to circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, my technical project evolved to be a Syllabus Sharing application, which helps students share their syllabi during the course selection process. The research I did with regards to access to education technology directly inspired some aspects of my technical capstone.
For my technical capstone I developed SyllabiShare, an open-source syllabus sharing application that enables students to upload, search, and download syllabi for courses at their university in order to help make informed course selections. Guided by my mission to expand access to course information to students, I developed the website to be accessible, user-friendly, and streamlined so that students can have the easiest experience possible. I took into account various stakeholder’s views on how the system should be developed, from students, to professors, to school administrators, and formed partnerships that will allow this application to be used at UVA in future semesters. As of right now the application has been used by over 200 students and over 100 syllabi from various departments at UVA.
For my STS research I looked at Education technology through a socio-technical lens and applied the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) framework developed by Pinch and Bijker in order to see how the various stakeholder groups of education technology formed what education technology is now. By looking through the SCOT lens I was able to see that the stakeholders put priority on two majors features of Education technology, Access and Personalization. I then examined both of these features and identified areas of concern. In terms of access, I was able to find that low-income, minority, and rural students suffered from lack of access to education technology and that programs that were meant to combat this weren’t very effective. In terms of personalization, I was able to find that personalized Computer Assisted Learning technologies did have positive effects when it came to student outcomes, but the machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies behind personalization could become biased if not properly implemented. A separate conclusion I made was that the quantitative research into education technology was really limited and more studies to draw more conclusions about the effectiveness of education technology.
Education technology is undoubtedly a positive force and can have immense benefits to student outcomes, but great care must be taken to ensure that all students have access to this technology and are not negatively affected by it. When done right, education technology can be a tremendous force for good, but when done incorrectly, technology can easily hinder learning and hurt educational goals. This conclusion from my STS research directly factored into how I developed my technical capstone to be accessible and understandable for all students and also my decision to make the project opensource, so students at other schools could benefit from the project as well. By doing both these projects, I learned a lot about software development and education technology, and just how important it is to consider the impact of technologies you create. Finally, I would like to thank my advisors Professor Upsorn Praphamontripong, Professor Toluwalogo Odumosu, and Professor Richard Jacques for all their help in developing my Thesis Portfolio.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
education, edtech, digitaldivide

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Upsorn Praphamontripong
STS Advisor: Richard Jacques

Issued Date: