I came across this wonderful open access book from Tony Bates ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’ I am still reading it but it is so completely relevant to the agenda for many of us that I had to share my thoughts here. There are twelve sections all relating to aspects of online educational practice, from blended learning to Moocs there is something here for everyone. One thing that I really like is that this book has made me think much more about digital literacies and their place in higher education. I am particularly focussed on developing digital literacies skills at the University of Southampton and have been working with student iChamps to support this agenda. I’ve noticed though that it is not necessarily a requirement to be ‘digitally minded’ to be effective online. That term ‘being effective online’ probably is redundant anyway as so much of life is conducted through the web that it is an expectation and not an exception. But then Tony nailed it when he talks in the first chapter of the skills for the 21st century. These are not what I always considered them to be, solely digital literacies, but skills that allow for the rapid pace of change in a knowledge society. In this chapter he presents the Conference Board of Canada’s set of skills:
- Communication skills
- the ability to learn independently
- ethics and responsibility
- teamwork and flexibility
- thinking skills
- digital skills
- knowledge management
Of course, all of the above have always been desirable but the task now is to map this set of skills to digital effectiveness. This is something our students are already working on in collaboration with my colleague, Jane Stephenson from the University of Southampton Library senior leadership team and something that we can work into our new strategy. The book is rich resource of evidence based practice and research that leads you onto a path of discovery for so many ideas around the online space. I highly recommend it and look forward to discovery nuggets of inspiration that can enable me to support our online activities at Southampton.
One thought on “Exploring ‘Teaching in a Digital Age’”
Fiona, while your posting is quite rightly focused on the e-learning aspects, I am also interested in a couple of the other aspects which Bates highlights and I feel are going to prove as much a challenge for students in the coming years as digital literacy did in the past. I note in this regard:
• the ability to learn independently
• knowledge management
Looking through module evaluation comments from students, I increasingly notice discontent that they are not ‘taught’ the assessment, i.e. they are not told in advance what an exam is going to have questions on and how to answer these. In turn tutors report when reflecting on their modules that students believe that all they need to know to pass an exam will be contained in the Powerpoint slides provided during lectures and do not read beyond these.
These concerns extend into a range of assessed work, I have heard and read students saying ‘I have been told how to produce a good presentation but not what I am supposed to put in it’. There is a sense that the tutor, the department, even the university as a whole is being negligent in not teaching what a student ‘needs to know’ in order to get a good mark. A good mark rather than expanding knowledge and skills is the prime driver for students.
These challenges are not specific to e-learning, but neither is e-learning exempt from these trends. In fact a VLE, a website or other online provision may enhance the expectation that what is provided is the ‘one-stop shop’ and that they can get all that they need from there in order to achieve a 1st/Distinction. This is liable to lead to resentment. However, it brings us back to the issue about what university study actually entails compared to what students believe they are paying for.