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Digital education

ALTc Write-up (Day 2)

20 September 2016
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by Dewi Parry

Day 2…

Creating online experiences that learners will value

I was looking forward to this session, to learn what Helen Beetham and her team had been looking at in relation to learners online experiences. In Cardiff, there is a drive to deliver meaningful on-line components and discussion for modules, and moving away from the idea of using the VLE simply as a content repository. In addition, there are a growing number of distance and blended learning programmes within the University, where practice is increasingly moving online.

image of digital capabilities framework

Beetham’s vast work includes the Digital Capabilities framework, which “which describes the skills needed by staff in a wide range of academic, administrative and professional roles to thrive in a digital environment”. I’ll go further into that later in the post.

As mentioned, there was no new research per se, however, the team had been reviewing online learners, and how they were not a distinct group, they are “post-compulsory learners in particular situations, with particular preferences and needs”.

Beetham mentioned several key points including:

  • Online learners are highly diverse, and there are key differences between them, such as prior learning, confidence and motivation;
  • How emotional response was significant to the success of online learning, such as curiosity, confidence, independence, loneliness and frustrations;
  • Contexts and motivations for online learning vary across life stages;
  • There are many continuities between online and offline learning.

Also mentioned were recommendations for online educators, including:

  • Teach responsively, with consideration to learners’ different motivations, interests, learning history and resources;
  • Prepare online learners to study online norms, practices, expectations and good study habits;
  • Enable learners to use their own devices, services and skills,
  • Support rich and diverse learning content;
  • Provide a digital environment that is accessible, social and personable, open and secure.

There are many more considerations, findings and recommendations within the “What makes a successful online learner?” report, by McGill, Beetham and Gray, and the report is an excellent introduction and insight to the world of the online learner.



Creativity takes courage (and digital capabilities)

This was another session that I was looking forward to attending, in that there were obvious parallels between the work that the team at the University of Lincoln had been undertaking, and the work that we are undertaking here within the Centre for Education Innovation. Kerry Pinny and Marcus Elliott detailed the journey they had taken to develop and support staff digital capabilities. They explained that the use of technology appears regularly in HEI strategies, with growing expectations to use technology for learning and teaching in innovative ways. The result being that staff are then expected to have the capability to be able to adapt their practice to teach in new and innovative ways. How can all staff make this journey successfully?

The answer from Lincoln was digital capabilities. As I mentioned in the online experiences section, Helen Beetham’s work on developing the digital capabilities framework is key to enable such changes within HEIs. The framework gives the grounding needed to be able to go on and deliver changes in practice and develop digital literacy and understanding.

Image of Jisc-Discovery-Tool

The team at Lincoln had attended the Jisc Digital leaders course, which enabled them to reflect upon practice at the University, and also shape practice within the institution. Once you know what you want to happen, how do you then then convince staff about the importance of digital capability?

The importance of building your argument is key (as I can fully relate to). Through the means of digital storytelling, the team were able to engage senior staff with the whole idea.

Using the Jisc Discovery Tool, they were able to ask staff to analyse their own digital capability, which gives advice on areas to work on, in Lincoln’s case, open practice, sharing, and copyright, the benefits of social media and networking to their teaching, and importantly, converting interest in new technologies into practice.

So, the outcomes were positive. Staff became “more aware of digital capabilities, more engaged with their own development, and more willing to innovate with ‘the digital’”. Schools became proactive in developing their own digital practices, and they are currently looking to explore how they can embed digital capabilities as part of the appraisal process for academic and professional staff.

Visitors and Residents model

This is music to our ears! Last year, we awarded a CEI grant to Matt Smith of WCPPE (Pharmacy) to look at developing “DigiCap Cardiff”. Using the Jisc Digital Capabilities framework and the Jisc Discovery Tool, Matt is looking to develop a framework to identify how technology enhanced teaching could improve the learner experience within the School of Pharmacy, which we very much hope will be scalable for the whole institution. Matt will provide a blog post on his developments on this site very soon. In addition, as a workshop for the Learning Technology Community of Practice this year, we hope to run the mapping and collaboration exercise, where we will discuss digital visitors and residents, to help us map and better understand our digital practice.



Code Create Collaborate

Finally, for all the Games Workshop and Dungeons & Dragons fans, here’s Ian Livingstone discussing how do we reach and then teach “Generation Z”. He discusses teaching children who’s jobs haven’t been created yet, and game theory, as well as online inclusivity and challenges.


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