Something Old, Something New

Supporting Lecture Delivery with Digital Tools. Expanding Communities of Practice with Social Media.

How can we use new technologies of distribution and social support to create effective and pedagogically useful online teaching environments?
This paper offers an in depth analysis of the experience of online learning offered by Harvard University, Penn State University and MIT. It asks what lessons we should consider when adapting new technologies to old teaching methodologies, and more importantly, how these environments may change the way we teach.

The three study programmes discussed represent three different approaches to online learning: Lecture based [CS50: Harvard & EdX], Community based [Learning Creative Learning: MIT & P2PU] and Practise based [Design­ Artifacts in Society: Penn State & Coursera].
These blended learning courses are offered by universities that can be expected to be delivering both first class content and state of the art technology. What lessons and practises can we gain from these examples as we proceed to design our own online teaching environments? We investigate differing methods of dealing with questions of scale, temporality, support systems and synchronous/asynchronous delivery as well as report on the overall user experience.

In the UK Higher Education system we tend to work with a lecture ­oriented pedagogy where a fixed student cohort and academic team engage in a fixed location during a specific duration with fixed outcomes and success criterias. MIT P2PU, Coursera and EdX work in the context of andragogy, the teaching of adults, that allows for a broader range of academic approaches, motivations and goals. At the same time these courses incorporate digital tools to disseminate lecture material in a time­shifted pattern and use the same tools to facilitate online communities of practice. Based on an in depth analysis of these learning experiences we ask where the balance lies between having a clear pedagogic process to indicate appropriate technology directions and how technology may reframe pedagogic discourse. These issues are also considered against the makeup and ongoing needs of UK educational institutions.
Using a combination of ethnographic enquiry and analysis of quantitative data the paper reflects on the current state of good practice from a pedagogical and technological standpoint. It investigates ways in which new analysis and insights are available into how students consume educational content and how they engage with the learning process. We suggest that these approaches paired with new digital tools of delivery may invigorate both our pedagogic approaches and the communities we address.

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