A Phenomenological Study: Student Perceptions of Educational Technology in Online Discussion Forums

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Higher education's changing landscape pushes leaders to examine the impact of student engagement and collaboration on student satisfaction, retention, and success in online education. Students identify dissatisfaction in online learning due to a feeling of isolation and challenges with the online learning environment creating elevated dropout rates. Educational technology embedded in online courses provides an opportunity for engagement and collaboration, reducing learner isolation. The phenomenological study explored student perceptions of educational technology in online discussions to promote engagement and collaboration. The community of inquiry model and transformational leadership framed the study where semi-structured interviews investigated the lived experiences of 15 participants who had experience as students in online higher education. The research examined the use of educational technology in online courses, the perceptions of educational technology in online discussion forums as an engagement strategy, and the perceptions of educational technology in online discussion forums as a collaborative strategy. The study's findings offered insights on student perceptions of online discussion forums, educational technology, the instructor's role, the human element, the transferrable skills for the 21st-century workforce, and the benefits and barriers with technology. The research results indicated the use of educational technology does not equate to increased engagement and collaboration. Reflective of prior research, course design, and the instructor's role impacted the perceptions of online courses, engagement, and collaboration. The student perceptions indicated using educational technology may develop 21st-century workforce skills when implemented effectively by the instructor.