- ABOUT US
"Submissions are never 100% perfect right from the beginning. New researchers should immerse themselves in as much literature as possible in order to understand the logic of why the author has written as they have."
Dr. Hwang serves as an editorial board member and a reviewer for more than 50 academic journals of educational technology and e-learning. He has also been the principal investigator of more than 150 research projects funded by Ministry of Science and Technology as well as Ministry of Education in Taiwan. He received the annual most Outstanding Researcher Award from the National Science Council of Taiwan in the years of 2007, 2010 and 2013. Moreover, in 2016, he was announced by Times Higher Education as being the most prolific and cited researcher in the world in the field of social sciences He is the scholar who defined the term “seamless flipped learning” as “mobile technology-enhanced flipped classroom with effective learning strategies. ”In 2018, Dr. Hwang was invited by the Flipped Learning Global Initiative to record the Flipped Learning 3.0 Certification Level-I program, showing that his competencies of flipped learning teaching and research have been highly recognized by the global flipped learning community.
You are a leading expert in digital learning and education. What drew you to this field?
My doctoral program was in “pure” computer science which covered topics such as artificial intelligence. However, my PhD program advisor encouraged me to think across disciplines in order to broaden my career options and not limit myself to just the world of computer science. As such, I began to work with a group of professors from the university who happened to be working on Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI). Although my background was not in education, I found this work fascinating, in large part because I come from a family of educators. Truth be told, I always had an interest in being a teacher, but instead I followed so many of my peers who were studying computer science. Thankfully, with the rapid adoption of computers and internet technologies in education, there has been so much opportunity in this field, and this has maybe never been more true than during the past couple of years of the pandemic. I feel fortunate that I have found work that is not only interesting to me personally, but also shows incredible promise and potential in society.
You have been a prolific researcher and author over the years. Drawing from your extensive experience, what advice can you give to researchers at the beginning of their careers that you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
It’s hard to overstate the importance of investing in a good foundation of research skills from the beginning. Regardless of what field you’re in, it’s a good idea to look for training workshops or courses on conducting research. For example, our lab runs four standard training sessions. The first is how to judge the innovation of a research topic, whether it is significant and meaningful. This can help you avoid spending time on something that will not yield good results in the end. The second one is on research design, covering how to properly design experiments so they stand up to scrutiny and actually verify what you seek to prove. Third is academic writing, which involves reading high-quality papers, which itself is a way to teach researchers how to present their arguments convincingly. And fourth is how to submit a paper for publication and how to respond to the reviewer’s comments. Submissions are never 100% perfect right from the beginning, but rather it is through a process of review and incorporating suggestions from different scholars that we make improvements to an article. It is easy to feel discouraged by reviewer comments, but comments are given to help you improve, and we should see them in that way.
Apart from this, where do most new researchers encounter problems? It is most likely because they haven’t read enough high-quality literature. Articles that have been published in top-ranked journals have been through a rigorous review process, and this means that generally more people read and cite them. As we read more of these journals in our area of interest, certain questions should always guide our understanding of the articles. Why did the author write this way? or Why is the structure and framework of the article laid out this way? Reading papers is not just about reading passively, but rather is about analyzing the deeper meaning and reasoning behind it.
So to sum up, new researchers should look for specific training they can attend, but also immerse themselves in as much literature as possible in order to understand the logic of why the author has written as they have.
Technology changes so fast, and while some trends have longevity, others could be described as short-term fads. As an expert in this field, what strategies do you use to evaluate where to focus your attention? What developments in digital learning are you most excited about right now?
I have divided digital learning into three areas to answer this question: educational theory, learning activities and strategies, and technology. The one that will endure the longest is educational theory. Even with technological advances or differences in pedagogy and strategies, educational theory usually remains the same throughout time, and therefore it needs to be understood thoroughly. Learning activities and strategies, on the other hand, can vary in many ways. A concept map, for example, is a strategy for organizing knowledge that will not fall out of date due to technological developments. Rather, these activities and strategies can be adapted and applied in different ways according to the technology that is available. Lastly is technology, which of course changes rapidly. Multimedia technology was popular a while ago, and maybe Internet technology is popular at this moment. Next on the horizon may be the metaverse, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These technologies tend to be popular for a while, but are eventually replaced by something new. Yet they cannot be ignored because the value of innovation they bring may have a great impact for several years.
Technology seems to operate in a cycle where a particular innovation is at the forefront for three to five years, but then it gradually becomes a “mature technology” which is too commonplace to be explored widely in research. For example, at the advent of multimedia technology, a lot of research was focused on it, but now it is seen to be so common that it is deemed less necessary to keep exploring it in research. Based on current trends, I think the most important technology at this point is probably AI and the metaverse. They are not being developed expressly for the purpose of education, but they will no doubt have an impact on learning, and so as education researchers we cannot ignore them. We needn’t necessarily try to develop new tailor-made technologies, but rather explore how they will impact teaching and how we can harness them for the benefit of education. Ideally we will use these technologies to do things that were not possible before due to it being a dangerous environment or needing individual guidance or long-term tracking. With AI and the metaverse, including metaverse-related technologies such as AR and VR, and even mixed reality (MR), these things are more possible and so we should be paying attention to them.
Some educators are techno-skeptics, favoring more traditional approaches. For those with such a viewpoint, what is your most compelling argument in favor of embracing new digital technologies in education?
I think it’s important to remain skeptical, because as with any tool, it can be used for good or for harm. Technology is the same; there are both positive and negative effects. However, I think the point is that even if teachers are skeptical about technology and don’t understand it, students will still use it. Is it possible for you to tell students to never go online? I don’t think so. By ignoring technology, we risk creating a situation where students encounter more of the negative effects on their own. But with proper guidance, students will use technology in ways that are more beneficial to their education, such as for problem solving. We teachers have the responsibility to show them these more positive applications of the technologies they are already quite naturally drawn to.
What are the unique conditions in Taiwan that make it a great place to pursue a career in digital education?
Taiwan has at least three great advantages. The first is that Taiwan is a leading region in the computer industry, so our network and computer industry is well developed and pricing is low, making access to technology a bit easier. Second is that the government supports these efforts. In the early days, around 2000, the government started to promote a five-year digital learning project for the whole of Taiwan, and there are still ongoing follow-up projects. This highlighted the importance of digital learning in Taiwan, and it has attracted many scholars, including those from engineering or education who have crossed over to digital learning as a cross-disciplinary field. This type of project has had a great impact on digital learning in Taiwan. The third aspect is the cooperative academic atmosphere in Taiwan, as scholars here are very willing to collaborate and exchange ideas. Through the formation of various special interest groups (SIGs), academics from different backgrounds have been able to interact and learn from each other, which facilitates important joint research projects. So these three factors – good access and low cost of entry, government promotion, and cross-discipline cooperation – have contributed to the advancement of the digital learning field in Taiwan, and continue to do so.