Doctoral student receives SSHRC Graduate Scholarship to study mobile learning in agriculture

December 07, 2022

Congratulations to doctoral student Alexis Carr, the recipient of the SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship

The scholarship, awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), supports high-calibre students engaged in doctoral programs in the social sciences and humanities, allowing the opportunity to fully focus on their studies, seek out the best research mentors, and contribute to the Canadian research ecosystem. 

“I feel fortunate to have received this award,” says Carr. “I know it’s an extremely competitive process and that SSHRC receives thousands of high-quality applications - the fact that the selection committee saw value in my proposed research feels really validating and rewarding.” 

With a background in education and eight years of international development, Carr’s research centers on the use of technology for informal learning, particularly in remote and rural contexts, with a focus on gendered perspectives. This research inspiration began for Carr partway through her bachelor’s in English where she took on the role of Program Developer and Instructor, living and working in rural Mexico.   

Carr reflects, “I worked for several years in Chiapas, Mexico, supporting teacher professional development in the rural Telescundaria school system. During this time, I saw firsthand how policy and funding decisions can impact rural communities, and realized that this was an area I wanted to get involved in.”  

This firsthand experience lead Carr in a completely new direction, towards the pursuit of research in technology, education and international development. She returned to SFU, completed her bachelor’s and then pursued her Master’s in International Studies – Development Stream and is currently working on her PhD in Educational Technology and Learning Design with the Faculty of Education.

The funding from SSHRC will allow Carr the ability to pursue her proposed research full-time on agricultural extension policies and programs, particularly in mobile learning (mLearning) interventions in Jamaica and exploring the challenges and possibilities it could have on remote communities and for women farmers. 

“The purpose of the study is to understand, from a gendered perspective, how farmers perceive and engage with mLearning, as well as the relationship between their perceptions and the acquisition/application of knowledge and skills,” shares Carr. “Research in this sector has focused on technology features and development outcomes, and less on learners’ perspectives and experiences, which are crucial for effective interventions.” 

Carr hopes the findings from this proposed research will be mobilized to inform policy and practice amongst governments, training providers, and international development agencies,  who are investing heavily in gender-responsive solutions to food insecurity, poverty, and inequality. 

 “As governments and non-government organizations increasingly invest in educational technology for development, I think that research in this area has an important role to play in informing policy and practice,” she concludes.