Methodological Approach to Studying Unintended Consequences of Digitalization in Education


The article describes sociological research methodology referring to the problems of digitalization in education. The authors’ concept of digitalization is defined according to the specific aims of the study, emphasizing the peculiarities of the educational sphere. Digitalization in education can be considered as an introduction and active use of digital technologies at different stages of the educational process. The study has determined that the introduction of digital technologies in education leads to the unintended consequences which can have unanticipated effects on educational institutions and their actors. The unintended consequences are conceptualized using R. Merton’s theoretical perspective and are defined as unexpected, unforeseen results caused by a purposive action. They could be divided into three subgroups: 1) unexpected benefit, 2) unexpected drawback, 3) perverse result. To study the unintended consequences the authors designed a methodological approach which focuses on macro and micro factors which determine attitudes to digitalization on the part of various participants of the educational process. The complex structure of the empirical object is determined by the hypothesis, that the unintended consequences of digitalization vary for different social groups involved in the process of education and highly depend on the context. The educational process is described as a complex system with two major components and structured in accordance with specific spheres in which introduction of digital technologies is possible. In conclusion, authors put forward a hypothesis that the suggested methodological approach will contribute to relating the unintended consequences of digitalization to their sources, also identified by R. Merton: ignorance or incomplete analysis; errors in analysis of the problem or following outdated habits; immediate interests overriding the long-term ones; following basic values which require / prohibit certain actions; self-defeating prophecy.

Keywords: digitalization, socio-educational sphere, education, unintended consequences, attitudes to digitalization

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