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Technology HE

Author: Mark   29th January 2015

With one of our areas of interest being that of the relationship between technology and Higher Education, Senior Researcher Gemma Tombs attended the first Open University OpenMinds talk, titled “The Future of Technology in Higher Education: What needs to change in 2015?”. The event was themed around current technology trends which seemed likely to become increasingly popular in 2015. It showcased some increasingly popular technologies, but also addressed current concepts and challenges for technology-facilitated learning in 2015.

There were several key points raised in this presentation and roundtable session, but the issue that kept being returned to was that of assessment which has also been a common point of discussion in the lab.  Peter opened the session by suggesting that radically altering the nature of assessment through the use of technology is beyond our reach in 2015 and to an extent we can sympathise that assessment, as built into institutional validation structures, often lacks flexibility and creativity. It is possible to build that creativity into those validation structures – as Siân Bayne’s Digital Education MSc has shown with OU project Juxtalearn – but it’s a difficult task and one that many people shy from, understandably, as assessment is so important to students.

A second key point was raised by Siân, who asked “How should questions of space inform pedagogic innovation?”. She was referring here to her distance learning students’ experiences, who despite never visiting the Edinburgh campus, referred to this physical manifestation of “The University of Edinburgh” when forming and discussing their academic identities. Gemma reflects on the idea of the distance learning experience as a paradoxical one, in which students are both present and absent at the university. This concept is probably best manifested through the Second Life graduation in which distance learning students can graduate in-world as their fellow students graduate at the physical campus. These students have an entirely different conception of “the university space” than students who visit the campus regularly. And whilst we have fewer distance learning students at Coventry University, it would be interesting to see how we might apply this to students engaging in “blended learning” modules. How do they make sense of the virtual and physical spaces with which they engage, and are particular practices deemed to be better for “physical” or “virtual” spaces, although this binary is increasingly blurred? This question seems particularly interesting in relation to the physical DMLL space and some of our projects; one example being that we are currently trialling the Lynda interface with an ‘Experimental Narratives’ module in Art and Design and we are expecting to experiment across other faculties.

Whilst this event was designed to focus on technology trends, the topics discussed has helped us consider the pedagogical trends for 2015. In the lab we have been particularly focussing more on the distance and blended learning side of disruption; however the general sense of concern about assessment lagging behind innovation in teaching and learning on a wider scale suggests that this is a point we need to be addressing and experimenting with throughout all the projects and modules we undertake and support..

Speaking at the event was Peter Scott (Director of OU Knowledge Media Institute), Eileen Scanlon and Mike Sharples (both of the OU Institute of Educational Technology), and Siân Bayne of the University of Edinburgh.

The link to the video streams can be found here

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