M. Salvagno, J. Taylor, M. Bobeva, M. Hutchings

Bournemouth University (UNITED KINGDOM)
Higher Education has seen a dramatic increase in the use of information and communication technologies in recent years. Universities around the world have built complex Information System infrastructures implementing local networks, wireless networks, cloud services and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE).

These technological changes have stretched and expanded the boundaries of traditional campus universities in space and time allowing easy and ubiquitous access to people, information and services. The term “ubiquitous connectivity” identifies this enhanced accessibility to resources due to the development of infrastructures and devices.

This qualitative research adopted a holistic approach to investigate how new technologies and ubiquitous connectivity affect university students’ experiences and consequent well-being.

Data were collected from on-campus students and staff members (lecturers, learning technologists, tech support, programme administrators) using a qualitative survey, semi-structured interviews and focus groups. The data were analysed using constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz 2006) and situational analysis (Clarke 2005).

The data analysis shows that new technologies and ubiquitous connectivity appear to play a positive role in enhancing students’ well-being by providing them:
1. A sense of ease and freedom in managing their daily learning duties
2. A sense of connectedness with other students and lecturers
3. A sense of reassurance by knowing that peer and lecturer support is always at hand
4. A sense of improved workflow by using mobile devices to retrieve information and to take notes anytime and anywhere during the day
5. Flexibility in managing everyday life and in balancing study, work and leisure.

However, in some cases new technologies and ubiquitous connectivity seem to have a negative impact on learners’ well-being.

The data analysis shows that students can experience:
1. High levels of stress when technology failures occur or when online information is not accessible due to the lack of alternatives in performing their learning duties
2. Difficulties in managing information overload and the constant flux of information arriving to their devices
3. Stress and irritation when dealing with complicate website layouts and disorganised online materials
4. Lack of motivation in attending lectures due to the ease with which materials and information can be retrieved from the VLE and from peers using social apps and networks.
5. Difficulties in developing relationships with lecturers and peers due to the lack of face-to-face communication.

These findings can be utilised to provide pedagogical suggestions to university stakeholders to avoid a negative impact of new technologies and ubiquitous connectivity on learners’ well-being and to improve the quality of students’ experiences.