sue watling

I’m not sure what’s worse. Taking annual leave for your research and not getting any done or spending your annual leave ill in bed. When is a fail not a fail? Maybe when a plan changes trajectory. More research interviews this week. Interviews mean transcription – on average  half a day for each one – but I can’t think of a better way to get research re-engaged.

The challenge of digital competence has concerned me for some time. The sector wants to see technology enhancing student learning. Which is fine. I passionately believe in the affordances of VLE to widen participation and accessibility, but while the literature is full of accounts of elearning and student digital expectations, the eteaching aspect is all too often missing. Decisions around Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) rest on assumptions of digital capability – I call these the myths of digital competence – and like attracts like leaving few opportunities to expose the true diversity of digital practice. TELEDA brought together the sure and the less-sure when it came to learning technologies. It highlighted digital divides on campus where academics have traditionally viewed ICT as a burden and a barrier to practice or  managerialist tools for the 3 e’s – economy, efficiency and effectiveness (Becher and Trowler, 2001:13) but  TELEDA’s stress on reflective practice encouraged deeper approaches to what digital pedagogy and online collaboration really means in unchartered places where theory meets practice face on.

Transcribing the interviews I’m reminded of just how much digital attitudes and practices are as individual as we are. In the way handwriting and fingerprints are unique, so are the ways in which we approach and utilise online environments. This makes a one size fits all approach impossible and with so little common ground, the process of data analysis also gets complex – this is qualitative research in 50 shades of grey compared to the more quantitative black and white binary.

The research is progressing – albeit slowly – and there is a growing sense it is making a difference. The soapbox will soon be travelling again. I’m presenting on the digital university at this year’s SHRE Conference, at the Higher Education Stream at BETT in January and have been invited to give the Keynote at the Making Research Count Network for North West England.  Meanwhile the summer draws to a close and a new academic year is in sight. All over the country digital devices are being purchased and prepared for learning, staff know Blackboard is ready and waiting for them to log on and the inevitable dust is waiting to gently settle on the PhD again.



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