Looking for Gaps in the Literature: Higher Education in a Digital Age


Note: This blog post is cross-posted at the ACPA Digital Task Force Blog, but I thought it might be relevant here for anyone interested in the work that we’ve been doing on the ACPA Research & Scholarship group as part of the ACPA Digital team.  Free free to share your thoughts here or on the original post!


As part of our work on the Research & Scholarship subcommittee, our team recently began officially exploring what we perceive to be the gaps in the literature on digital technology and higher education.  Of course, many of us in our doctoral programs have already done quite a bit on this search, and so our combined backgrounds served as a great starting point for this project.  Still, in a new but burgeoning field, it is our expectation that we will not be able to identify all of the gaps on our own.  Our hope is that the gaps that we identify help to further the conversation that is then continued by the community of scholarly practitioners and faculty in higher education.  Below are some of the large gaps that we’ve already discussed as a group.  With that, we ask: what gaps have we not yet identified? Higher Education in a Digital Age: Large Gaps in the Literature

  • Demographic Differences in Technology Use and Issues of Equity – Much of the literature on technology use in higher education looks at general trends and suggests parsing the data further to uncover the impact of technology on minority groups.  How can our research help to work towards the larger goals relating to equity within higher education?
  • Qualitative Research – The majority of work out there on social media use is quantitative – what topics have already been explored from a quantitative perspective that would benefit from the addition of qualitative data?
  • The Evolving Definition of Leadership Within Contemporary Higher Education (Due in Large Part to Technological Change) – The question of “what does it mean to be an effective leader within higher education (in 2014)?” is the focus of entire graduate programs/degrees.  How is technology impacting this central aspect of higher education administration?
  • Globalization of Higher Education and Technology’s Role in this Process – There are seemingly endless areas for exploration here, from BRIC nations and other emerging markets, to student mobility, to opportunities for the democratizing of education through web accessibility.  What questions need to be asked in this area?
  • MOOCS and Other Online Higher Education Environments – As these educational options persist, researchers are just now beginning to explore the areas that have long been studied within student personnel/higher education scholarship.  Research opportunities in this emerging area are already extensive, with more still yet to be realized.
  • Application of Long-Standing Theories (and the Creation of New Theory Where Necessary) Within the Contemporary Context – Huge areas of work are just now being revisited when accounting for digital contexts.  Within higher education, a starting point might be direct analyses of student development theory online and blended environments.
  • Higher Education Population Studies – From graduate students, faculty, and new professionals to SSAOS and college presidents, quantitative and qualitative research needs to be explored on usage, perception, and educational needs of each level within education.
  • Social Media and Social Justice – What does this relationship look like? What education is working, who is doing it right, and is it even possible at the large scale?

So, what do you think? The power of crowdsourcing can help us to push higher education scholarship forward, but your involvement is imperative. Let us know your thoughts in the comments and on Twitter at #ACPAdigital!

Adam Gismondi
Research & Scholarship Committee, ACPADigital


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