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Academic attitudes to new media in UK higher education: an interdisciplinary study

Menzies, Kathleen (2015) Academic attitudes to new media in UK higher education: an interdisciplinary study. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the attitudes of UK academics toward new media as both cultural artefacts and tools, assessing the relationship of those attitudes to traditionally distinct disciplinary structures. An inclusive and conceptually informed framework was developed following a review of multi-disciplinary literatures addressing the organisation of disciplines, the management of Higher Education, and the multiple meanings of new media. The original contribution of the thesis is an enriched understanding of what new media mean to academics both symbolically and practically at a time of immense technological and organisational change. Empirical data were gathered from a sample of 209 UK academics in four academic fields which were selected strategically using a frame based on the work of Whitley (2000). The primary instrument used was a self-administered online questionnaire (distributed to 953 individuals in 112 in-scope institutions, hence the response rate is 22 percent) using Likert scales and semantic differentials to capture attitudinal statements. Illustrative, descriptive and inferential statistics were computed from this, although it must be noted that the population size could only be estimated. An analysis of commonalities and differences in emerging and conventional disciplinary structures suggests a stronger influence of the practical rather than symbolic influences of discipline on academics' attitudes toward new media. A homogenisation of attitudes is found across not only disciplines, but genders, age groups, and experience levels. At the same time, while these findings echo those of other research, strong conceptual and methodological differences remain evident in debates about new media in much scholarly literature, primarily that drawn along disciplinary lines, or for a specialist audience. This suggests two equally important positions from which academics assess new media; those rooted in disciplinary modes, and those common to multiple practitioners and audiences in the academic 'workspace'. This can be seen as symptomatic of the new managerial models for research, teaching and assessment currently prevalent within HE.

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