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Digital education

A Principled Approach to Online Learning

16 June 2020
Young female student with laptop and headphones sitting at the table, online lesson concept.
Young female student with laptop and headphones sitting at the table, online lesson concept.

As we plan for the new academic year, Cardiff – like most universities around the world – is facing a unprecedented change in the way our classes will be taught and the way our students will learn. The initial move online in March didn’t give staff or students any opportunity to prepare, and not much more to adjust, but now we are entering a new phase where we have opportunity to shape the design of courses based on proven methods of blended and online provision.

Underpinning all the work we are doing in the Digital Education programme are five principles that are effectively distilled from research about what makes for a successful online student experience:

  • Focus on quality not quantity
  • Keep it simple
  • Provide clarity and structure
  • Focus on what works online
  • Accessibility

You can read more about what we mean by the principles on the information pages we are building on the Intranet (much more information and resources to come in the next few weeks). If you would like delve a little deeper into the evidence base for these principles, I would recommend this preprint by experienced academic colleagues at Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Sheffield. Coming from the perspective of several disciplines, this work neatly lays out the key considerations as we prepare for more online teaching in 20/21, supported by reference to some of the core literature about pedagogy in a digital environment.  

As we develop this work together over the coming weeks, we must also make sure we listen carefully to the experience, the concerns and the aspirations of our students. To that end we will be developing our plans in partnership with the Students Union and also working closely with student reference groups. In the meantime, you might find value in hearing what some students from Western Sydney University had to say when reflecting on their recent online experience:

Much of what the students have to say chimes very closely with the five principles we are working to so that, hopefully, can give us some early confidence our work has strong foundations.

Written by Simon Horrocks
The University’s new Academic Lead for Digital Education Strategy


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