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Enhancing the digital capacity of EFL programs in the age of COVID-19: the ecological perspective in Japanese higher education

Bradley D.F. Colpitts (School of Policy Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University, Sanda, Japan)
Michael Dean Smith (School of International Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, Japan)
David P. McCurrach (School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University, Nishinomiya, Japan)

Interactive Technology and Smart Education

ISSN: 1741-5659

Article publication date: 21 October 2020

Issue publication date: 22 September 2021




The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inability of the Japanese higher education system to adapt to widespread unexpected disruption. The limited metrics available to assess Japanese higher education’s response in the wake of the pandemic indicate several areas where the system needs to be strengthened. This paper aims to harness the ecological perspective to explore the procedures by which higher education in Japan can mitigate extant digital shortcomings.


Leveraging Zhao and Frank’s ecological perspective as its theoretical model, this paper proposes practical solutions to remedy deficiencies highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic rooted in existing literature both within and outside of Japanese higher education research.


The paper suggests pragmatic ideas to embolden each of the three strata encompassing the educational “ecosystem”: institutions, faculty and students. The paper identifies measures for strengthening institutions to become more adaptive and improve leadership capacity. At the faculty level, meanwhile, an increase in professional development opportunities and the bolstering of support systems may function to bridge an intergenerational digital divide. Finally, for students, the authors argue for mobile-assisted language learning in an effort to cultivate stronger learner outcomes, and prescribe how to integrate this method into formal IT platforms.


The current paper is among a select few that use the ecological perspective in the field of educational research in Japan. The authors contend that the model, while effective, offers an incomplete view of education, suggesting that the ecological perspective must be expanded to include students as a distinct species.



Colpitts, B.D.F., Smith, M.D. and McCurrach, D.P. (2021), "Enhancing the digital capacity of EFL programs in the age of COVID-19: the ecological perspective in Japanese higher education", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 158-174.



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