Moving online…

Kudos to our e-developers Chris and Ben for putting on an entertaining video production session yesterday at our Teaching and Learning away day. As well as revealing some impressive acting skills from our faculty (and some that may diplomatically be called ‘needing development’), it demonstrated what’s now possible with little more than a smart phone.

The basics of effective teaching have never changed of course, not since Socrates held sway in the Athenian Agora. But the competent delivery of rigorous, validated, static material in a physical classroom is now a necessary, and not a sufficient, condition for student success. Look at MOOCs; love them or hate them, they have at least created disruption in our traditional ‘business model’ of learning, and shown how dynamically technology can be used. Without worrying too much about becoming professional e-content developers, faculty working online enhance the student experience by using short videos, peer to peer reviews, asynchronous discussion threads, automated assessment tools, and more. By so doing they can dramatically extend their impact and reach to students who would otherwise have difficulty accessing their expertise, as cultural, physical and psychological barriers that exist in the traditional classroom are broken down. It also moves us closer to the idea of ‘mass customisation’ in education, a term borrowed from manufacturing: large numbers of students offered an experience uniquely tailored to their requirements.

That’s why I’ve set a goal, relatively modest I think, of delivering 10% of our current face to face learning online by the end of the next academic year. There are already many innovative ideas, and some excellent practice, around our College; and the University is showing its support for Digital learning with two new senior appointments. So now it’s up to us to be creative.

I don’t think we’ll reveal the videos we made yesterday to our students just yet… But with a bit more time for production and editing, those ‘unprofessional’ two minute online introductions would give potential students another reason why they would choose to study here; they can look ‘behind the curtain’ and see that they’re joining an academic community who will welcome them warmly as members while they’re studying with us.

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