Teaching creative careers in the pandemic

A study of digital tools used by university instructors

in Learning and Teaching
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Bexi PerdomoUniversity of Sciences and Arts of Latin America, Peru bjperdomod@crear.ucal.edu.pe

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María del Carmen Llontop CastilloAcademic Vice-Rector and Head of the Creativity Research Center, University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America, Peru mllontop@ucal.edu.pe

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Oscar MasPhD Canidate, University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America, Peru omas@ucal.edu.pe

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Abstract

During the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the major concerns at the Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de América Latina (UCAL; the University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America) has been to keep offering high-quality education with effective teaching methodologies and creativity at its core. This article aims to describe and understand the use of digital tools for class preparation, synchronous encounters, storage, interaction, collaborative work and assessment by UCAL's instructors in creative careers. It finds that instructors were proactive about learning and using a variety of digital tools. Gamification apps and interactive boards were instructors’ favourites because they tended to motivate their students the most. No statistically significant associations were found between tool selection and course, sex, or age. Based on the evidence, this article will propose general guidelines for a training plan for instructors.

The worldwide spread of COVID-19 pushed the world to a global lockdown to avoid the transmission of the coronavirus. In this context, Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) arose as the option to allow students to continue their studies in the middle of this health crisis. ERT differs from traditional e-learning because it ‘is not usually planned … and involves a sudden shift from traditional teaching into a remote one in view of emergency situations’ (Affouneh et al. 2020: 135). After the implementation of ERT, instructors and students were in a situation in which learning went beyond being in the same place at a given time and demanded the sudden inclusion of ‘tools for interacting with tutors, collaborating among students and enabling peer assessment of coursework’ (Hunter 2015: 146).

The literature shows that ERT has been challenging for many teaching practitioners in terms of strategies (Cruz-Barrionuevo 2020; Mendiola et al. 2020), required digital competences (García-Plana and Taberna-Torres 2021), use of gamification tools (Escudero-Nahón 2021), and assessment (Fergus et al. 2020; Gamage et al. 2020; Munsell et al. 2020; Nguyen et al. 2020; Raje and Stitzel 2020). For instructors teaching at UCAL, ERT meant the need to use online and offline digital tools and resources in an effort to reinvent the motivating environment of the classrooms on campus before the pandemic.

Some authors investigated the potential of specific tools for educational purposes before and during ERT. For instance, social media (Asmara 2020; Rodríguez-Gallego et al. 2019), interactive boards (Arancibia-Gutiérrez and Bustamante-Molina 2019), the virtual classroom and synchronous sessions (Cedeño-Escobar et al. 2020; Oria 2020), gamification and evaluation resources (Alharbi and Meccawy 2020; Ardiana and Loekito 2020; Hasanah et al. 2020; Pryke 2020; Yildirim 2017). Some researchers have investigated the use of digital tools to meet the needs of students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) (López et al. 2020).

There have been relatively few studies about teaching creative careers during ERT. The literature shows studies in architecture and interior design (Ahmad et al. 2020; Ayala-García et al. 2020; Ceylan et al. 2020; Ibrahim et al. 2020) and Communication (Baladrón et al. 2020). In addition, there are some studies giving qualitative descriptions of online teaching in particular courses (Ahmad et al. 2020; Ibrahim et al. 2020). However, no published research has addressed the study of tools used by practitioners teaching creative careers and the reasons for their choices.

Creative career programmes are those in which individuals produce a sequence of works in, for example, Architecture, Marketing, Graphic Design and Communications (Liu et al. 2018). Teaching methods on creative career programmes are distinctive because students are constantly working, mostly in groups, on creative projects, for example 3D prototypes and models. Teaching practitioners are expected to create an environment appropriate for enhancing motivation and creativity more than in any other educational context. To teach students majoring in creative careers means using methodologies to train them in both critical and creative thinking. That, in turn, helps them to develop all their potential for creation and innovation. In sum, creative careers are occupations in which creativity is not simply one requirement but the core. UCAL offers courses for these sorts of careers. Due to the particular nature of these courses and the professional profiles aimed for at UCAL, this university has developed its own special teaching methodology to enhance students’ potential innovatively and creatively – Pro.Seso Creativo® 3.0 (Mas and Vidal 2019). In the implementation of Pro.Seso Creativo® 3.0, instructors play a pivotal role in boosting students’ engagement with becoming creative and innovative professionals able to meet labour market requirements. This challenge includes the efficient use of digital technology to enhance students’ ability to develop ideas for innovative and environment-friendly solutions to current problems (Dias-Trindade and Moreira 2020), but it became more complex and demanding in the context of the pandemic.

The present research is part of a broader project to compile qualitative and quantitative evidence on the use of technology for teaching and learning in creative careers at UCAL. In this context, the description and understanding of instructors’ choices and the potential associations between those decisions and careers will be helpful when it comes to proposing evidence-based training plans suitable to improve their performance in the subjects they teach. In this way, it will be possible to offer students a more accessible and engaging learning environment characterised by the structured incorporation of digital tools and adjusted to current and future challenges regarding the use of technology. Hence, education quality may be maintained and improved during ERT and when universities reopen their campuses after the public health crisis.

This study aimed to describe and understand the use of digital tools in creative careers at UCAL during ERT, which came about due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, three research questions arose:

  1. RQ1: What tools have faculty members chosen for teaching purposes during ERT?
  2. RQ2: Are their selections associated with the career they are teaching?
  3. RQ3: What are the reasons for and problems arising from their choices?

Consequently, a mixed-methods study with a sequential explanatory design was conducted. First, the quantitative approach allowed the identification of practitioners’ preferences and the analysis of potential associations among the variables (RQ1 and RQ2, respectively). Second, qualitative data-gathering and analysis helped to understand trends in RQ1 and RQ2 and the rationale of their choices (RQ3).

Conceptual framework

Teaching methodology at UCAL

UCAL offers education just for creative careers. It is the only institution of its kind in Perú. For that reason, it is considered a specialised university that graduates students in the specialities of marketing, architecture, design and communication. At UCAL, students follow a competency-based curriculum. Professors explore and enhance students’ individual potential to provide them with a unique learning experience that develops the competencies required to be a high-quality creative professional. To enhance students’ creativity, UCAL has developed its own teaching and learning methodology based on Teresa Amabile's and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's ideas (Amabile 1983; Csikszentmihalyi 1998). This methodology is known as Pro.Seso Creativo® 3.0 (Mas and Vidal 2019).

Pro.Seso Creativo® 3.0 is a methodology comprising a set of five phases designed to help students face challenges and problems and arrive at creative solutions. Those phases are dynamic and let the student go forwards and backwards, experiment with ways to advance, learn from errors and go from initial episodes of uncertainty to concrete creative solutions (Mas and Vidal 2019). These phases are (1) exploration; (2) conceptualisation; (3) devising; (4) development; and (5) validation. Moreover, each one comprises three steps. In addition, this method includes some strategies, forms and tools to select and use in each step of the different phases. It provides creative freedom and enhances creative thinking as well as students’ well-being. UCAL has successfully applied this methodology since 2012. In internal evaluations (focus groups and surveys at the end of the semester), instructors and students have indicated that Pro.Seso Creativo® 3.0 has been effective in eliciting their creativity and innovation.

In the face-to-face context, instructors have incorporated digital tools in the teaching process to provide students with the appropriate environment to experience each phase. However, a whole virtual environment had not been considered before the pandemic. Then, in the context of ERT, UCAL faced the challenge of maintaining its teaching philosophy and methodology. Instructors found themselves challenged to be creative enough to replace the university's face-to-face teaching environment with a completely virtual one. For this purpose, the selection of digital tools and proficiency in their use were crucial to offer conditions for effective active and creative learning.

Digital tools

Digital tools or resources are software, platforms and applications that allow users to experience interaction (with software and other users) and develop knowledge and skills. These tools are available for computers or any ubiquitous technological device. In this sense, digital tools ‘include social media, online games and applications, multimedia, videos, productivity applications, cloud computing, interoperable systems and mobile devices’ (Thokozani et al. 2019: 47). The use of digital tools for academic purposes refers to the incorporation of software, platforms and applications to reach the educational goals of the course by meeting the academic needs of practitioners and students. They are used for a variety of activities in the context of the teaching and learning; for instance, class preparation, synchronous encounters, storage of information and resources, participants’ interaction, collaborative work and assessment.

There is no one single classification for digital tools. Joy Robinson and colleagues (2019) listed the following:

  1. Learning management systems (LMSs): they include tools to plan, organise and manage courses; for example, Moodle, Canvas, Edmodo, Blackboard, Chamilo and Google Classroom.
  2. Website and wiki technology: resources for website design, publication and management (e.g. WordPress and Wix) and wikis that enhance collective construction of knowledge (e.g. Wikipedia).
  3. Cloud services and storage: this group includes software and apps that allow easy, quick and cheap server space for personal and collective storage and management of information (e.g. Dropbox and OneDrive).
  4. Collaborative productivity software: this group refers to online co-authoring software – in other words, software that lets people do synchronous and non-synchronous collaborative work even if they are in different locations (e.g. Google Docs and Google Slides).
  5. Multimedia sharing: platforms and apps that let people create, edit and share multimedia files easily and quickly and without using the storage of their device (e.g. YouTube and Vimeo).

Pilar Baptista and colleagues (2020) classified digital tools into two main groups: communication and course management. The first includes apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and others offering synchronous encounters and calls. The second was divided into classroom management platforms (e.g. Classroom, Classdojo, Edmodo), videos (e.g. YouTube, Vevo), platforms for self- and complementary learning (e.g. Khan Academy, Duolingo, Commonlit), simulators, applications for virtual tours, and platforms for additional self-training (e.g. @prende and Coursera).

In addition to the aforementioned classifications, other authors claim that digital tools in the academic arena include gamified apps (e.g. Socrative, Kahoot, Quizziz). These have the potential to engage students’ attention and enhance learning by the application of game mechanics in the academic environment. Due to their learning potential, some gamified apps help students to learn specific content and subjects, for example TERMInator, a gamified app developed for medical vocabulary learning (Seidlein et al. 2020).

There are other tools that have not been included in the previous classifications because they were designed for purposes other than teaching. However, the literature shows that practitioners have included them in their academic repertoire. This is the case for apps and software designed for virtual tours and simulations (e.g. Google Maps, Google Earth) (Rahayo et al. 2019) and web pages for virtual visits (e.g. museums) (Okumuş and Vurgun 2021). Although they were not designed for educational purposes, they can be helpful in education, for example, by replacing field visits in the middle of a lockdown. Besides, in non-ERT contexts those experiences can be enriching for students and can help to elicit their creativity (Vishkaie et al. 2018).

These tools might help instructors generate motivating experiences for learners in careers like architecture and graphic design, for example. However, there are some issues to consider when incorporating digital tools in ERT. For example, instructors need extra time and effort to analyse how a tool may serve their academic objectives. Also, they need to confirm that all students have the same opportunity to benefit from the experience, because some of them may not have the required technological devices and connectivity conditions.

Methodology

The study followed a mixed-methods sequential explanatory design (Ivankova et al. 2006). It was a research-question-oriented study that collected and analysed both quantitative and qualitative data consecutively: ‘The rationale for this approach is that the quantitative data and their subsequent analysis provide a general understanding of the research problem’ (Ivankova et al. 2006: 5). Moreover, this design provides more evidence and reduces the potential shortcomings of using a single approach (Bowen et al. 2017) and so increases confidence in the reported findings. A similar methodology has been followed in previous research in education in Architecture (Maina 2018) and Graphic design (Grant 2017).

In the first phase (to answer RQ1 and RQ2), the study included a twelve-item questionnaire to get a quantitative view of the digital tools used by faculty members from the creative careers offered in UCAL. In the second phase, the researchers approached the practitioners to provide qualitative information regarding their use of digital tools for teaching purposes. In this way it was possible to have access to further information for a comprehensive understanding of the quantitative data previously gathered and answer RQ3.

The authors considered Natalyia Ivankova and colleagues’ (2006) guidelines of priority, implementation and integration of approaches to plan the research.

  1. Priority: it was set on quantitative data-gathering because it would be useful to answer RQ1 and RQ2. Qualitative data collection helped to answer RQ3 and led to a better understanding of data regarding RQ1 and RQ2.
  2. Implementation: we collected the information and analysed it consecutively. First, the twelve-item questionnaire was self-administered, and second, the respondents provided the requested qualitative information. In this way, it was possible to widen the understanding of quantitative information.
  3. Integration of approaches: we integrated the results from both approaches. This integration is shown in the discussion section because both analyses complemented one another.

Sample and ethical concerns

All professors who taught in semesters 2020–1 and 2020–2 constituted the initial population of the study (N = 151). Some of them (N = 8) had left the institution when the research was conducted. Hence, 143 practitioners were the final study population (N = 143). The informed consent form and the questionnaire were sent to instructors’ emails through the Google Forms App. The informed consent form explained to participants the voluntary nature of their participation and the right to withdraw at any stage. Some fifty-five practitioners (38 per cent) were willing to participate and answered the questionnaire. This response rate has also been observed in similar previous studies (Amhag et al. 2019; Robinson et al. 2019). This percentage of participation included practitioners from all careers offered at UCAL.

We followed the corresponding national and institutional ethical norms. Informed consent was mandatory to participate in the study. For this purpose, we explained to the instructors the purpose of the research, the anonymous nature of their participation, and the right to freely decide about their participation without any consequence for their labour relationship with the university. The information gathered was used only for research purposes.

Quantitative phase

Instrument

Table 1 summarises the operationalisation of the variable for RQ1, namely, digital tools used by professors for teaching and learning activities. After this operationalisation, we designed a twelve-item questionnaire (Appendix) and the corresponding validity and reliability tests were performed.

Table 1.
Operationalisation of the variable to design the questionnaire
Definition Dimension Indicators Items
It is the incorporation of the available software, platforms and applications in the different activities evolving teaching and learning to reach the academic goals. Class Class preparation 1
Synchronous sessions 2
Sharing information Written information (non-editable content) 3
Operational definition

The variable was approached through a multiple-choice questionnaire in a nominal scale to gather the names of the online and offline tools used by faculties for teaching in creative careers.
Audio-visual material 4–5
Interaction in the classroom Dynamics for interaction 6
Explanations 7
Collaborative work Teacher and students 8
Among students 9
Evaluation Written evaluations 10–11
Expositions, models, prototypes and demonstrations 12

Source: Own source

Validity and reliability

Eight experts participated in the two techniques applied to establish the content validity. First, they evaluated the instrument as a whole in terms of the items’ objectiveness, consistency, coherence, congruency, clarity, pertinence, organisational and structural adequacy, and language. They scored each characteristic to obtain a validity coefficient per expert; then, the average content validity was calculated (CV = .96). Second, experts evaluated the questionnaire item by item to get the Content Validity Ratio (CVR) according to Agustín Tristán-López's (2008) method. The analysis indicated that CVR = .86. To know the instrument reliability, we performed the Cronbach's Alpha test and obtained a co-efficient of .88.

The questionnaire form was available for a month, so that it could reach as many members of faculty as possible; however, to avoid the distortion of the results, each participant was allowed to answer it just once. A database was built in the IBM Statistics Package for the Social Sciences (IBM SPSS) V27.0. We calculated averages, frequencies and percentages, and we also ran Chi-Squared and Monte Carlo Exact tests (p < .005) to assess possible associations. The results are presented separately for each component of the variable under study.

Qualitative phase

We asked the instructors open questions in order to elicit additional information for a better understanding and interpretation of their choices reported in the questionnaire, the potential association between their choices and the careers they taught, and any other information they considered relevant for the research. As for the quantitative instrument, they were informed of their right to decide whether they wanted to provide the requested information.

For the qualitative analyses, we established the categories observed in the respondents’ answers. This analysis helped to answer RQ3. Later, their answers were also related to the quantitative analysis and the overall discussion of results was written. In this way, we reached a better understanding of the data and complemented the answers obtained for RQ1 and RQ2.

Results

Quantitative analysis

Fifty-five instructors answered the questionnaire (N = 55). Responders’ average age was 45 years (SD = 9.4) ranging from 29 to 66. They were teaching in different careers (see Table 2). Regarding teaching experience, twenty-six practitioners (47.3 per cent) had been teaching between six and ten years; thirteen (23.6 per cent) had less than five years of experience, ten of them (18.2 per cent) reported experience of more than fifteen years, and, finally, six (10.9 per cent) had been teaching between eleven and fifteen years.

Table 2.

Distribution of instructors sorted by career

Set of careers Fi %
Architecture 20 36.5
Strategic Graphic Design 9 16.5
Communications 15 26.9
Marketing 8 14.6
Other programmes (Continuous education) 3 5.5
Total 55 100

Source: Answers to the questionnaire

Class preparation and synchronous sessions

When the instructors were asked about the digital tools they used to prepare and deliver their classes, they gave various answers. PowerPoint (PPT) was used by fifty-three teachers; twenty-nine of them used PPT along with some other apps, and twenty-four prepared their classes just with PPT. The other resources they used (alone or with PPT) were Google Slides (N = 18); Prezzi (N = 10); Canvas (N = 5); Visme (N = 4); Powtoon, Genially, and Slidebean (N = 3, each); Miro (N = 2); and Mentimeter, EDGE, Keynote, and Lucidchart (N = 1, each).

With regard to online classes, thirty-seven professors reported using more than one resource; the remaining fifteen used only one platform or application. Architecture showed a higher number of practitioners using more than two resources or tools. It is important to mention that the university guaranteed access to all the resources offered by G-Suite, which was the selected environment for classes during ERT.

The video conferencing programme Google MEET was the most used for synchronous classes (N = 50; 90.9 per cent), even if practitioners used more than one digital tool (see Table 4). The Chi-Square and Monte Carlo Exact tests yielded no statistically significant associations either for the career the professors were teaching and the use of one or more tools for synchronous class presentations X2 (10, N = 55) = 9.997, p = .694, or for career(s) and the tools used by them X2 (10, N = 55) = 10.969, p = .360.

Table 3.
Instructors’ use of one or more platforms and applications distributed by career
One More than one Total
Communications 4 8 12
Architecture 5 15 20
Graphic Design 4 5 9
Marketing 2 6 8
Other programmes 0 3 3
Total 15 37 52

Source: Answers to the questionnaire

Table 4.
Platforms and applications used by instructors to deliver online classes
Tool Fi %
Meets 50 90.9
WhatsApp 19 34.5
Facebook 12 21.8
Teams 11 20
Moodle 10 18.2
Zoom 5 9.1
Schoology 3 5.5
Canva 1 1.9

Source: Answers to the questionnaire

Table 4 shows that teachers used learning management systems (LMSs) and social networks for synchronous activities with their students. The former showed the highest percentage for Google MEET, and the latter showed WhatsApp as the most used tool.

Sharing information

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents indicated that they used two or more digital tools for sharing non-editable written material with their students. Google Classroom was the main source used for this purpose (N = 50; 90.9 per cent); it was followed by Facebook (N = 13; 23.6 per cent) and WhatsApp (N = 12; 21.8 per cent); only two of them used Telegram.

All the practitioners shared the recording of the video classes, and thirty-two of them (58.2 per cent) used more than one tool for this purpose. They also shared complementary audio-visual material with their students; forty-two practitioners (76.4 per cent) also indicated that they used more than one tool. Table 5 presents all the digital resources reported by respondents for each purpose.

Table 5.
Digital tools used by instructors to share complementary audio-visual material and for synchronous class recording
Tool Complementary AV material Recordings of the video classes
Fi % Fi %
Classroom 45 81.8 47 85.5
WhatsApp 15 27.3 9 16.4
YouTube 39 70.9 30 54.5
Facebook 16 29.1 8 14.5
Instagram 7 12.7 2 3.6
Twitter 1 1.8 1 1.8
Drive 4 7.3 2 3.6
Moodle 2 3.6 3 5.5
Telegram 1 1.8 0 0
Podcast 1 1.8 0 0
Edmodo 1 1.8 0 0
Blackboard 8 14.5 0 0
LinkedIn 1 1.8 0 0
Teams 0 0 5 9.1

Source: Answers to the questionnaire

The Chi-Square test indicated no statistically significant associations for the career they were teaching or for the use of one or more tool for sharing class video recordings, X2 (10, N = 55) = 9.997, p = .694, nor did it show any statistically significant associations for career and tools used to share complementary audio-visual materials X2 (10, N = 55) = 15.029, p = .114.

Classroom interaction

Instructors were asked about digital tools to promote students’ participation and the ones used to explain contents interactively (Table 7). For the former, eight (14.5 per cent) did not use any, nineteen (34.5 per cent) used just one and twenty-eight (51 per cent) two or more. For the latter, ten (18.2 per cent) did not use any digital tool, twenty-seven (49.1 per cent) used only one, and, finally, eighteen (32.7 per cent) used two or more. Table 6 shows their choices regarding interaction.

Table 6.
Digital tools used for interaction during class time
Tool To enhance students’ participation To explain contents interactively
Fi % Fi %
Canva 9 16.7 7 12.7
Quizziz 7 13 0 0
Kahoot 20 37 17 30.9
Jamboard 27 49.9 4 7.3
Pizarra de Zoom 10 5 11 20
Miro 10 18.5 9 16.4
Mentimeter 4 7.4 3 5.5
Groups Meet 1 1.9 3 5.5
Pizarra Meet 3 5.6 3 5.5
Mural 1 1.8 0 0
Educima 0 0 1 1.8
WhatsApp 0 0 1 1.8
Simulator 0 0 2 3.6
Visits 0 0 13 23.6

Source: Answers to the questionnaire

Table 7.
Digital tools used by instructors to provide feedback on students’ progress and recommended for students’ collaborative work
Tool To follow students’ progress Students’ teamwork
Fi % Fi %
Drive 50 90.9 3 5.6
Meet 1 1.8 0 0
E-mail 30 54.5 0 0
Classroom 3 5.5 1 1.9
Dropbox 3 5.5 0 0
WhatsApp 1 1.8 33 61.1
Miro 1 1.8 2 3.7
Zoom 0 0 27 49.9
Jitsy 0 0 2 3.7
Teams 0 0 10 18.5
Facebook 0 0 11 20.4
Jamboard 0 0 1 1.9
Meets 0 0 9 16.7

Source: Answers to the questionnaire

Table 6 indicates that thirteen instructors incorporated virtual visits or tours. They used Google Maps and Google Earth, and they also visited museum websites for virtual tours. Those who used simulators indicated the use of InVision.

We performed the Chi-Square test to assess possible statistically significant associations between the career and the use of one or more tools to enhance students’ participation in synchronous classes. The results indicated that there was no such association, X2 (20, N = 55) = 19.114, p = .553. Similar results were found for career and digital tools used for interactive explanations, X2 (20, N = 55) = 12.663, p = .940.

Collaborative work

Professors used one (N = 21; 38.2 per cent) or more (N = 32; 58.2 per cent) tools to collaboratively monitor students’ progress (e.g. drafts revision). Just two of them indicated they did not use any. Once again, no significant associations were found for this and career, X2 (20, N = 55) = 11.308, p = .947. It was observed that practitioners recommended their students one (N = 14; 25.5 per cent) or more (N = 31; 56.4 per cent) tools for collaborative work among them because teamwork was very frequent in all the careers. Ten teachers (18.2 per cent) left this choice up to their students. Table 7 shows the range of tools reported by the professors.

Assessment

Finally, instructors were asked about whether they performed different kinds of assessments: automatic assessments (those directly designed and self-corrected by the platform; e.g. closed questionnaires); written assignments (e.g. essays and research reports); and other assessed work (audio-visual or multimedia material the students needed to produce; e.g. videos, audio recordings, models, prototypes and any other product to assess students’ competencies). Some professors used more than one type and also used more than one application for them. The Chi-Square test (p = .05) to assess associations between career and the number of tools used to evaluate students in different ways did not yield any significant associations for automatic evaluations, X2 (20, N = 55) = 26.292, p = .134; written assignments, X2 (20, N = 55) = 16.086, p = .743; or any other type of evaluation, X2 (20, N = 55) = 16.973, p = .671.

Choices and combinations were varied. Table 8 summarises the platforms used for each type of evaluation. Classroom was the most used platform for all types. In addition, Drive storage was the main tool for written tasks.

Table 8.
Digital tools reported by instructors for each type of evaluation
Tool Automatic evaluations Written assignments Other evaluations
Fi % Fi % Fi %
Classroom 41 74.5 46 83.6 46 83.6
Quizziz 6 10.9 0 0 0 0
Blackboard 7 12.7 0 0 9 16.4
Moodle 2 3.6 0 0 2 3.6
Kahoot 4 7.3 0 0 0 0
Socrative 1 1.8 0 0 0 0
Google Forms 4 7.3 0 0 0 0
Chamilo 0 0 1 1.8 0 0
Drive 0 0 30 54.5 0 0
Moodle 0 0 4 7.3 0 0
E-mail 0 0 22 40 0 0
Teams 0 0 1 1.8 3 5.5
Dropbox 0 0 3 5.5 0 0
WhatsApp 0 0 7 12.7 7 12.7
Twitter 0 0 0 0 2 3.6
Schoology 0 0 0 0 1 1.8
Facebook 0 0 0 0 7 12.7
YouTube 0 0 0 0 13 23.6
Telegram 0 0 0 0 1 1.8
TikTok 0 0 0 0 1 1.8

Source: Answers to the questionnaire

Overall analysis was performed looking for any association between the components of the variables and age, academic degree, and years of experience. Nevertheless, no significant associations were observed for any of the combinations assessed.

Qualitative analysis

Almost all the participants contributed to the qualitative data-gathering phase. We reviewed the answers twice to observe trends, and found five categories:

  1. 1.Need for training: the university provided emergency training on some digital tools to use for ERT. However, professors believed that they needed more. They indicated that their knowledge of some of the tools was small and that they needed instruction for better performance. This lack of knowledge forced some of them to use a limited variety of sources for class planning and management.
  2. 2.Digital tools to fulfil particular needs during ERT for some careers: Architecture instructors expressed that they looked for various tools to interact with and give feedback on students’ architecture plans and other drawings; however, they said that they needed help and training for the selection and use of such tools when available. Also, the most versatile options were expensive and, in some cases, did not offer free trial versions.
  3. 3.Free subscriptions: they declared that they mainly used free versions of apps; it was a problem because the free versions were limited. Practitioners believed that universities should pay for subscriptions to online tools suitable for courses that demand much creativity and specialist tasks from students.
  4. 4.Students’ engagement: some instructors considered that interactive tools would be more effective and fun if all the students felt more engaged. In some cases, students did not even turn their cameras on and were afraid to participate in some activities, implying that they did not know well the online tools being used. They also agreed that students needed some training for using innovative online tools and that sometimes it is impossible to use class time to teach them how to use them.
  5. 5.Favourite digital tools: practitioners mainly referred to Jamboard, Miro, Kahoot and Powtoon as their favourites. The first two are tools for collaborative work with students, the third is for gamified activities and the latter is for creating short videos. Some instructors expressed the reasons for their preferences. They indicated that these tools improved the class and increased students’ motivation and interaction. They also claimed that they preferred tools that were easy to use for both practitioners and students.

Discussion

After the lockdown, ERT appeared to change some aspects of the way teaching and learning were perceived. Instructors around the world had to learn to use different tools to teach. As a consequence, even those practitioners who resisted the inclusion of technology in their teaching practice realised that technology could do much in the academic context. The study of practitioners’ choices through a mixed approach led to a better understanding of their practices in the present situation at UCAL. It also helped identify the kind of training and support practitioners need in the short and long term, as in Baptista and colleagues’ findings (2020) that instructors needed continual training on digital tools and materials design to improve their performance and to be able to offer high-quality classes in the remote modality.

The present research aimed to answer three research questions. In general, the study showed that, during ERT, UCAL's instructors used a large set of digital tools for the promotion and development of creativity and to develop UCAL's teaching methodology (Mas and Vidal 2019). The use of those resources for teaching purposes suggests the development of teachers’ digital competencies named by Bård-Ketil Engen (2019), which include using digital tools for teaching purposes and the ability to redefine the relationship between their use in the academic environment and the world outside of it. However, they need more instruction to learn about other tools suitable for the curricula they teach, to improve their competencies and to feel more confident for their use.

Regarding RQ1, the quantitative and qualitative analyses showed that, even when the university guaranteed all the resources offered by G-Suite (now Google Workspace), professors used social media (mainly Facebook and WhatsApp) for communication, sharing information and organising synchronous encounters. This practice should be avoided because it implies sharing personal data and the risk of mixing academic and private spaces. Previous studies show that, when using WhatsApp, the students can confuse the limits of personal relations, misuse the application in a way that disrespects personal time, use slang and share irrelevant information (Cetinkaya 2017; Mhindu 2020). Some of these disadvantages can also be associated with other social media like Facebook. In this sense, after the end of the first term of ERT, UCAL implemented a different learning platform that enhances communication while maintaining all participants’ privacy as a way to prevent potential inappropriate situations. Therefore, communication through social media between instructors and students is expected not to continue, but students still may decide to form groups to communicate and share information.

Gamification apps and interactive boards were instructors’ favourites. These tools have been found to be successful in previous studies for assessment (Alharbi and Meccawy 2020; Hasanah et al. 2020), to enhance the development of reading comprehension (Arancibia-Gutiérrez and Bustamante-Molina 2019), and to challenge students and elicit creative solutions (Pryke 2020). Finally, to overcome the difficulties of the lockdown and give students an experience as meaningful as possible, practitioners used simulators and applications for virtual tours. That is a very positive decision because simulators and virtual labs have been found to be effective during ERT. They provide valuable experiences and help students to develop the skills they need as part of their professional development even when they cannot attend in-person classes because of a public health emergency (Vasiliadou 2020).

Statistical tests to answer RQ2 indicated no statistically significant associations between tool selection and career. As in the work of Baptista and colleagues (2020), the present study did not yield statistically significant associations for choices and sex or age.

Qualitative information for RQ3 indicated that the reasons for professors’ choices in all careers were related to both their perception of learners’ needs and their commitment to offering the best experience according to the philosophy and methodology of the university. It means that UCAL's instructors were incorporating a variety of digital tools in all careers. Hence, they were (and are) doing a great job because, according to Georgina Cagua and colleagues (2021), transformations in education are mandatory, especially in creative careers, because students and professors need to incorporate habits and practices of the digital culture into their academic and professional environments. Still, it would be helpful to conduct a satisfaction study as Norah Almusharraf and Shabir Khahro (2020) did to know students’ opinions about practitioners’ use of those tools. That would be particularly useful in courses that include challenging tasks like designing and modelling, which have been considered complex tasks in previous research (Ibrahim et al. 2020).

The acquisition of the workplace G-Suite account might explain the high percentage of use of Classroom. This finding is similar to Baptista and colleagues’ (2020) study in Mexico. Nevertheless, in the present research, at the beginning of the emergency, some teachers indicated that they also used other online tools like social media (mainly WhatsApp) to manage the class and give students alternatives when they faced connectivity issues. This finding reflects the empathic attitude of UCAL's instructors during the abrupt change to ERT.

Audio-visual materials are undeniably important in creative careers because students have to study and produce multimedia content. In that sense, sharing this kind of material is crucial. Participants tended to use more than two digital tools, including cloud storage and social networks, to guarantee that all the students could access audio-visual and other materials. This finding is in line with previous studies in which practitioners used social media for sharing information for educational purposes (Ibrahim et al. 2020) and synchronous classes. As in Cagua and colleagues’ (2021) results, WhatsApp was highly used to communicate and share files.

Cagua and colleagues (2021) found that practitioners look for tools to share information and communicate effectively. They also observed that professors find those helpful to enhance interaction and collaborative work. Results in the present research differ from Cagua and colleagues’ (2021) findings because UCAL's practitioners use more tools, even when they complain of requiring more training for better performance. However, these results are consistent with those of Lina Ahmad and colleagues (2020); they observed that architecture and interior design instructors explored alternatives to offer high-quality courses during the pandemic lockdown.

As in Baptista et al. (2020), in the present study social media like WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter were commonly used by teaching practitioners for several purposes (sharing information, synchronous activities and collaborative work). This finding is also in agreement with Margarita Rodríguez-Gallego and colleagues’ (2019) claim that these social networks’ potential for collaboration of makes them appealing for academic purposes. Like in Rodríguez-Gallego and colleagues’ (2019) study, instructors reported using Facebook for various purposes, but regarding WhatsApp and Twitter, our findings differ because the professors preferred the former.

Herberth Oliva (2016) and Sam Pryke (2020) observed that gamification in class was appealing for teachers before ERT. In the present study, instructors demonstrated a willingness to study and use gamification tools on their own as in Oliva's (2016) study; in other words, they did not depend just on the university's training, but were proactive to find ways to learn about more tools. Also, when UCAL's professors indicated their favourite, they named gamification apps and interactive boards because they are easy to use and helpful for the students for interaction, motivation and learning. That was not a surprise because they have always prepared interactive, motivating and challenging in-person classes. Therefore, we expected them to use digital tools that gave the students an environment for creativity in the virtual modality too.

Although there were no statistically significant associations between the careers and the digital tools selected by faculty for different purposes, professors of Architecture faced the most problematic scenario. Salih Ceylan and colleagues (2020) found that architecture students perceived the use of digital tools that enhance their competencies as the most outstanding benefit of online learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, in the present study, the Architecture instructors requested specialised software and apps for product creation and evaluation. This concern is consistent with Marcin Brzezicki's (2020) and Anwar Ibrahim and colleagues’ (2020) findings. They also registered that students and teachers were satisfied with their online classes but found challenging those courses involving the design and development of activities requiring hand corrections of plans, prototypes and 3D models.

In the present study, the practitioners were aware of their need for more training to succeed in this remote teaching environment; however, they may not have been aware that those needs go beyond this recent period of ERT and are indicative of the use of technology in their practice more generally. In this sense, we recommend the implementation of a training model like TPACK (Koehler and Mishra 2009) that allows us to understand and identify the three types of knowledge – technological, pedagogical and content knowledge – that teachers need in order to incorporate technology into their teaching and to analyse existing educational practices. It would also be useful to consider a training model oriented towards a new didactics for teaching in digital environments, based on a knowledge of technology from both scientific and pedagogical perspectives (Dias-Trindade and Moreira 2020: 18). These training programmes should enable instructors to use and integrate technology into the curriculum during and after ERT to meet, as suggested by Glenda Gunter and Jennifer Reeves (2017), the changing needs of their students, which, in the case of creative careers, are very demanding.

Conclusions

UCAL's professors are using different online tools to offer high-quality classes in the context of the ERT. There are no differences among the creative careers studied regarding the choice of digital tools for the ERT. The limitation of the present study was low participation in the sample, maybe because instructors were in the vacation period. However, results are consistent with previous studies (e.g. Baptista et al. 2020).

Based on the evidence, we propose a training plan for instructors from UCAL. As the university has subscribed to Google services, this plan should include all its applications for education (for instance, automatic evaluation, information storage and sharing, programmed resources sharing and interactive boards, among others). Besides, the plan should add training on gamified apps, virtual tours, interactive boards and modelling tools. They would enhance technology competencies for remote and face-to-face environments.

A comprehensive training programme for professors in creative careers should contribute to developing technology competencies for practitioners to incorporate technology efficiently during ERT and get ready for the reality they will face after the pandemic in the upcoming new and challenging teaching environment. This training plan should be consistent with the ongoing nature of technology development, professors’ and learners’ needs, and, in the case of UCAL, the creative core of the teaching methodology adopted (Pro.Seso Creativo® 3.0). Careers did not show differences in practitioners’ online tools use. Accordingly, the plan for instructor training might be designed and developed similarly for all practitioners.

Acknowledgements

This study was part of a broader project planned for the year 2021 and funded by the University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America. We also declare that there is no conflict of interest.

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Appendix: Questionnaire

General information

  1. A.Career you are teaching ________________________________________
  2. B.Age ___________
  3. C.Gender: Female _______ Male _______
  4. D.Teaching experience
    • Less than 5 years _______ 5–10 years _______

    • 11–15 years _______ over 15 years _______

  5. E.Degrees: Master _______ PhD _______

Items

  1. 1.What tools (software, apps, other) did you use to prepare synchronous classes?
  2. 2.What platforms did you use to deliver synchronous classes?
  3. 3.What tools did you use with your students to share non-editable information related to the content of the course?
  4. 4.What online tools did you use to share complementary audio-visual materials related to the course?
  5. 5.What online tools did you use to share the slides and videos of your classes?
  6. 6.What online tools did you use to promote students’ participation and involvement in online classes?
  7. 7.What online tools did you use to promote students’ interaction in online classes?
    1. 7.1If you used simulators, name them: _____________
    2. 7.2 If you performed virtual tours, name the apps you used (Google Maps, museums, other).
  8. 8.What tools did you use to collaboratively review files with your students in and outside class time (reviewing drafts, workshops, teams work)?
  9. 9.What tools did you suggest to your students for teamwork (brainstorming, team meetings, collaborative work)?
  10. 10.What tools did you use to design online tests?
  11. 11.What tools did you select for your students to deliver written tasks (essays, drafts, other)?
  12. 12.What tools did you use for assessment activities other than tests and written tasks? (models, oral presentations, other).

Contributor Notes

Bexi Perdomo is Doctor in Human Sciences, Master in Education, Bachelor in Education and Law and a Professor and Researcher at the University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America. Her scientific production includes books, book chapters and articles published in indexed journals worldwide, leading to national and international prizes and awards. Email: bjperdomod@crear.ucal.edu.pe

María del Carmen Llontop Castillo is Doctor in Education, Master in Education, Master in Quality Management, Self-Assessment and Accreditation, and trained in ISO 21001: 2018 and 31000: 2018. She is the author of higher and basic education books. Currently, she is the Academic Vice-Rector and Head of the Creativity Research Center of the University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America. Email: mllontop@ucal.edu.pe

Oscar Mas is a PhD Candidate in Design, Master in Higher Education, Master in Advertising Communication, Bachelor in Education, and a Marketing and Branding specialist. He is Director of the Design Careers, Director of the Marketing and Innovation Career and of the Innovation Hub at the University of Sciences and Arts of Latin America. He is also leader for the development of the Pro.Seso Creativo® methodology and has lectured on creativity at a range of international events. Email: omas@ucal.edu.pe

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Learning and Teaching

The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences

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