• Research article
  • Open access
  • Published: 10 September 2020

Enhancing the roles of information and communication technologies in doctoral research processes

  • Sarah J. Stein   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-0024-1675 1 &
  • Kwong Nui Sim 2  

International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education volume  17 , Article number:  34 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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While information and communication technologies (ICT) are prominent in educational practices at most levels of formal learning, there is relatively little known about the skills and understandings that underlie their effective and efficient use in research higher degree settings. This project aimed to identify doctoral supervisors’ and students’ perceptions of their roles in using ICT. Data were gathered through participative drawing and individual discussion sessions. Participants included 11 students and two supervisors from two New Zealand universities. Focus of the thematic analysis was on the views expressed by students about their ideas, practices and beliefs, in relation to their drawings. The major finding was that individuals hold assumptions and expectations about ICT and their use; they make judgements and take action based on those expectations and assumptions. Knowing about ICT and knowing about research processes separately form only part of the work of doctoral study. Just as supervision cannot be considered independently of the research project and the student involved, ICT skills and the use of ICT cannot be considered in the absence of the people and the project. What is more important in terms of facilitating the doctoral research process is students getting their “flow” right. This indicates a need to provide explicit support to enable students to embed ICT within their own research processes.

Background/context

Information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring either joy or challenge to well-versed academic practices, and either create barriers to learning and development or be the answer to needs. While some grasp and pursue opportunities to make use of various ICT for study, research and teaching, others struggle. Despite documented and anecdotal positive urges to adopt ICT to increase and improve efficiency and effectiveness, staff and students struggle experience ICT as needless and difficult-to-use interruptions. There is often little need seen to change practices by introducing ICT into ways of working. Exploring these views and experiences was the focus of this project. Being empathetic to views such as those expressed by Castañeda and Selwyn ( 2018 ), we did not approach this investigation from a position that assumes that ICT are natural and needed solutions to problems related to improving and facilitating effective learning, teaching and research. Rather, we took a more neutral stance, wishing to explore the experiences of those involved, namely, students and staff, through discussion with them about their ICT practices and views, and with a specific focus on doctoral study and supervision.

Doctoral supervision and the role, place and nature of the doctorate are receiving increasing attention in higher education research literature. A wide range of topics have been covered from, for example, the importance and types of support for students throughout candidature (e.g., Zhou & Okahana, 2019 ); to the teaching and supervision aspects of doctoral supervision (e.g., Åkerlind & McAlpine, 2017 ; Cotterall, 2011 ; Lee, 2008 ).

With advancements in, accessibility to, and development of, ICT within education settings has come a plethora of research into online and blended learning. These studies often highlight the capacity of ICT for facilitating teaching, learning and administrative activity within educational institutions and systems (e.g., Marshall & Shepherd, 2016 ). They cover numerous areas of importance from theoretical, practical, and philosophical angles and include the perspectives and needs of learners, educators and institutions (e.g., Nichols, Anderson, Campbell, & Thompson, 2014 ).

There are also studies on student use of ICT, though not necessarily doctoral students, and these cover a wide range of topics including specific ICT skills (e.g., Stensaker, Maassen, Borgan, Oftebro, & Karseth, 2007 ). Where postgraduate research students are concerned, some studies on ICT skill development and support provide some insights about students (e.g., Dowling & Wilson, 2017 ), and institutional ICT systems (Aghaee et al., 2016 ).

Notable about the many of these studies cited above is the use of self-reporting tools as mechanisms for gathering data about student use and views about ICT. While self-reports are valuable ways to collect such data about self-efficacy, they do have limits. In online learning environments, the role of self-efficacy, for example, is still being contested. It has been argued that learners from a variety of disciplines and learning settings will tend to overestimate claims about their performance and/or knowledge and skills (e.g., Mahmood, 2016 ).

All these studies help to ‘map the territory’ of ICT, their use at individual and institutional levels and related practices. Much advice and guidance can be gleaned from the literature as well, although relatively little for the specific integration of ICT within the doctoral research and supervision environment. Based on the literature that is available though, all indications are that (doctoral) students adopt educational practices incorporating limited ICT use, even though the use of ICT has grown enormously in the last 10 to 20 years. With the current interest in ensuring success of students and completion of doctoral degrees being closely related to high quality supervision, there is a need to improve supervision practices and within that, advance understandings about how to support students in their use of ICT for their doctoral research.

This project

This project aimed to explore doctoral student and supervisor views and use of ICT within the doctoral process. The intention was to bring to light perceptions that could give clues as to how to make practical modifications to the content and scope of professional development support for supervisors and students, in order to help them to make best use of ICT. In addition, consideration was given to the way data would be collected to ensure that more than just the self-reported perspectives of the participants were included.

An interpretivist research approach (Erickson, 2012 ) framed this study to support a focus on understanding the world from the perspectives of those who live it. Thus, the approach was well-suited to exploring perceptions about the use of ICT in our context.

Thus, this study did not commence with any hypotheses related to the influence of ICT in doctoral research in mind. Instead, as the interpretive frame of the research implies, this study investigated ways in which participants expressed their experiences of engaging and integrating ICT in support of their doctoral research processes. The data tapped into the participants’ (PhD students and doctoral supervisors) perspectives, as they expressed them. The research approach thus defined and shaped all aspects of the data gathering, analyses and presentation. In this way, alignment was ensured among the ontological, epistemological and practical implementation of the research project.

The study took place in two New Zealand universities where participants were either employees or students. Both universities are research-intensive, with histories of producing high-level research across many disciplines. Both institutions have clear and well-formulated policies and practices governing doctoral study - PhD and professional doctorate - and these include supporting that study through supervision. A specialised unit in each institution manages the administration of the doctoral degree. Couching “supervision” as essentially a (specialised) teaching activity, each unit also provides or coordinates professional development for staff in the art of supervision, and for students in the skills and processes of undertaking doctoral degree study.

Participants

Participants included doctoral students and supervisors from the two universities. As a result of an invitation to all students and supervisors, in total, 11 students and two supervisors responded. The students were PhD students at varying levels of completion. There was a mix of part time and full-time students from a variety of discipline backgrounds including health sciences, sciences, commerce and humanities. The supervisors were experienced and were from humanities and sciences.

Data sources

Data were collected using a 3-tier participative drawing process (Wetton & McWhirter, 1998 ). This strategy involved a series of two or three interview/discussions, along with participant-made drawings, which formed the focus of the interview/discussions.

This strategy generated two sources of data - interview transcripts and participant drawings – and involved the following (3-tier) phases:

Initial semi-structured interview/discussion to ascertain information about participants’ backgrounds and other details they saw relevant to share. In addition, they were asked about their use of ICT generally as well as within the doctoral process. It was a chance for the researchers to gain some understanding of participants’ views and practices in relation to ICT and their doctoral/supervision journeys.

Participant drawing . The participants were asked to make a drawing in their own time and before the second interview/discussion. Guidelines for the drawing suggested that they think of a way to illustrate their research process first, then to add onto the drawing any ICT (such as devices, websites, programmes, applications) that they make use of in the process.

Follow-up interview/discussion . During this phase, each participant was asked to explain the drawing’s features and how it made sense in terms of the project he or she was undertaking. This included discussion about how their supervision was working, how they worked with supervisors, and how the ICT they had included in the drawing worked within the process. They were also asked about elements that were not in the drawing, for example, certain ICT or activities that might have appeared in a typical account of a doctoral research process but were not included.

All interview/discussions were audio recorded and transcriptions of the recordings were returned to the participants for checking. The drawings were scanned and stored electronically.

In line with the interpretive approach that framed and governed our study, the data were analysed shortly after being gathered. Analysis of the data contributed to the development of ideas about participants’ perceptions, and these were refined progressively across the instances that researchers met with participants. Perceptions were thus checked, rechecked and refined against each data set.

This iterative and inductive approach (Thomas, 2006 ) involved thematic analysis (Silverman, 2001 ) and the capture of major and common ideas (Mayring, 2000 ) expressed by participants about how ICT are perceived and used in doctoral research processes. This approach helped to operationalise a process of co-construction between researchers and participants. Through checking, rechecking, refining and confirming, the researchers were able to articulate their understanding of participant perceptions that matched participants’ expressed thoughts.

The outcome of the analysis process was four assertions concerning ways the students perceived and understood ICT within doctoral study. Because there were only two supervisor participants, the data from the supervisors served to support the assertions we were more confidently able to make about student perceptions.

Research approach, quality assurance conditions and context

Despite the (what might be argued, small) number of volunteer participants who showed interest in, and committed themselves to, this study (i.e., no drop-outs or selection being made from a pool), it is worth noting that the researchers worked with each participant over an extended period of time (prolonged engagement), focused on investigating and gathering identifiable, as well as documentable, aspects of the participants’ ICT understandings and practices (persistent observation), and employed analysis techniques that incorporated peer debriefing, member checking, and fair presentation of assertions (Guba & Lincoln, 1989 ).

The aim was to unlock and identify views of reality held by the participants. The empirical evidence was used to help develop commentary and critique of the phenomenon which was the focus of the study (i.e., ICT use), including what the phenomenon is and how it occurs/is enacted/revealed in a particular context (viz., in doctoral research). This was, therefore, a different kind of study from one that might commence with a hypothesis, which would be concerned more with objectivity, explanation and testable propositions. In short, the methods employed in the current study fitted the intention to solve a “puzzle” about a phenomenon in relation to a particular context.

As this study involved human participants, ethical approval was gained through the institutional processes. This approval (University of Otago Human Ethics Committee reference number D17/414 and Victoria University of Wellington, Ethics Committee reference number 0000023415) enabled data collection methods described in the previous section to be carried out for any doctoral students and supervisors who volunteered to participate in this study. Ethical consent, use and care of the data as well as the ethical treatment of students and staff as participants were integral to the research design, planning and implementation of the whole study.

Findings and discussion

The four assertions are now presented. Each assertion is described and quotations from the interview/discussions along with examples of drawings from the student participants are used to illustrate aspects of each assertion.

Assertion 1: ICT are impartial tools; it does not matter how ICT are used, because the endpoint, that is, thesis completion, is the justification. ICT and people are separate and separated entities.

Students talked about how they worked on their thesis document and on the process of the study they were undertaking. Comments focused on various ICT being used and often on skills needed in order to use them. Some students expressed the view that ICT were tools, separate from the project and the person involved, to be used to achieve an endpoint. For example,

So long as it's formatted – it shouldn't matter - that's their [editors’] responsibility, not mine.
There’s probably a bit more about Zoom [web conferencing application] I could learn but again for me unless it’s a problem, I’m not going to go looking for it… not just for the sake of it at the moment.

Motivation to achieve an outcome was a focus of comments that support this assertion. For many participants, the aim to complete the study and write a thesis was, naturally, a large driver for how they were managing their study. Time was precious, and they would do what they had to do to reach their goal. To be motivated to learn about a new ICT, there needed to be a purpose that sharply focussed on achieving that end.

If the technologies are suddenly not available] I’m happy to sit down with a typewriter and learn it… If I’m not driven, I won’t bother.

This focus is illustrated in Fig.  1 . The drawing shows clearly identified components that make up major elements within the stages of producing the research for the thesis. ICT are listed in relation to those components.

figure 1

ICT and people are separate and separated entities

Supervisors too, tended to focus on thesis production rather than on the process of producing a thesis that includes the use of ICT (i.e., as opposed to their very clear and explicit focus on the research process). An example illustrating this is:

Generally, people think the standard of the people getting or earning a PhD is that this person should be an independent researcher. [But no] After all, we only examine a particular thesis [and] there are lots of inputs from supports and supervision from supervisors.

In summary, this assertion focusses strongly on the experience of doctoral study being about getting the project done within a research journey that gives minimal regard to the affordances of ICT. ICT are framed as necessary but also fraught, especially due to the effort and time that draw attention away from the primary goal.

Assertion 2: ICT are tools or mechanisms that prompt active thought on practices with respect to planning and managing thesis writing and project execution. ICT and individuals work alongside each other.

Views that expressed notions of there being a close interactive relationship between students and ICT came through in several of the discussions with the participants. The focus on achieving goals and endpoints was strong, but the expression of how to achieve those goals, capitalising upon the affordances that ICT present, was different from the way views were expressed in relation to Assertion 1.

On a simple level, this student describes the checking he did when weighing up the merits of a piece of software to meet his needs.

I normally do a trial version… have a play with it. And if I think they are useful then I might try it on a project. And if then I feel it’s definitely worth investing… then I’ll go buy it.

Others simply liked to explore, to see whether there was potential in any ICT they encountered, as in,

Sometimes I just like playing with stuff to see what they can do and then if they tick my boxes then I keep them and if they don't, I move on. So it's more kind of ‘search and discover’ than kind of looking for something, you know.

Describing a deeper level of activity, a degree of critique and active reflection were indicated by another student when he said,

…we tried an electronic version of putting together a programme for a New Zealand conference and I was surprised how long it took us. Whereas in the past I’ve worked with [colleagues] and we’ve just moved pieces of paper around on the floor for abstracts and we were done really quickly.

These sentiments are well-captured in Fig.  2 . Here, the focus is on experimenting with ICT rather than the research process. The process of working things out to suit the individual is foregrounded.

figure 2

ICT and individuals work alongside each other

Whereas Assertion 1-type expressions presented effort in a generally negative light, Assertion 2-type expressions couched effort as an assumed part of learning something new. There was a sense expressed in comments that there will be a way to manage the “problem” to be solved, which then generated the necessary motivation to engage effort. For example,

You just know what you know when you start off; when you're unsure about what you need to do. There's a bit of a barrier in front of you. It feels a bit intimidating and overwhelming, and then you get into it and it just works. And you just kind of put all the pieces together and get something out at the end.

There was a sense that supervisors’ perspectives of ICT might support this assertion too. For instance,

[ICT are] integral to everything now – there's no such thing as doing it without [them] anymore – these are the tools with which we do all the things we do.

In summary, this assertion captures the views of students who engage actively in making decisions about which, how and why they incorporate ICT into doctoral research practices.

Assertion 3: Knowing about ICT is only part of the thinking; what is more important is getting the “flow” right. ICT and the individual are in a complementary partnership.

Perhaps prompted by the nature of the drawing task, which was to illustrate how ICT fitted within the whole process of doctoral study, several students described the challenges to bringing everything together into one process made up of many parts, sections and subsections. One participant focussed on her “workflow” in order to manage the multiple documents, tasks and schedule involved in her doctoral research journey.

What systems do I use, what's my workflow? So, I actually spent some weeks looking at … ideas from other PhD students about their workflows and how they manage it.

Similar to Assertion 2-type comments, ‘getting one’s flow right’ involved exploration and an amount of reflective decision-making. For example,

So I did a play around with that [ICT] and found it was quite useful … So I’m trying to be quite disciplined about when I’ve got a document, entering it at the time, reading an article, throw in heaps of tags rather than not …And I simply keep a note, cross referencing to the actual articles. I like to have the articles and for some key ones I like to make a note. So, if it’s a seminal paper that I know I’ll be referring back to.

Thus, students talked about how hard they worked to set up routines and processes to enable them to manage time and their research projects. As in the above excerpts, they referred to categorising documents, searching for resources, undertaking analysis, managing data, and producing the thesis itself.

In working out one’s system or flow, this student highlighted the need to know about the affordances of ICT and how others had made use of them.

…you do need to know a bit about each of the individual … capabilities of the different systems to know what's even possible… but alongside that you're kind of reading other people's ideas of how they did it, and you think that bit might work for me oh, but that bit won't… so then you can kind of mix and match a bit.

The drawing in Fig.  3 highlights the “flow”. Absent of all words, this illustration draws attention to the movement of ideas, thoughts, processes and actions, from a number of different points but all ultimately converging or contributing to the one path.

figure 3

ICT and the individual are in a complementary partnership

There was a hint that at least one of the supervisors saw the need for a workflow in this same vein: “So long as [the students are] happy with what they’re using – they should use ‘a’ system,”

In summary, this assertion highlights that what is important with respect to ICT and the doctoral process is how it all comes together within one’s flow. That flow incorporates active effort on the part of the individual in finding ICT and practices that suit the individual’s approaches as well as their project demands.

Assertion 4: ICT are not neutral; there is a two-way interaction between technologies as artefacts and the use of them to achieve ends. ICT and the person are intricately linked through multiple active, practical, goal-oriented connections.

This assertion draws attention to the nature of technology as a phenomenon; that technology is not an impartial tool that has no influence on the way humans act and react. This assertion presents ICT as an artefact of technological design activity; as a source of improving efforts to achieve an endpoint; but also as an influencer and even determiner of the thinking and practices of the person interacting with the ICT (e.g., Baird, 2002 ).

On what could be argued a superficial level, this student noted some active connection between the person and the software application, beyond simple use, when he commented:

I think it goes both ways, the product has to be intuitive and you’ve got to have a little bit of inclination to try out different things.

Others went beyond the superficial to describe more in-depth relationships between themselves and the ICT they were using. When discussing her use of software to help her manage her project and her time, this student talked about how the ICT she was using supported and enhanced her thinking.

Using the application] really changed the way I started to think about [my research]. I started to be less worried about the big overwhelming long term stuff that was out there and just think, okay, this week, what am I going to do this week, how am I going to be really efficient and targeted, and I think that really helped me.

Following is another example of how ICT helped solve a problem while simultaneously having an influence on behaviour; in this instance with organising notes, ideas and documents.

“… and it's the same with my note-taking because [the programme] that I use has a similar sort of functionality that it can search text that you've written but also search notes and PDF docs and those kind of things, so it means that when you've had a random thought and put it somewhere you can find it again. Which is huge for me, so I guess that … the power of the search engine is probably the thing that drove me to become paperless, so it helps me to organize myself much better. … filing paper is a skill that I have not mastered whereas filing digital stuff is not as important because you can always just find it again.

Figure  4 illustrates this intricately intertwined interactivity among person, purpose, project, ICT and outcomes.

figure 4

ICT and the person are intricately linked through multiple active, practical, goal-oriented connections

While we did not find strong evidence for supervisors’ thoughts about this integrated and embedded notion of ICT, one supervisor did note “I could probably build them into my system, but I just never have”.

In summary, Assertion 4 highlights the integral role that ICT can be perceived to play in doctoral research processes. This is more than the working-alongside connection illustrated by Assertion 2 and the complementary partnership characterised by Assertion 3.

Assertions 1 and 2 highlight that individuals hold assumptions about, and have expectations of, ICT use; and those expectations and assumptions influence and determine their judgements about ICT and their use of ICT. The assertions point to connections between perceptions and practices. Assertion 1 describes a perception that ICT are separate from the person and the task-at-hand, while Assertion 2 presents a perception in which the person and the ICT are working alongside each other in harmony or at least in a loose partnership. Both assertions focus on endpoints, but the endpoints vary according to the perception of where ICT fit into the journey towards their achievement. For Assertion 1-type expressions, there is one major endpoint. For Assertion 2-type expressions, there are multiple, shorter-term endpoints that build towards achieving the major goal of completing the thesis.

Building on Assertions 1 and 2 are Assertions 3 and 4, which highlight what may be argued as more complex levels of perceiving and working with ICT. Both assertions give some focus to inter-connections, where people and ICT partner or collaborate. Assertion 3 depICT a perception that is about complementarity; where ICT affordances are seen as worthwhile when they support and enhance the work of the individual in ways that make sense to that individual. Assertion 4 builds on Assertion 3 by bringing to light the relationship in which the person alters and changes thinking or practices because of the influence that ICT affordances can have. No evidence was found to support a possible additional claim that as well as ICT causing individuals to alter and modify thinking and behaviours due to their existence, ICT, in turn, are perceived to be able to alter their ways of responding to the people who use them. This is not out of the realms of possibility of course, with ICT increasingly being designed and built to be able to respond to users’ needs.

It is also worth mentioning that the ‘types’ of ICT and the extent of their use by the participants was not the focus of this study. However, the findings suggested that the participants’ ICT use, regardless of their PhD phase and broad discipline background, might have reflected their inability to realise the advantages of learning how to use current ICT-related devices, tools, and applications to enhance the process of undertaking their doctoral research. The evidence that emerged in this study indicated that participants’ perspectives of ICT determined their adoption practices in general (i.e., as illustrated through the four assertions). The boarder higher education context including the specific institution and supervisors, might have neglected the explicit support of PhD students’ ICT capability development in this process.

In addition, while there is no similar study being found thus far, the insights gained from this study are actually similar to the findings in the research studies into the role of ICT in undergraduate education (Butson & Sim, 2013 ; Sim & Butson, 2013 , 2014 ). Results in those studies, demonstrated students’ low levels of ICT use, may be an indication that digital devices and digital tools do not play a significant role in daily study practices. Researchers such as Esposito, Sangrà & Maina ( 2013 ) also show that the PhD students’ learning to become researchers in the digital age is much more complex than is often suggested (e.g., the skills of Prenksy ( 2001 ) “digital natives”). Becoming a researcher involves developing a complex set of knowledge, intellectual abilities, techniques and professional standards. The Researcher Development Framework (Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC), 2010 ) illustrates one useful attempt at mapping out that complexity. It could be that both students’ and supervisors’ adoption of ICT for academic purposes has been overshadowed or taken for granted as a consequence of their advanced academic level.

Implications

The four assertions can be used to provide some guidance to those supporting and participating in doctoral research processes. Students and supervisors do possess a vast array of skills, knowledge and abilities. They have a variety of experiences as well as varying reasons and levels of motivation. Their skills and capacity to make use of ICT to support their roles in the research process vary as well. The assertions that have emerged from this study will inform the planning for support activities to enhance supervisors’ and students’ professional development, whatever their background and needs.

Depending on the perceptions held about ICT and the relationship between ICT and the person in the context of the task and its goals (i.e., the doctoral study) within the doctoral research process as depicted in the four assertions, ICT tend to be seen as a challenge, a change or an opportunity. In the context of ICT use, doctoral students and supervisors may:

assume that if they do not already know how to use something it is not worth learning or exploring as that learning brings with it risk to quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the doctoral research process; and/or.

assume that students will work out the place that ICT play within the research process for themselves.

The findings of this study suggest the need to.

challenge existing ICT knowledge and skill, and to support acceptance of the need to change practices;

teach technological thinking, to enable choice and decision making about ICT;

embed ICT into practices in meaningful ways to suit individual and project needs;

highlight (explicit) responsibilities about thinking and planning skills with respect to making the best use of ICT, to ensure efficiency and effectiveness;

realise that the research process is as much about how it happens as what happens;

recast assumptions about the doctoral research process to embed ICT within it;

reflect on the meaning of effectiveness and efficiency in the context of doctoral research; and the effects of ICT in supporting and facilitating them;

understand that there is a link among ICT thinking and practice: using ICT can enhance or raise ideas that were never thought of before.

This study explored perceptions of doctoral supervisors and students of the role and place of ICT in supervision and study. It generated four assertions characterising those perceptions the relationships among people, ICT and the task-at-hand, that is, the supervised research process. As Castañeda and Selwyn ( 2018 ) argue, it is important that we have an active commitment to ‘think otherwise’ about how ICT might be better implemented across higher education settings” (p. 8). We should not assume that ICT are not important enough to let them fade into the background as they become normalised, without questioning the interrelationships that are happening between the person and the ICT. In the doctoral research setting, as one example of a higher education context, ICT do have a role to play. They cannot and should not be ignored. But seeing ICT in relationship to the person and to the setting is essential.

This project has provided insights into the doctoral students and supervisors’ perceptions of the roles played by ICT during doctoral research process. There are complex human factors, including assumptions, attitudes and conceptions about academic practices, influencing and determining perspectives as well as how ICT are incorporated into doctoral research process, behaviours and practices. Just as Kandiko and Kinchin ( 2012 ) argue that supervision cannot be looked at in the absence of the research work in which it occurs, we argue that doctoral students’ understanding and use of ICT cannot be considered independently of their research work; and that work includes relationships with their project, their supervisors, within the context of the institution, and with the ICT they do and could engage with.

Directly associated with the outcomes of this study, future studies and further exploration could focus on:

ICT use by larger and more diverse groups of doctoral students from a range of fields within discipline areas at institutions outside New Zealand;

building on the findings in order to determine how intensity of ICT use might change for students across the course of their candidature, and in relation to the nature of their research projects;

the role of supervisors, academic departments, and institutions in supporting and enhancing students’ practices and beliefs about ICT in research processes;

the ways in which supervisors engage ICT in their daily academic practices, with a view to exploring how, or if, their ICT use is an influence on PhD students’ beliefs and behaviours in using ICT.

Studying ICT in these directions could offer fresh perspectives and opportunities to think differently and reveal an active way of understanding the role of ICT in doctoral education.

Availability of data and materials

These are not available for open access as their access is bound by the ethical agreement approved by the two institutions and made with the participants in the study.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the students and supervisors who shared their reflections and willingly engaged with us in this project.

We acknowledge the support of Ako Aotearoa, The National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, New Zealand through its Regional Hub Project Fund (RHPF), and the support of our institutions, University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington.

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The role of information communication technologies as a moderator of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing in improving the quality of healthcare services

Roles Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Methodology, Validation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Roles Conceptualization, Data curation, Investigation, Project administration, Resources, Writing – review & editing

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliation Faculty of Economics, University of Montenegro, Podgorica, Montenegro

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Roles Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Methodology, Software, Validation, Writing – original draft

Roles Supervision, Writing – review & editing

Roles Funding acquisition, Project administration, Supervision, Writing – review & editing

  • Simon Colnar, 
  • Ivan Radević, 
  • Nikola Martinović, 
  • Anđelko Lojpur, 
  • Vlado Dimovski

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  • Published: August 3, 2022
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346
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Fig 1

This study examines the role of knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and information communication technologies, which are organizational factors that influence the quality of healthcare services. In today’s knowledge-intensive environment, understanding and gaining in-depth knowledge on how to improve the quality of healthcare services is gaining in importance and recognition. Quantitative data collected in 2019 with 151 respondents employed in healthcare organizations was used. Running a series of hierarchical linear regression models, we found a significant positive relationship between knowledge creation and quality of healthcare services, and a significant positive relationship between knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services. Empirical data additionally provides support for information communication technologies that act as a moderator both in the relationship between knowledge creation and knowledge sharing with quality of healthcare services. With our data, we provide empirical backing for the impact of knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and information communication technologies on the quality of healthcare services that are provided by Montenegrin healthcare organizations. Our paper offers theoretical and practical implications derived from our research study.

Citation: Colnar S, Radević I, Martinović N, Lojpur A, Dimovski V (2022) The role of information communication technologies as a moderator of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing in improving the quality of healthcare services. PLoS ONE 17(8): e0272346. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346

Editor: Dragan Pamucar, University of Belgrade Faculty of Organisational Sciences: Univerzitet u Beogradu Fakultet organizacionih nauka, SERBIA

Received: August 2, 2021; Accepted: July 18, 2022; Published: August 3, 2022

Copyright: © 2022 COLNAR et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Funding: This work was supported by the Slovenian Research Agency, Program P5-0364 – The Impact of Corporate Governance, Organizational Learning, and Knowledge Management on Modern Organization. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

1. Introduction

Information and communication technologies are identified as one of the crucial enablers of knowledge management practices and most relevant and contemporary literature suggests that appropriate technology solutions within organizations are of significant importance in relation to successful knowledge management initiatives [ 1 ]. In today’s knowledge intensive world of work [ 2 ], the concept of knowledge management is becoming increasingly important as a tool that may be vital to a higher level of organizational effectiveness. Ongoing growing importance of information communication technologies has already changed traditional forms of organizational functioning, which consequently determined the concept of knowledge management to become integral as a tool for achieving higher levels of organizational effectiveness [ 3 ]. This change in terms of the approach paradigm, emphasizes even more the role of knowledge as a determining factor of improved organizational performance [ 4 ]. In essence, this concept implies a process of efficient and effective learning, through research, exploitation and sharing of human knowledge, with a support of adequate technological advancements [ 5 ]. Previous research posits the concept of knowledge management as a determinant of organizational success [ 6 ], improved service quality [ 7 ] and as a tool that enables organizations to make internal improvements [ 8 , 9 ].

Nowadays, the field of healthcare services is continuously exposed to pressures from different stakeholders to improve the quality of its services [ 10 ]. Moreover, researchers Parand et al. [ 11 ] suggest that a number of challenges related to quality of healthcare services remain unsolved and require the attention of both academics and practitioners. Therefore, it becomes crucial to gain in-depth knowledge and understanding regarding healthcare service quality dimensions and define actions that could help healthcare services providers with improving their overall organizational effectiveness [ 12 ]. There is a wide range of industries, where the application of knowledge management can result in positive improvements of organizational performance, including healthcare services, where the knowledge of employees represents the core of providing care for patients. Moreover, an adequate knowledge management process results in the adoption of quality decisions by healthcare professionals, and in better outcomes for patients [ 13 ]. In addition, the adequate knowledge management process in healthcare organizations is also vital for raising the level of healthcare services in practice [ 14 ]. With our paper, we aim to respond to calls of researchers to enhance the knowledge regarding the concept of quality of healthcare services [ 15 ] and to gain additional understanding of knowledge management as applied in the healthcare environment [ 16 ].

In current state-of-the-art research there is a gap in considering the impact of specific organizational factors such as knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and information communication technologies on the quality of healthcare services. Additional insight is of paramount importance as it enables healthcare services providers to gain knowledge about potential activities and solutions for improving the quality of healthcare services [ 11 ]. As existing theory seems to be difficult to apply within the healthcare environment, we focus within the scope of our paper on improving the understanding and gaining further knowledge of the construct of knowledge creation, where researchers Boon Sin et al. [ 17 ] claim that knowledge creation leads to improved organizational performance, which applies also to public sector organizations, including healthcare institutions. In a similar vein, we intend to strengthen previous research by providing further insight into the impact of knowledge sharing on achieving higher levels of organizational performance [ 18 ], which is in this paper explored as the quality of healthcare services. Previous research validates the positive relationship between information communication technologies and enhanced organizational performance [ 19 ], where we aim to provide additional insight into information communication technologies and their impact on improving the quality of healthcare services.

The purpose of our paper is to add to contemporary research, by theoretically proposing a conceptual model and empirically testing the impact of organizational factors that influence knowledge management activities within the healthcare sector as part of the ongoing attempts to enhance the quality of healthcare services [ 20 ]. We investigate the relationship between knowledge creation and quality of healthcare services and knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services. With our research, we are able to add to previous theoretical findings within the context of the knowledge management discipline that posit that individual knowledge management activities are typically in a positive relationship with organizational performance [ 21 ]. In a similar vein, we add to contemporary knowledge management theory that recognizes knowledge as a critical resource for the functioning of organizations [ 22 ], including healthcare organizations as their performance is being inextricably tied to efficient use of knowledge [ 23 ]. In addition, we explored for the potential moderating effect of information communication technologies on the aforementioned proposed relationships. We utilized a quantitative analysis of collected data from healthcare employees to test our hypotheses in healthcare institutions in Montenegro. As we obtained data for all our variables in a one-time single survey, we acknowledge that common method bias might be a methodological issue in our study. With our paper, we aim to contribute towards advancing the body of literature of quality of healthcare services and knowledge management in the context of healthcare organizations [ 24 ], where currently a gap in knowledge exists [ 15 , 25 ]. Moreover, our research offers theoretical guidance to healthcare employees that rely on information-communication technologies to cope with a continuously increasing need to manage knowledge [ 26 ] and extends the research on success determinants of knowledge management within the healthcare setting. As such, our research is one of the few studies that explore the effects of organizational factors on knowledge management initiatives in healthcare organizations as suggested by Ali et al. [ 27 ]. Similarly, our study is following the proposition of Siong et al. [ 28 ] that the role of knowledge and knowledge management is attracting increased attention from scholars and practitioners as an effort to achieve organizational excellence.

Following our overarching theory of the knowledge-based view of the organization [ 29 – 31 ], we emphasize the important role of knowledge in healthcare organizations as we propose that knowledge management is one of the primary sources that influence the functioning of such organizations and subsequently has the potential to increase the quality of healthcare services that are offered to users in practice. Previous research within the knowledge-based view of the organization [ 29 , 32 ] suggests that the presence and right utilization of knowledge has the potential to lead to higher levels of organizational performance [ 33 ]. Similarly, contemporary research of Martin and Javalgi [ 34 ] posits that the attainment and deployment of knowledge is integral for organizational performance. In addition, we aim to empirically clarify the relationship between organizational factors that impact knowledge management and its relationship with organizational performance [ 35 ].

In line with McIver and Lepisto [ 21 ], our study provides further insight into the knowledge management discipline aspect that is focused on findings that enable organizations to achieve competitive advantage in practice by managing and utilizing what they know or even what they will need to know. Such a state is particularly useful in the contemporary knowledge intensive economy. Another learning outcome for practitioners might be that knowledge-based organizations should not only blindly apply knowledge management related initiatives as they need to align them with activities on how to motivate, support and offer relevant knowledge to individual employees for knowledge initiatives to be successful. In such a situation, the role of managers is integral as they need to motivate their employees to be engaged and utilize available resources to improve their individual and organizational performance [ 36 ]. As healthcare can be considered a practice-based profession, the goal of knowledge management in practice would be aimed to add value to services and to increase social wellbeing, societal effectiveness and general welfare [ 37 , 38 ].

2. Literature review

Healthcare systems, as well as micro-level health facilities, generally depend on data and information collected by patients, medical doctors, or obtained from scientific studies [ 39 , 40 ]. In this context, management of information, knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, are key areas in the healthcare system. An improved knowledge management system contributes to better decisions of healthcare professionals and results in better treatment outcomes as a result of the healthcare provided [ 27 ]. The extent to which knowledge creation and knowledge sharing contribute to better treatment outcomes is one of the key information that we seek to obtain.

Information-communication technology systems with their support to knowledge management processes positively influence the competitiveness of organizations [ 1 ]. As internet technology enables rapid search, access, exchange and retrieval of information it is deemed as suitable for collaboration and knowledge exchange between organizational members [ 41 ]. Moreover, such systems typically support knowledge management practices as they facilitate knowledge acquisition and creation, knowledge dissemination, knowledge conversion and knowledge utilization [ 42 , 43 ]. Typically, technology is viewed an essential component and integral facilitator in any knowledge management initiative [ 44 ]. With appropriate training and education for employees, such solutions have become crucial to organizations as they carry out many tasks related to knowledge management [ 45 ].

Previous research of Lopez-Nicolas and Soto-Acosta [ 46 ] supports a significant positive impact of having an appropriate information-communication technology infrastructure on knowledge creation. In a similar vein, Sambamurthy and Subramani [ 47 ] have highlighted the critical role of information-communication technologies in shaping organizational efforts for knowledge creation. In addition, researchers Davenport and Prusak [ 48 ] and Roberts [ 49 ] posit that information-communication technology is a crucial aspect of knowledge creation due to the fact that such technologies facilitate speedy collection, storage and exchange of knowledge. While knowledge creation can be conducted without the support of information-communication technologies, such technology allows knowledge creation to be performed in a more effective manner [ 50 ]. As state-of-the-art research supports the fact that information-communication technologies are an important enabler of the knowledge creation process, such technology must be designed an utilized in a manner that it is aligned with other organizational resources, with a particular emphasis on human resources, namely employees [ 51 ].

In previous research, information-communication technology was identified as an organizational factor that influences knowledge sharing at individual and team level [ 52 ]. In contemporary research, information-communication technology has been proposed as one of the crucial enablers of knowledge sharing [ 53 ]. Information-communication technology can also have a potentially significant influence on the knowledge sharing activity [ 54 ] as it provides the infrastructure that enables the establishment, maintenance, and intensification of relationships within and among teams [ 55 ]. Contemporary information-communication technology systems that include also social networks can help employees to share their knowledge through common platforms and enable electronic storage of information and knowledge. Furthermore, information-communication technology systems can facilitate collaboration between employees and teams, and enrich their communication through various modern tools [ 44 ]. Moreover, information-communication technology can accelerate access to information and knowledge that is stored in databases to enhance the knowledge sharing process in organizations. Such technology can support knowledge sharing by enabling effective communication channels and tools and by identifying the source of information or knowledge [ 52 ]. In a similar vein, Riege [ 56 ] is of the opinion that information-communication technology enables instant access to large amounts of information and knowledge to facilitate long-distance collaboration and knowledge sharing between employees and organizations.

2.1. Knowledge creation and quality of healthcare services

Knowledge creation is a continuous process that implies ongoing interaction between individuals and groups at the organizational level [ 57 – 59 ]. Moreover, knowledge creation as a process consists of four stages: socialization, externalization, combination, and internalisation [ 60 ]. Creation of new knowledge can similarly be the basic source of competitive advantage over longer periods of time [ 61 ] and is useful for any organization, whether public or private. Creating a comprehensive system that enhances the process of creating new knowledge, helps the organization achieve its strategic goals [ 30 ]. Knowledge creation is an important aspect of development and implementation of high-quality services and products [ 62 ]. As such it is perhaps even the most crucial aspect in the complex environment of healthcare, where evidence typically gained from empirical research supports the efficiency of utilizing limited available resources [ 63 ]. Moreover, knowledge creation is of the primary activities of knowledge intensive organizations [ 64 ], including healthcare organizations. Healthcare organizations heavily rely on clinical knowledge for delivering services in practice [ 65 ]. Therefore, healthcare employees who create and sharing clinical knowledge have a paramount role in knowledge management activities in healthcare organizations [ 66 , 67 ]. In addition, appropriately implementing knowledge creation in practice is especially complicated in the healthcare environment that is often characterized by evidence-based practice, where making decisions on how to provide or improve healthcare is related to integrating best available research evidence with a combination of clinical expertise and patient values, knowledge and preferences [ 68 ]. In the area of healthcare services, the strategic goal is higher quality of services provided, through a combination of efforts of healthcare professionals and direct interaction with patients [ 69 ]. Consensus on health service quality indicators has not yet been reached in the literature [ 70 ], and it is recommended that each institutions should develop their own system of indicators. However, the quality of health care is increasingly observed through reports on the performance of health systems in different countries, ie. through a system of organizational performance [ 71 , 72 ]. Definitions of quality of health care common to all stakeholders imply effective care that contributes to patient satisfaction [ 73 ]. Knowledge creation and its inter-organizational dissemination, through the use of an adequate network concept [ 74 ] and the necessary data cataloguing, contributes to positive repercussions on the organizational performance of healthcare providers. Since knowledge creation is a continuous process, its constant improvement is vital for the benefit of all stakeholders. Knowledge creation can have a significant positive impact on professional development of employees in the environment of healthcare institutions [ 75 ]. This study extends previous research that argues that the creation of knowledge is a crucial aspect of providing quality services in healthcare practice [ 76 ]. In a similar vein, our study extends existing research on knowledge creation as the final outcome of the process that enhances the quality and quantity of healthcare organization’s knowledge base [ 77 ], which subsequently influences the quality of services that are provided in practice to users. In addition, modern development of technology is a significant accelerator of the process of knowledge creation at the organizational level [ 78 , 79 ]. Consequently, this combination of the healthcare system and information communication technologies has changed the way healthcare is provided and it contributed to greater benefits for patients [ 80 ]. In spite of the existence of solid scientific research, aimed at analysing the relationship between the concept of knowledge creation and organizational performance [ 81 ], with the influence of information communication technologies as a newly associated scalar value [ 82 ], the subject area has not been analysed adequately within the concept of quality of healthcare services in the healthcare system of Montenegro. Moreover, our research answers the calls of research to provide suggestions on how can healthcare organizations can effectively deal with complex challenges such as knowledge creation for the successful and quality functioning of the healthcare system as a whole [ 77 ]. This paper, based on empirical research, aims to close this gap. In view of this, our first hypothesis is:

  • Hypothesis 1 : Knowledge creation is positively related to the quality of healthcare services

2.2. Knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services

Knowledge sharing in organizations is defined as the process through which individuals, groups, departments or the whole organization are affected by the experience and knowledge of another [ 83 ]. Knowledge sharing within healthcare organizations is recognized as one of the main indicators of quality, innovation, competitiveness, growth and development of the organization. Healthcare can be considered as a patient-centered environment, where healthcare professionals have to continuously cooperate with experts from several fields such as nurses, social workers and many others. In such a state, the contemporary and relevant knowledge has to be effectively management and shared among healthcare employees to improve the quality of services. Therefore, efficient knowledge sharing activities are crucial for healthcare organizations [ 84 ]. Authors Shahmoradi et al. [ 14 ] highlight that knowledge sharing plays a particularly important role in knowledge management activities within the evidence-based practice that is common within the healthcare setting. As healthcare organizations have a direct impact on people’s quality of life and wellbeing, the effectiveness of knowledge sharing is even more important in organizations that function in such a delicate environment [ 85 ]. Crass and Peters [ 86 ] further highlight the complexity of knowledge in healthcare as they posit that the majority of innovations and the delivery of services are reliant on the skills and know-how of employees in healthcare organizations. The importance of the impact of knowledge sharing on the quality of healthcare services has caused the recent growth of interest in the area [ 87 ]. Existing studies similarly identified quality information exchange as one of the key indicators of quality of services within healthcare organizations in addition to the competences of healthcare professionals [ 88 – 90 ]. Moreover, cross-national studies have indicated the importance of organizational culture as a component that influences the willingness of health professionals to be active participants in the process of knowledge sharing [ 91 ]. A system that is too centralized negatively affects the process of knowledge sharing at the organizational level [ 92 ], so it is necessary to find the right balance also in this aspect. The existence of an optimal level of theoretical knowledge and practical skills and competences of healthcare professionals are key indicators of successful knowledge sharing among healthcare professionals [ 91 ]. Improving the quality of healthcare services is ever more based on the improvement of both knowledge creation and knowledge sharing [ 93 ]. In addition, globally there is a growing social, political and social interest in the exchange of knowledge and experience in the context of improving healthcare, while emphasizing the key role of scientific community and medical staff in the process of generating new value and new knowledge [ 94 ]. With our study, we add to previous research that argues that healthcare teams frequently consist of interdisciplinary members that need to transfer knowledge to one another to be able to increase existing knowledge and create new knowledge and adequate healthcare solutions, which in practice improves the quality of services that are provided [ 95 ]. Historically, knowledge transfer in the healthcare environment was hindered due to numerous reasons. In the future, academics and practitioners are aiming to find improvements in knowledge sharing activities among healthcare professional as it can represent a tool to ultimately improve the quality of healthcare services [ 96 ]. Therefore, based on previous research, our paper further deepens the analysis of the subject area through the study of knowledge sharing and the quality of healthcare services within the Montenegrin healthcare system. The second hypothesis arises from the above:

  • Hypothesis 2 : Knowledge sharing is positively related to the quality of healthcare services

2.3. Information communication technologies and quality of healthcare services

Information communication technologies, through the use of computers, the Internet, mobile devices and various interactive platforms, significantly shape the functioning of modern organizations, their systems, processes and communication [ 97 ]. Advanced information communication technologies help the process of knowledge creation through a number of different functionalities such as analysis and presentation, data storage and management, networking and communication, as well as interaction and collaboration [ 79 , 98 – 100 ]. Creating new knowledge and innovation has become crucial in the process of implementing information communication technologies in the regular practice of healthcare institutions [ 101 ]. The creation of information and creation of new knowledge is the area where information communication technologies, may contribute to a higher quality of healthcare services [ 102 ]. Nowadays, the ability to effectively access needed information and to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information is becoming an ever important skill for professionals and organizations [ 103 ]. In this context, Soto-Acosta and Cegarra-Navarro [ 45 ] emphasize the role of information communication technologies in the exploitation and management of existing knowledge. The ability of individuals, professionals and organizations to have access to and later to disseminate health related information in today’s electronic society emphasizes the necessity of adopting information communication technologies [ 104 ] within the healthcare environment. Additionally, this possibility for creating new knowledge, through information communication technologies, enables the application of the concept " patient-centered care ", which implies directly and positively a higher quality of services provided [ 105 ]. Andreeva and Kianto [ 1 ] also point to the specific role of information communication solutions at the level of organizational knowledge, organizational performance, and organizational competitiveness. Our study adds to existing state-of-the-art literature that provides insight into the fast growing field of information-communication technologies that support the successful functioning of the healthcare sector with the provision of safe, efficient, high-quality, and information-communication technology assisted healthcare services. The provision of such services is typically reliant on an adequate workforce, financial resources and the knowledge and know-how on how to utilize services [ 106 ]. Moreover, our research builds the body of literature that promotes the positive impact of information-communication technology adoption on the safety, efficiency and quality of services in healthcare organizations [ 107 ] within the specific context of the Montenegro healthcare environment. In this paper, we tested the concept of improving the quality of healthcare services, through the moderating effect of information communication technologies, defining the third hypothesis as follows:

  • Hypothesis 3 : Information communication technologies moderate the positive relationship between knowledge creation and quality of healthcare services

In addition to knowledge creation, knowledge sharing is an area where information communication technologies contribute to the sharing of good practice in healthcare. Information communication technology platforms, in various forms and shapes, enable the knowledge sharing among healthcare professionals [ 85 ]. The appropriate utilization of information communication technologies contributes to faster and better inter-organizational knowledge sharing, all to the benefit of patients as end users [ 108 ]. The application of various tools and applications enables a quicker transfer of knowledge both between service providers and between providers and users of healthcare services, thus raising awareness of the importance of healthcare [ 109 ]. This can play a very important role also in providing remote healthcare, through the use of technology and rapid exchange of information related to the medical state of patients, implementation of adequate diagnostics, treatments and disease remediation [ 110 ]. With our paper, we build on the notion that technological factors as for example information-communication infrastructure, technological skills, knowledge management tools and availability of technological facilities partially define the success of such interventions within the healthcare environment. Moreover, such technological factors are becoming more and more important in the successful provision of high-quality healthcare services in practice [ 111 ]. Moreover, with our research we aim to close the gap of understanding on how information-communication technology can be used to promote the quality of services provided for patients [ 112 ]. In a similar vein, we add to the body of literature that emphasizes the connection between information-communication technology and quality of healthcare services, which was a field that was partially neglected in the past due to an emphasis on technological interventions that offer mainly financial benefits [ 113 ]. We tested empirically the understanding of the moderating effect of information communication technologies in the relationship between knowledge transfer and quality of healthcare services, by setting the following hypothesis:

  • Hypothesis 4 : Information communication technologies moderate the positive relationship between knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services

We present our conceptual model with the above mentioned hypotheses in Fig 1 .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346.g001

3. Methodological approach

3.1. data collection procedure and measurement.

The process of collecting primary data involved the use of a questionnaire to understand the process of knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and information communication technologies within healthcare organizations with a special focus on the quality of services provided. The complete process of data collection was done in accordance with ethical rules, norms and strict scientific research protocols valid at the University of Montenegro. To begin the process, we requested the Committee for Ethical Issues at the University of Montenegro’s consent and from competent bodies at the Faculty of Economics and the Ministry of Health of Montenegro. The Committee (for Ethical Issues) at the University of Montenegro declared itself incompetent to give such consent, unlike the Faculty of Economics and the Ministry of Health, which provided their consents in writing. Having completed that step, respondents were contacted to take part in the survey, via e-mail and/or telephone. After the respondents consented to participate in the survey, we agreed on the interview date and time i.e. during the workhours. In our research, participation was entirely voluntary and anonymous. Immediately before the interviews began, the interviewer informed the respondents in detail about the purpose of the study, applied scientific and research protocols, and asked for their explicit consent. Once the interviewers signed the consent in writing, the interviewer began with the data collection from the respondents (note: all respondents are adults, working in the health sector). All consents given in writing and duly signed by respondents were archived in the Faculty Archives Unit following the successful completion of the research under applicable Faculty regulations. Our survey(s) did not include any opportunities to identify the individual responses and link it to the respondents’ identities. A sample of 45 health care institutions in Montenegro was generated by a combination of institutions from public (32) and private sector (13). Subsequently, the sample represents health institutions of primary, secondary and tertiary levels of health care. Besides, the sample included health care institutions from all three regions of the country (center, north and south). Specifically, it includes 18 institutions from the central part, 14 from the northern part and 13 from the southern part of Montenegro.

In the process of selecting an appropriate sample, researchers face certain dilemmas. Namely, random sampling is traditionally considered as the gold standard in order to achieve sample impartiality, which is directly against the background of obtaining reliable estimates [ 114 ]. Yet the trade-off between the desire to randomize the sample on the one hand, and pragmatization on the other, is one of the leading challenges in the decision making process of the subject issue. Constraints on time, resources as well as rising costs, imply that random sample selection is not always a realistic option. Conventional or purposive sampling [ 115 ] is emerging in the field of health care research as one of the solutions to this problem. The justification of this approach is confirmed by existing studies that support the representativeness of the sample defined on the basis of such strategies [ 116 ].

The data were collected in May 2019, and 151 healthcare workers took part in the survey. In order to ensure the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity and the concept of comprehensiveness, information was collected across various organizational levels in healthcare institutions. Accordingly, the sample consists of 45 directors, 45 medical doctors, 45 technicians, and 16 members of the Union of Medical Doctors, which altogether makes a total of 151 individuals whose opinion was taken into account. Just over three-fifths of the sample are women, and the remaining two-fifths are men. When it comes to age structure, respondents aged between 50 and 59 are a dominant portion of the sample (37.5%), followed by respondents aged 30 and 39 (24.3%), and respondents aged 40 and 49 (20.1%).

Majority of healthcare workers, 94.7%, have worked in the healthcare system for more than five years, 93.3% have worked for more than five years for their current employer (i.e. medical organization), hence the sample is representative in terms of the respondents’ ability to realistically perceive the processes of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing, information communication technologies and quality of healthcare services in the context of analysed variables of this study.

3.2. Methods

To analyze whether our results might be affected by common method biased, we applied Harman’s one-factor test [ 117 ]. The obtained results indicate that the first factor makes 56.7% of the total variance. This result is slightly above the recommended value threshold (50%) by Podsakoff et al. [ 118 ], suggesting that common method bias might be a limiting factor in the study. The obtained data were imported within the SPSS 25.0 version.

In order to analyse each individual research construct, the authors used measuring instruments that have a high frequency of use and are adequately validated in contemporary scientific research. All measuring instruments meet a predefined set of criteria: they are often cited in research papers published in relevant scientific journals, they are up-to-date in the sense that they are used in the most recent research, and finally, they are well conceptually established in the context of their frequent use by key authors from our research scope [ 7 , 119 – 124 ].

3.2.1. Knowledge creation.

Two item scale was used to determine this construct (α = .90), which is adapted by Downes [ 120 ]. The measurement of this variable was conducted by measuring the degree of agreement of the respondents with the following items: " My organization has mechanisms for creating or acquiring knowledge from different sources such as volunteers , clients , donors or competitors ".

3.2.2. Knowledge sharing.

This construct was observed through the use of eight item scale (a = .93) adapted by Downes [ 120 ], that he used to measure knowledge sharing. The questionnaire involves answering items such as " In my organization , it is easy to identify key experts in certain areas and learn how to get in touch with them ".

3.2.3. Quality of healthcare services.

As with the knowledge sharing analysis, the Downes [ 120 ] scale that consists of 3 items (α = .87) was used. Downes [ 120 ] adapted it to measure the quality of healthcare services. The questionnaire consists of the following items: " Within my organization , we provide higher quality services to our customers " and " All in all , our organization works better ".

3.2.4. Information communication technologies.

A two item scale was used in this case (α =. 67) that was adapted by Downes [ 120 ]. It is based on statements examining whether technical support to employees is always available, as well as whether employees are confident enough to use information communication technologies or avoid using them due to lack of experience. The questionnaire comprises of items such as: “Technical support for information systems is readily available” .

3.2.5. Control variables.

As for control variables, there are two control variables that make an integral part of our research: age and the highest level of education. In research, the decision to include or exclude control variables may have implications for drawing final conclusions based on the research conducted [ 125 ]. Against the background of the individual and existing knowledge management reserach, demographic characteristics, such as age and the highest level of education, may have an impact on the overall level of knowledge management activities in an organization, which is the subject of analysis [ 126 ]. It is important to note that both control variables that are considered control in our research have already been the subject of analyses in researches that covered knowledge management [ 127 ].

To explore the convergent validity of all items utilized to measure constructs in our research we examined standardized factor loadings [ 128 ]. In Table 1 , we report the range of our standardized factor loadings in our measurement model. Standardized factor loadings for all of our four constructs were statistically significant (> .50). One item intended to measure knowledge creation and two items intended to measure quality of healthcare services and information communication technologies did not meet the criteria recommended in the literature and were therefore omitted from the final model. Our final model consists of 15 items utilized to evaluate the existing state of four measured constructs. To test the composite (constructs) reliability we explored the composite reliability index (hereinafter: CRI) and average variance extracted (hereinafter: AVE) [ 129 ]. To fulfill research criteria, we follow the suggested values of Diamantopolous and Sigaw [ 130 ], which are for AVE (.40) and CRI (.60). We present AVE and CRI values for our measured constructs in Table 1 . Numerous fit indices to evaluate the model fit to data at the global level exist [ 131 ].

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346.t001

Fit indices are as follows: CFI = 0.97; chi-square: 104.690; RMSEA = .07; and df = 67 and are satisfactory (without modification indices, the results of the model fit were: CFI = .84, chi-square = 296.722, RMSEA = .14, and df = 84.). Selected descriptive statistics for our measured variables are presented in Table 2 . Respondents on average value quality of healthcare services (4.06) the best in their organization, followed by knowledge sharing (3.90) and knowledge creation (3.71). The construct of information communication technologies received a significantly lower evaluation (2.40). Between our measured variables the correlation coefficients are moderately or strongly positive with ranges between .65 and .88 and moderately or weakly negative with ranges between -.18 and -.28. A significant and positive correlation was evident between knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services (.71; p < 0.01) and knowledge sharing and knowledge creation (.88; p < 0.01). In addition, there was a significant and negative correlation between knowledge sharing and information communication technologies (-.28; p < 0.05). Quality of healthcare services displayed a significant and positive correlation with knowledge creation (.65; p < 0.01) and a significant and negative correlation with information communication technologies. In the scope of our research, knowledge creation had a significant and negative correlation with information communication technologies (-.25; p < 0.01). Between our two control variables there is no significant correlation.

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346.t002

Hypothesis 1 (H1) explored the direct relationship between knowledge creation and quality of healthcare services. Hypothesis 2 (H2) examined the direct relationship between knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services. In hypothesis 3 (H3), we include information communication technologies as a moderator of the relationship between knowledge creation and quality of healthcare services. Similarly, in hypothesis 4 (H4) we include information communication technologies as a moderator of the relationship between knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services. We ran a series of hierarchical regression analysis utilizing centered variables to test our conceptual model that is explained with our proposed hypotheses in Fig 1 . In our first direct effect model (model 1), we include knowledge creation as the independent variable and age and highest level of education as our control variables. Within model 2, we include knowledge sharing as the independent variable and the aforementioned control variables. In addition, in our third model (model 3) we explore the suggested two-way interaction effect between knowledge creation and information communication technologies. In model 4, we include our second proposed interaction effect between knowledge sharing and information communication technologies. We present a more in-depth analysis of our four models in Table 3 .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346.t003

We found a significant and positive relationship in model 1, between knowledge creation (β = .60; exact p = .000) and quality of healthcare services. We are able to provide empirical support for H1 with our data. In addition, we also found a significant and positive relationship between knowledge sharing (β = .66; exact p = .000) and quality of healthcare services in model 2. Therefore, we are also able to provide empirical support for H2 on the basis of our data. In models 3 and 4 we included information communication technologies as the moderator of knowledge creation (model 3) and knowledge sharing (model 4) with quality of healthcare services. Both models showed considerable added value in relation to the direct effect models as expressed in model 1 and 2. The R 2 change is .035 in model 3 in comparison with model 1 and .047 in model 4 in comparison with model 2.

Our results in model 3 show a significant and positive relationship on the example of our two-way interaction effect between knowledge creation and information communication technologies and on the quality of healthcare services (β = .21; exact p = .008). In line with the above, we are able to provide empirical support also for our H3. Similarly, model 4 indicates a significant and positive relationship of our two-way interaction effect consisting of knowledge sharing and information communication technologies with quality of healthcare services (β = .24; exact p = .001). With our results, we are to support H4 on the basis of empirical data. Additionally, we present the simple slope analysis of both H3 and H4. The simple slope analysis for H3 indicates it is significant (exact p = .000). Moreover, we present the interaction between knowledge creation and information communication technologies and their influence on quality of healthcare service (see Fig 2 ).

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346.g002

Highest levels of quality of healthcare services occur when the level of information communication technologies is high. In addition, the impact of knowledge creation is similarly important as both in the case of low information communication technologies and high information communication technologies, higher levels of knowledge creation indicate to better quality of healthcare services. In the example of high knowledge creation, best quality of healthcare services is also related to high information communication technologies, while the comparison to low information communication technologies shows a significant difference. In the example of low knowledge creation, low information communication technologies imply better quality of healthcare services.

Moreover, the analysis of the simple slope for H4 is also significant (exact p = .000). The graphical representation of the interaction effect between knowledge sharing and information communication technologies as they influence the quality of healthcare services is presented in Fig 3 .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346.g003

The highest levels of quality of healthcare services are related to high levels of information communication technologies. Moreover, also the influence of knowledge sharing is important as higher levels of knowledge sharing positively influence the quality of healthcare services. When levels of knowledge sharing are low, low information communication technologies contribute to better quality of healthcare services. Interestingly, when levels of knowledge sharing are low, the combination with higher levels of information communication technologies produces worse results in terms of quality of healthcare services.

5. Discussion

This paper involved structuring a conceptual research model that is composed of four constructs: knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, information communication technologies and the level of quality of provided healthcare services. The study implied setting up of four hypotheses in order to analyse the relationship between the defined variables, through the implementation of a hierarchical linear regression model. The first hypothesis starts from the assumption that knowledge creation is in a direct positive correlation with the level of quality of healthcare services. The second hypothesis also implies a positive correlation between knowledge sharing and the quality of healthcare services, while the third and fourth examine the moderating role that information communication technologies play in fostering knowledge creation and knowledge sharing that lead to better performance of healthcare providers.

The results of the conducted research confirm the existence of a direct positive correlation between knowledge creation and the quality of healthcare services (H1). In other words, knowledge creation is vital in determining the quality of healthcare provided to patients. Such results are in accordance with previous research, which argued that knowledge creation leads to improved organizational performance [ 17 ]. Similarly, our results further validate the findings of Ayanbode and Nwagwu [ 75 ] and Kitson et al. [ 74 ], that knowledge creation has a positive impact on the organizational performance also on the example of healthcare organizations.

The results obtained on the basis of the study confirmed the second hypothesis, the existence of a positive correlation between knowledge sharing and the level of quality of healthcare services provided (H2). Knowledge sharing enables the dissemination of best medical practices and a better output in terms of healthcare provided to patients. Even in situations where it is applicable, the valuable knowledge gained from medical research is essentially useful only if used by all stakeholders within the healthcare system. Unfortunately, healthcare providers in practice often lack information about current trends, latest scientific knowledge and researches that applied best medical practice, and are not aware how their application could be a deciding factor in treatment of patients. Under such circumstances, patients are hindered as they do not receive the best possible treatment, or receive the one that does not match entirely their specific health condition [ 132 ]. Therefore, the sharing of newly created knowledge and medical practice is an important determinant of healthcare provided. Our results support the claim of Lombardi [ 18 ] that knowledge sharing influences the achievement of higher levels of organizational performance. In a similar vein, our results are in line with the suggestions of Wensing and Grol [ 93 ] that knowledge creation has an important impact on improving the quality of healthcare services.

The results of our conducted research provided empirical support to the third hypothesis. Information communication technologies moderate the positive correlation between knowledge creation and the level of quality of healthcare services (H3). With our results we are able to further validate the opinion of Tripathi et al. [ 102 ] that information communication technologies act as a moderator in the relationship between knowledge creation and higher quality of healthcare services. Similarly, we add to state-of-the-art research of Papanastasiou et al. [ 105 ] and Andreeva and Kianto [ 1 ] that emphasize the specific role of information communication technologies on the improvement of healthcare services.

Finally, this study confirmed that information communication technologies also play an important role in facilitating the sharing of knowledge, and that they contribute to a higher level of quality of healthcare services (H4). The higher level of knowledge sharing is closely related to the quality of healthcare services, and information communication technologies are the factor that is vital to the progress in this field. Such findings correlate to existing literature that stresses the impact of information communication technologies on knowledge sharing [ 85 ] and its subsequent influence on improving the quality of healthcare services [ 108 ].

Information communication technologies enable the knowledge sharing and the dissemination of good practices at various different organizational levels. Universities, teaching hospitals and research institutes remain the main hubs of sources for the creation and sharing of newly created knowledge in the field of healthcare. The use of information communication technologies and documenting best practices in healthcare institutions requires constant work on improving and updating the whole system. This can be a challenge, given the speed of technological change and the growing need for rapid dissemination of new knowledge, especially in times of crisis, such as the current global COVID-19 pandemic. In that context, COVID-19 introduced an exponential threat to the theory and practice of quality [ 133 ]. If the research was hypothetically conducted today, it is very possible that despite ICT positive implications, we would find somewhat different results related to the process of creating and disseminating knowledge. Bearing in mind that the fight against the pandemic is still an ongoing battle, that information is changing on a daily basis, the quality of the knowledge created can be very questionable. Researches are done in a very fast way, by urgent procedure, and even the created know-how, despite the fact that it is encouraged by the use of the most sophisticated ICT equipment, can be short-lived. When it comes down to knowledge sharing, major pharmaceutical companies, guided primarily by lucrative goals, are willing to make a drug or vaccine against the virus available at an adequate price, but are not willing to make available the formula or know-how used in the process of creating the necessary medicament. In this way, research conducted during the pandemic era would probably conclude that the application of ICT technologies has contributed to the creation of knowledge (the issue of quality may be questionable), but not so much to its dissemination. In any case, on the example of COVID-19 pandemic we can assume the following in relation to our research constructs: first, creating knowledge in a certain way is a condition of survival (finding a vaccine), knowledge sharing is important not only at the institutional level (micro aspect) countries (cooperation between health institutions and knowledge sharing), but also between countries in order to control the global problem such as a pandemic; thirdly, ICT is an important element of organizational design (noticeable growing importance of telemedicine) and fourthly, health, ie the quality of health services is imposed as a priority on which other areas of human social activity depend, and is expected to be increasingly in the focus of theorists and practitioners in the field of management and organization. The organizational goal must be to create a system that will allow medical doctors and other healthcare professionals to know at all times where to find up-to-date information related to a specific field of medicine, or to access newly available knowledge [ 134 ].

There are several theoretical contributions of our research. First, with our results we contribute to existing research that focuses on the knowledge-based view of the organization [ 29 – 31 ] as we emphasize the integral role of knowledge within the environment of healthcare organizations. Furthermore, we add to up-to-date research by theoretically proposing a conceptual model and empirically testing organizational factors of knowledge management that have the potential to increase the quality of healthcare services [ 20 ]. By testing and validating our model on primary data, we are able to contribute to a broader understanding and further insight on knowledge and knowledge management [ 29 , 32 ] and the positive influence on organizational performance [ 33 , 34 ]. Second, with our research we respond to some of the existing challenges that are related to the area of quality of healthcare services [ 11 ] as we provide empirical insight into actions that could help services providers with improving quality of their healthcare services as was suggested in Tripathi and Siddiqui [ 12 ]. Third, we add to the debate of knowledge creation and its influence on the advancement of organizational performance [ 17 , 74 , 75 ]. With our research, we extend the understanding of the aforementioned relationship on the example of healthcare institutions. Fourth, we provide additional support to suggestions that knowledge sharing has a positive impact on improving the overall organizational performance [ 18 ] in our case understood as the quality of healthcare services. With this part of our research, we validate the opinion of Wensing and Grol [ 93 ] that improving the quality of healthcare services is also related to the levels of knowledge sharing within an organization. Fifth, with our results we are able to promote the positive impact of information communication technologies on improved organizational performance as was emphasized in the research of Yunis et al. [ 19 ]. In addition, our results are in line with Tripathi et al. [ 102 ], where the authors suggest that information communication technologies as a moderator can contribute towards achieving higher levels of quality of healthcare services in practice. Sixth, with our study we are able to extend the understanding of knowledge management in the context of the public sector [ 24 , 25 ], where we focused our research in exploring knowledge management within the healthcare environment, which was typically overlooked in previous studies.

The practical implications of our research are intended for managers, practitioners and decision makers and are identified as opportunities for improvements within the healthcare system in Montenegro, through better understanding and knowledge of organizational factors such as knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and information communication technologies. Those organizational factors are instruments that can positively influence the levels of quality of healthcare services. The content and suggestions that can be derived from our research in the form of concrete recommendations can help stakeholders engaged in the healthcare system to create appropriate conditions for achieving better organizational performance, which will subsequently raise the quality of healthcare services. Hopefully, on the basis of our results, managers and employees in healthcare organizations will devote more attention, resources and efforts towards implementing activities and initiatives that include knowledge creation, knowledge sharing and information communication technologies with the final aim of improving the overall quality of healthcare services. Relying on empirical evidence, our study offers the opportunity or starting point for interested stakeholders to improve their knowledge, skills and competences related to knowledge management and providing quality healthcare services in practice. Nevertheless, it is important that managers are aware of the relevant alignment of their knowledge management activities within their specific organizational context and also in relation to their available knowledge management resources. In addition, within the specific and complex healthcare environment, identified and assessing appropriate knowledge management activities might be even more challenging.

In spite of the numerous theoretical and practical contributions of our paper, some limitations exist. First, the methodological issue of common method bias as revealed by Harman’s single factor test [ 117 ] is present. Second, as our results are based on a sample from only one country, we argue that it would be beneficial to conduct a cross-national study to provide a higher degree of generalization of our findings. Third, we have to take into account the complexity of the healthcare environment, which might negatively influence the responses from our respondents as they are constantly exposed to demanding and draining situations at work. Fourth, within this research we did not distinguish between some of the factors determining the characteristics of healthcare organizations such as the size of the organization that could be measured with the number of its employees. Fifth, in general in the healthcare environment, measuring the quality of healthcare services is difficult as we are predominantly relying on the perception of either healthcare services providers or healthcare services users.

Given the limitations of our study, we identified additional opportunities for future research on the topic of quality of healthcare services, including the following: (1) to counteract the potential negative effect of common method bias, we propose to collect the data for the dependent, independent and moderating variables at different points in time; (2) we would advise to focus on conducting similar research on an international sample; (3) to mitigate the negative effect of potential employee bias, we should include a higher number of respondents in future studies; (4) future research should include additional control variables that are measured at the organizational level; (5) it is necessary to promote international efforts to standardize the measurement of quality of healthcare services, which would additionally enable the comparison between different countries; (6) considering the complexity of the health care system, it would be useful to apply a qualitative research approach in addition to the quantitative one, ie. to use a mixed-method approach, in order to obtain an in-depth explanation, with full use of triangulation methods.

6. Conclusion

The proposed conceptual model and the conducted empirical study within our research is aimed at examining the impact of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing on the level of quality of provided healthcare services. Thus, our study contributes towards the expansion of the conceptual framework of knowledge management within the healthcare environment and aims to support ongoing efforts to improve the overall quality of healthcare services in practice. More specifically, we explored the moderating effect that information communication technologies might have on the existence of the two predefined relationships. Obtained results clearly indicate a direct and positive link between knowledge creation and quality of healthcare services and between knowledge sharing and quality of healthcare services. Moreover, information communication technologies further moderate the relationships that are important in influencing the quality of healthcare services. Highest levels of quality of healthcare services occur when the level of information communication technologies is high. In a nutshell, the impact of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing is important as higher levels of knowledge creation and knowledge sharing lead to better quality of healthcare services. Additionally, our study proposes some promising directions to conduct future research on this topic.

Supporting information

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0272346.s001

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Technology and Communication Research Paper Topics

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  • Archiving of Internet Content
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  • Communication Technology and Democracy
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  • Crime and Communication Technology
  • Development of Information and Communication Technology
  • Digital Divide
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Endogenous and Exogenous Perspective

ICT innovation can be treated conceptually as either exogenous or endogenous to a social system. The exogenous perspective treats ICTs as if they are objects isolated from the social, political, and economic environment in which they are produced and consumed. If it is technology that is the determining factor in social organization, then what is left for the researcher is an observer role. The exogenous perspective emphasizes the efficiency and rationality of an autonomous technological system where there is little room for human agency.

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In contrast, from an endogenous perspective, research focuses on the way ICTs become woven into the fabric of life – in terms of morality, the economy, culture, or the political world and on the specific, material conditions under which technology is produced and consumed. Technology is regarded as part of the social fabric where actors sanction certain forms of change and not others. Power is understood to be located in the interwoven alignment of state (administrative and military), private capital, and civil society interests. In this view, the emphasis is on the way technology mediates human relationships and on the constraints that distort benefits that might otherwise accrue to those who are not at the center of economic and political power (Curran et al. 2012; Mansell 2012; Silverstone 2007).

Among the many strands of research in this context are studies of the political implications of the information society for democracy and participation in public debate and in electoral processes and whether a right to communicate should be enshrined in international law (Jørgensen 2013). Within sociology, research on the domestication of technologies (Hartmann 2013) has helped to reveal that ICT artifacts are not prefigured by technology designers for their users, and that older and newer media and ICTs are appropriated in unpredictable ways depending on the cultural specificities of their use. Economic analysis tends to focus on the diffusion of ICTs and the implications for productivity in the economy since these technologies are classed as general-purpose technologies and associated with major transformations when they become widely dispersed across all ICT-using sectors of the economy (Freeman 2007).

Research Topics

The disruptive characteristics of innovations in ICTs have given rise to many debates about their positive or negative implications for the global order, with research emphasizing links between local and distant places and the sometimes unifying, and at other times fragmenting, consequences. There is no stable definition but the term virtual community generally applies to online interactions that give rise to new forms of relationships and new organizational forms. Research focuses on the network relations among activists, bloggers, scientists and many other communities of users of social media. The digital platforms that support these communicative activities are increasingly being used by researchers to map the architecture of networks and social relations with a focus on the directionality of communication, synchronicity, content modularity, interactivity, personalization, and meaning construction. Research on issues of information control, privacy, and security raised by user-generated content, the co-creation of content, and interactive Web 2.0 applications is beginning to tackle the implications of ‘big data’ analytics which uses web-harvesting, ratings systems, and identity profiling to support corporate and state information collection and processing activities (Mayer- Schönberger & Cukier 2013). Digital means of interacting online support the networking activities of individuals and of networked organizations which enable virtual teamworking and outsourcing, raising questions about the ownership of creative capabilities, privacy, and trust, whether the public can have confidence in the digital services provided by governments, and whether new forms of interaction are consistent with democratic practice.

When the diffusion of ICTs is uneven, or where the distribution of the gains as a result of investing in them is uneven, this is referred to as a digital divide. For some it is an article of faith that ICTs hold the solutions to economic, political, and cultural problems, while others argue that digital divides mean that it is unlikely that these technologies will alleviate deeply rooted social and economic problems. This concept has been criticized for its oversimplification of the factors that give rise to inequality and research focusing on digital literacies (including information literacy or media literacy) and cultural differences have yielded insight into the many forms and consequences of digital exclusion (Livingstone and Helsper 2010). Differences in views about the relationship between technology and communication and the persistence of digital divides are reflected in research on whether a global media and communication policy environment is feasible and the roles of the nation state and multistakeholder groups in governing digital media.

Different framings of the relationship between globalization and communication are echoed in research on the governance regimes that enable the production and consumption of ICTs and media content, locally and globally. The governance of Internet has become a hotly contested area of research drawing on legal expertise and examining the values embedded in the architecture of the Internet and other digital applications. Brown and Marsden (2013) provide comprehensive examinations of the proliferation of policies, regulations, and legislation in response to the global spread of digital networks and their applications, especially the Internet. In addition, there is research on specific online behaviors and whether there should be sanctions for ‘bad’ behavior in the case of hacktivism or crime and terrorism.

Finally, the relationship between technology and communication raises many issues with respect to ethical conduct within the humanities and the social sciences. Guidelines with respect to Internet-related research have been developed nationally and by organizations such as the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). Different methods raise concerns about the risks involved to researchers and to those they study.

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  • Brown, I. & Marsden, C. (2013). Regulating code: good governance and better regulation in the information age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
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  • Jørgensen, R. F. (2013). Framing the net: The Internet and human rights. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
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  • Silverstone, R. (2007). Media and morality: On the rise of the mediapolis. Cambridge: Polity.

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Internet of things technology, research, and challenges: a survey

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research papers on information and communication technology

  • Amit Kumar Vishwakarma 1 ,
  • Soni Chaurasia 2 ,
  • Kamal Kumar 3 ,
  • Yatindra Nath Singh 4 &
  • Renu Chaurasia 5  

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The world of digitization is growing exponentially; data optimization, security of a network, and energy efficiency are becoming more prominent. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the core technology of modern society. This paper is based on a survey of recent and past technologies used for IoT optimization models, such as IoT with Blockchain, IoT with WSN, IoT with ML, and IoT with big data analysis. Suppose anyone wants to start core research on IoT technologies, research opportunities, challenges, and solutions. In that case, this paper will help me understand all the basics, such as security, interoperability, standards, scalability, complexity, data management, and quality of service (QoS). This paper also discusses some recent technologies and the challenges in implementation. Finally, this paper discusses research possibilities in basic and applied IoT Domains.

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Vishwakarma, A.K., Chaurasia, S., Kumar, K. et al. Internet of things technology, research, and challenges: a survey. Multimed Tools Appl (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11042-024-19278-6

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DOI : https://doi.org/10.1007/s11042-024-19278-6

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UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus 2024: Check Topics, Pattern, PDF Download

Ugc net paper 1 syllabus 2024: candidates must check the net paper 1 syllabus and exam pattern to excel in the exam. check out the latest ugc net paper 1 syllabus and exam pattern here.

Mohd Salman

UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus 2024 : The syllabus for UGC NET Paper 1 has been released by the exam conducting body on the official website. In order to plan the best UGC NET Paper 1 preparation strategy, candidates should first analyse the official syllabus to identify important topics from an exam perspective. There are two papers in the UGC NET Paper 1 exam, i.e., Paper A and Paper B. Paper A is a common general aptitude paper for all the subjects, whereas Paper B carries questions related to Paper 1 topics. 

UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus 2024

It is important for the aspirants to possess and exhibit cognitive abilities,, including comprehension, analysis, evaluation, understanding the structure of arguments, and deductive and inductive reasoning. They should be familiar with the interaction between people, the environment, natural resources, and their impact on the quality of life. To cover all these aspects of Paper 1, it is important to be thorough with the UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus. As per the previous year's exam analysis, the overall difficulty level of the UGC NET Paper 1 question was moderate.

UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus 2024 PDF

Ugc net paper 1 syllabus 2024: important topics.

  • Unit 1: Teaching Aptitude 
  • Unit 2: Research Aptitude 

Unit 3: Comprehension

  • Unit 4: Communication 

Unit 5: Mathematical Reasoning and Aptitude

Unit 6: logical reasoning, unit 7: data interpretation.

  • Unit 8: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) 
  • Unit 9: People, Development, and Environment
  • Unit 10: Higher Education System 

UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus 2024: Section Wise

Unit 1: teaching aptitude.

  • Teaching: Concept, Objectives, Levels of teaching (Memory, Understanding, and Reflective), Characteristics, and basic requirements.
  • Learner’s characteristics: Characteristics of adolescent and adult learners (Academic, Social, Emotional, and Cognitive), Individual differences.
  • Factors affecting teaching relate to Teacher, Learner, Support material, Instructional facilities, Learning environment, and Institution.
  • Methods of teaching in Institutions of higher learning: Teacher-centred vs. Learner-centered methods; offline vs. Online methods (Swayam, Swayamprabha, MOOCs, etc.).
  • Teaching Support System: Traditional, Modern, and ICT based.
  • Evaluation Systems: Elements and Types of Evaluation, Evaluation in Choice Based Credit System in Higher Education, Computer-based testing, Innovations in evaluation systems.

Unit 2: Research Aptitude

  • Research: Meaning, Types, and Characteristics, Positivism and Postpositivistic approach to research.
  • Methods of Research: Experimental, Descriptive, Historical, Qualitative, and Quantitative Methods.
  • Steps of Research.
  • Thesis and Article writing: Format and styles of referencing.
  • Application of ICT in research.
  • Research ethics.

Unit 4: Communication

  • Communication: Meaning, types, and characteristics of communication.
  • Effective communication: Verbal and Non-verbal, Inter-Cultural and group communications, Classroom communication.
  • Barriers to effective communication.
  • Mass-Media and Society.
  • Types of reasoning.
  • Number series, Letter series, Codes, and Relationships.
  • Mathematical Aptitude (Fraction, Time & Distance, Ratio, Proportion and Percentage, Profit and Loss, Interest and Discounting, Averages, etc.).
  • Understanding the structure of arguments: argument forms, the structure of categorical propositions, Mood and Figure, Formal and Informal fallacies, Uses of language, Connotations, and denotations of terms, Classical square of opposition.
  • Evaluating and distinguishing deductive and inductive reasoning.
  • Venn diagram: Simple and multiple uses for establishing the validity of arguments.
  • Indian Logic: Means of knowledge.
  • Pramanas: Pratyaksha (Perception), Anumana (Inference), Upamana (Comparison), Shabda (Verbal testimony), Arthapatti (Implication), and Anupalabddhi (Non-apprehension).
  • Structure and kinds of Anumana (inference), Vyapti (invariable relation), Hetvabhasas (fallacies of inference).
  • Sources, acquisition, and classification of Data.
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Data.
  • Graphical representation (Bar-chart, Histograms, Pie-chart, Table-chart, and Line-chart) and mapping of Data.
  • Data Interpretation.
  • Data and Governance.

Unit 8: Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

  • ICT: General abbreviations and terminology.
  • Basics of Internet, Intranet, E-mail, Audio, and Video-conferencing.
  • Digital initiatives in higher education.
  • ICT and Governance.

Unit 9: People, Development and Environment

  • Development and environment: Millennium development and Sustainable development goals.
  • Human and environment interaction: Anthropogenic activities and their impacts on the environment.
  • Environmental issues: Local, Regional, and Global; Air pollution, Water pollution, Soil pollution, Noise pollution, Waste (solid, liquid, biomedical, hazardous, electronic), Climate change and its Socio-Economic and Political dimensions.
  • Impacts of pollutants on human health.
  • Natural and energy resources: Solar, Wind, Soil, Hydro, Geothermal, Biomass, Nuclear, and Forests.
  • Natural hazards and disasters: Mitigation strategies.
  • Environmental Protection Act (1986), National Action Plan on Climate Change, International agreements/efforts -Montreal Protocol, Rio Summit, Convention on Biodiversity, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement, International Solar Alliance.

Unit 10: Higher Education System

  • Institutions of higher learning and education in ancient India.
  • Evolution of higher learning and research in Post Independence India.
  • Oriental, Conventional, and Non-conventional learning programs in India.
  • Professional, Technical, and Skill Based education.
  • Value education and environmental education.
  • Policies, Governance, and Administration.

UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus 2024 In Hindi

  • यूनिट- I टीचिंग एप्टीट्यूड
  • यूनिट- II अनुसंधान योग्यता
  • यूनिट- III समझ
  • यूनिट- IV संचार
  • यूनिट-वी गणितीय तर्क और योग्यता
  • इकाई-VI तार्किक तर्क
  • यूनिट-VII डेटा इंटरप्रिटेशन
  • इकाई-VIII सूचना और संचार प्रौद्योगिकी (आईसीटी)
  • यूनिट-IX लोग, विकास और पर्यावरण
  • यूनिट-X उच्च शिक्षा प्रणाली

Weightage for UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus

Candidates should check the weightage of the sections specified in the UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus before commencing their preparation. In order to get an insight into the section-wise weightage, question format, marking scheme, etc, go through the UGC NET Paper 1 exam pattern carefully.

How do I prepare for UGC NET Paper 1?

  • Go through the UGC NET Paper 1 syllabus and exam pattern before starting the exam preparation in order to prepare only exam-relevant topics.
  • Pick the right books and study material suggested by experts and previous toppers in order to learn the basic concepts easily.
  • Attempt previous year's question papers, UGC NET sample papers, and mock tests to improve the speed of solving questions, accuracy, and overall preparation.
  • Create short notes for all the important topics as this would be helpful in quick revision before the exam.
  • Revise all the covered topics regularly to retain the concepts longer.

Best Books for UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus

  • Trueman’s UGC NET /SET General Paper 1 by M. Gagan & Sajit Kumar
  • UGC NET/JRF/SLET General Paper-1 Teaching & Research Aptitude by Arihant Experts
  • NTA UGC NET/SET/JRF Paper 1- Teaching and Research Aptitude by KVS Madaan (Pearson Education)
  • UGC NET/JRF/SLET General Paper-1 Teaching & Research Aptitude General Paper-1 by Upkar Prakashan

Get here latest School , CBSE and Govt Jobs notification in English and Hindi for Sarkari Naukari and Sarkari Result . Download the Jagran Josh Sarkari Naukri App . Check  Board Result 2024  for Class 10 and Class 12 like  CBSE Board Result ,  UP Board Result ,  Bihar Board Result ,  MP Board Result ,  Rajasthan Board Result  and Other States Boards.

  • Which books are best to cover the UGC NET Paper 1 syllabus? + Some of the best books to cover the UGC NET Paper 1 syllabus are Trueman’s UGC NET /SET General Paper 1 by M. Gagan & Sajit Kumar, UGC NET/JRF/SLET General Paper-1 Teaching & Research Aptitude by Arihant Experts, etc.
  • Is UGC NET Paper 1 compulsory? + Yes. UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus is compulsory for every candidate and also the same for all subjects. As per the pattern, it comprises 50 multiple-choice questions, 5 each from the 10 topics asked in the question paper.
  • How to start preparation for UGC NET exam in Paper 1? + To prepare well for the UGC NET Paper 1, candidates should first check the syllabus and exam pattern, pick the best books to learn the fundamentals, and attempt mock tests and previous years' papers to strengthen their preparation.
  • What is the UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus? + The UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus is divided into ten units i.e Teaching Aptitude, Research Aptitude, Comprehension, Communication, Mathematical Reasoning and Aptitude, Logical Reasoning, Data Interpretation, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), People, Development and Environment, and Higher Education System.
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    While information and communication technologies (ICT) are prominent in educational practices at most levels of formal learning, there is relatively little known about the skills and understandings that underlie their effective and efficient use in research higher degree settings. This project aimed to identify doctoral supervisors' and students' perceptions of their roles in using ICT.

  9. Probing the Role of Information and Communication Technology ...

    There are various research tools and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources available to assist with title research. Online databases like JSTOR, Google Scholar, and Pubmed provide access to millions of scholarly articles, research papers, and other publications that are used to gather information related to a specific title.

  10. Information and Communications Technology

    This section focuses on original and new research work at the interface between communications technologies and information technologies. Historically, advancements in information technologies have followed a trajectory that has been parallel to advancements in communication technologies. Regardless of the application, information, in its ...

  11. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the processes of

    This research aims to relate Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the processes of distribution and use of knowledge in Higher Education Institutions (HEI). The methodology used was based on the quantitative approach, descriptive scope, and non-experimental cross-sectional design, the sample was non-probabilistic, convenience ...

  12. Qualitative Research on Information and Communication Technology

    Qualitative research on information and communication technology (ICT) covers a wide terrain, from studies examining the skills needed for reading, consuming, and producing information online to the communication practices taking place within social media and virtual environments.

  13. Information and Communication Technology Research and its ...

    Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) play a crucial role in growth and job creation. They add value to goods and services, make business and government processes more efficient, and deliver the services that citizens and businesses need. Competing...

  14. Improving Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Knowledge and

    1. Introduction. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools have transformed the ways in which research and healthcare are conducted and data is managed, becoming integral components of both biomedical research and healthcare delivery throughout the world [1-3].These technologies can change the ways in which medical data is collected and managed for clinical trials by using mobile ...

  15. The role of information communication technologies as a ...

    1. Introduction. Information and communication technologies are identified as one of the crucial enablers of knowledge management practices and most relevant and contemporary literature suggests that appropriate technology solutions within organizations are of significant importance in relation to successful knowledge management initiatives [].In today's knowledge intensive world of work ...

  16. Technology and Communication Research Paper Topics

    The relationship between technology and communication can be studied analytically at any time in human history. With the Internet, personal computers, the world wide web, mobile communications, and smart phones and tablets, digitization has been seen as contributing to the blurring of boundaries between segments of the media and communication ...

  17. Gender differences in information and communication technology use

    This paper attempts to cover the research gap by providing a rapid systematic review of ICT gender differences with a focus on use and skills for the education domain. ... Clough, J., O'Reilly, D., Wilmott, D., & Witham, G. J. N. E. T. (2017). The utility and impact of information communication technology (ICT) for pre-registration nurse ...

  18. Impacts of digital technologies on education and factors influencing

    It is based on meta-analyses and review papers found in scholarly, peer-reviewed content databases and other key studies and reports related to the concepts studied (e.g., digitalization, digital capacity) from professional and international bodies (e.g., the OECD). ... Journal of Information Technology Education Research, 14, 397 ...

  19. Internet of things technology, research, and challenges: a survey

    The world of digitization is growing exponentially; data optimization, security of a network, and energy efficiency are becoming more prominent. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the core technology of modern society. This paper is based on a survey of recent and past technologies used for IoT optimization models, such as IoT with Blockchain, IoT with WSN, IoT with ML, and IoT with big data ...

  20. PDF The Impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on ...

    Information and communication technology has become an inseparable part of human life and caused doing things more through the consumption of less time and cost. The present research aims to study the effect of information and communication technology on the educational improvement of third grade high school students in Khash-Iran .

  21. Information and Communication technology Research Papers

    Purpose - This paper aims to determine how trust and perceptions shape uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in public access venues (libraries, telecentres, and cybercafés) in 25 developing countries around the world.... more. Download.

  22. (PDF) Technology and Transformation in Communication

    Th e present research paper is an attempt to find out what has changed and . ... The Social Dynamics of information and Communication Technology, Ashgate, Aldershot, pp.29-54. 33.

  23. Short message encryption technology of Beidou communication based on

    Based on the data clustering results, this paper constructs a short message forwarding verification model using the SM9 identification password algorithm, and provides the message content of the communication application protocol and the communication receiving information protocol to achieve low-cost and efficient forwarding verification.

  24. Education Sciences

    In early mathematics education, the beliefs of the teacher are essential for facilitating the integration of technology into teaching mathematics. This study explores the influence of physical and digital interactive learning environments on the development of early childhood teachers' beliefs about integrating technology into early mathematics classrooms. To understand the development of ...

  25. Augmented Reality and Wearable Technology for Cultural Heritage ...

    The main goal of this study is to provide a more interactive experience with AR technology and wearable devices compared to traditional preservation methods in order to protect, promote, and transfer cultural heritage to future generations. It aims to evaluate the usability of the developed AR application with SUS and WARUS analyses. During the research process, similar studies were conducted ...

  26. Study and Investigation on 5G Technology: A Systematic Review

    1. Introduction. Most recently, in three decades, rapid growth was marked in the field of wireless communication concerning the transition of 1G to 4G [1,2].The main motto behind this research was the requirements of high bandwidth and very low latency. 5G provides a high data rate, improved quality of service (QoS), low-latency, high coverage, high reliability, and economically affordable ...

  27. United States International Cyberspace & Digital Policy Strategy

    Technology will play an increasingly critical role in addressing these challenges. That is why at the State Department we have prioritized building capacity and expertise in cyber, digital, and emerging technology issues as part of our broader efforts to modernize diplomacy and ensure U.S. foreign policy delivers on the issues that matter most to the lives and livelihoods of the American people.

  28. UGC NET Paper 1 Syllabus 2024: Check Topics, Pattern, PDF Download

    Unit 8: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Unit 9: People, Development, and Environment ... UGC NET/JRF/SLET General Paper-1 Teaching & Research Aptitude General Paper-1 by Upkar ...

  29. Applied Sciences

    Gear factories are most typical discrete manufacturing factories. Many gear factories are striving to explore how to achieve intelligent manufacturing in order to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Digital twin technology is currently one of the most reliable ways to achieve intelligent manufacturing. This article aims to establish a real-time control system in order to promote intelligent ...