Acquisition and application of digital competencies in (higher) education

// Background

The fact that our society is continuously evolving in digitization is also reflected in education: Teachers are challenged to prepare their students as best as possible for the digitized (working) world. At the same time, they themselves must be empowered to make profitable use of the potential of digitization in their work. To do so, teachers need not only specialist knowledge and pedagogical skills, but also what are known as digital competencies. In the project "Digital Communication and Skill Development in (Higher) Education (DiKo2Ho)", approaches are being developed to promote digital competencies in higher education. Here, we are not only interested in how students develop digital competencies, but also in the sustainable and successful application of these.
What are digital competencies? In recent years, various competence frameworks have been developed to shed light on the complex demands on individuals in our digitized society and to fill the term with content. In its "Digital Competence Framework for Educators", the EU, for example, defines six areas that are intended to do justice to this diversity and complexity. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany builds on these in its resolution on "Education in the Digital World”. According to this, we need skills in searching for and processing information, communicating and cooperating, and analysing and reflecting, among others. This skill set should not only be acquired by students but should also enable teachers to plan and implement innovative teaching practices (e.g., with the help of digital media). 


// Project

The project addresses the complexity of digital competencies by addressing the interconnectedness between the individual areas. One focus lies on the importance of communication and collaboration processes and their role in the development of digital competencies in teacher education. In empirical studies, we systematically investigate collaborative exchange in online learning environments - e.g., by analysing quality features of communication - and derive interventions to promote sustainable competence acquisition. In this context, we also address challenges teachers face in applying competencies in practice. 
Another project focus is on investigating competencies in the context of searching and using Open Educational Resources (OERs). Particularly due to the COVID-pandemic, an enormous number of OERs are published daily. Keeping an overview over these amounts and appropriately assessing the quality of the OERs not only in terms of content but also in terms of application and methodology is not always easy. In the project, we are developing approaches to successfully master this task, which will play an increasingly important role in the everyday work of teachers as digitization continues. 
The ideas and directions of the project were discussed and further developed in the interdisciplinary environment of the ECDF with scientists from the fields of computer science didactics, business informatics and sociology. In June 2019, with the support of the ECDF and funding from SIG 20/26 of the European Association of Research in Learning and Instruction (EARLI), we were able to host the international workshop "What is Successful Online Information Behaviour?" with distinguished guests from the fields of instruction-learning research, psychology, and learning with educational technologies, and to further develop our project framework (visible, among others, in the publication Hendriks et al., 2020). 


// Goals

It can thus be stated that the acquisition as well as the application of digital competencies take on a significant role. Especially in the (higher) education context, it should be ensured that these competencies are developed and applied - as this is exactly where the teachers of the future will be educated, who will in turn educate the next generation. Our project aims at contributing to a better understanding of how learners and educators deal with the changes in their learning and (future) working environments caused by digitization and how they can be prepared for these challenges in educational institutions. 
Initial findings from the project have already been presented at national and international conferences and published in professional journals. Further publications are in preparation. 
The project team welcomes suggestions for the project and is looking for exchange with other projects and partners. Please feel free to contact us. 


// Project-related publications

Zimmermann, M., & Mayweg-Paus, E. (2021). The Role of Collaborative Argumentation in Future Teachers' Selection of Online Information. Zeitschrift für Pädagogische Psychologie /German Journal of Pedagogical Psychology, 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1024/1010-0652/a000307


Hendriks, F., Mayweg-Paus, E., Felton, M., Iordanou, K., Jucks, R., & Zimmermann, M. (2020). Constraints and Affordances of Online Engagement with Scientific Information—A Literature Review. Frontiers in Psychology, 11(572744). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.572744


Mayweg-Paus, E., Zimmermann, M., Le, N.T., & Pinkwart, N. (2020). A Review of Technologies for Collaborative Online Information Seeking: On the Contribution of Collaborative Argumentation. Education and Information Technologieshttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-020-10345-7


Mayweg-Paus, E., Enders, N., & Zimmermann, M. (2020). Kommunikation und E-Learning. Bedingungen, Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten und Qualitätssicherung beim Einsatz von Foren in der Hochschullehre. Die Hochschullehre, 6, 35-60. Dauerhaft verfügbar unter: http://www.hochschullehre.org/wp-content/files/diehochschullehre_2020_MaywegEndersZimmermann_Foren.pdf