The Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age pilot had an excellent start last week. A traditional open introductions thread on the discussion board surfaced a range of reasons for taking the course, including wanting to work smarter online, discover more about how online environments can be used to support learning and how to develop effective online engagement. There were also an interesting number of ‘fears’. Uncovering the perceived challenges of teaching and learning in a digital age can be are useful indicators for planning, design and delivery so it’s always useful to offer the opportunity for surfacing them. Losing the relationship and emotional dimensions of face-to-face learning is a common concern. One solution is to try to ensure the affordances of the VLE (e.g. 24/7 access across boundaries plus the flexibility of asynchronous communication) and the disadvantages (e.g. the potential loneliness of the distance learner) are balanced by factoring in support and interaction on a regular basis.
Reaching students who don’t engage naturally with online forms of communication is another issue. Digital courses which lose the nuances of face-to-face engagement tend to privilege the techno-savvy and those who prefer a more ‘invisible’ form of interaction. The question of ‘lurking’ (being there silently) can pose a delicate balancing act between encouragement and scaring off!
We’re all becoming accustomed to having infinite amounts of information in our lives but the fear of being overwhelmed by content is never far from the surface. TELEDA offers pic’mix approach to content ingestion Resources are divided into Core and Extended. Activities derive directly from Core reading and all materials are presented in a format which offers brief overviews with signposts for further information to suit individual requirements and interests.
The issue of supporting digital literacies was raised; a key aspect of any online learning experience as so much of the way we manage ourselves online is to do with individual confidence and competencies in virtual ways of working. Digital literacies and digital scholarship are essentially integral to the whole course which recognises how managing effectiveness within online learning environments is problematised precisely because there is no ‘one size fits all’ model of engagement. We don’t (yet) embed digital literacies into the curriculum or teacher education and the lecturer often has little support in the shift from front of classroom to invisible facilitator of faceless students online.
The TELEDA learning blocks cover different aspects of design and delivery with attention to digital ways of working and opportunities to engage in collaborative online activities. I hope the opportunities for sharing practice will be a strength of this course which aims to support the exploration of different ways of working online and to assess their effectiveness in a constructive, collegial environment. TELEDA offers a fundamentally pragmatic approach, one where experience is recognised as the best way forward for application of the theory.