The digital student experience

Course Details

Course code: EDUA11295

Course leader: Dr Velda McCune

Course delivery: Sep 2016

Summary

This course will focus on what it means to be and become a student in online contexts and what that means for educators. While the emphasis will be on online environments, much of what is learned would be equally relevant in offline contexts. The trajectory of the course will move from considering the notion of the learner as an autonomous individual, to the learner as socially situated, and finally to the learner as posthuman assemblage.

One key theme in the course will be the processes of transition and adjustment which individuals experience as they come to terms with online environments and new demands on them as learners. This theme will be taken up in the first section of the course which will focus on ‘being an individual learner’. This section of the course will consider students’ skill in learning and their epistemological and cognitive development and how this can be supported.

The interplay between individuals’ learning histories and identities, their online environments and the distinctive ‘ways of thinking and practising’ which exist in particular academic and learning communities will be considered in the second section of the course. This section is entitled ‘being a situated learner’. This section considers some of the limitations of understanding learners as decontextualized separate selves, as can be the case in some of the literature discussed in the previous section.

The final section of the course is entitled ‘being an assemblage’ and will introduce participants to posthuman and sociomaterial perspectives. The emphasis here will be on questioning the notion of ‘studenthood’ as being an attribute of the individual, and emphasising how learning is enacted through complex assemblages of the human and non-human.

We will do much of our collaborative learning on this programme in public on a shared WordPress blog. In doing this we are aiming for a shared exploration of more uncommon ways of being a student in the 21st century. We hope that this experience of being part of the social web will provided an enriched learning experience and prompt you to reflect critically on what it can mean to be a student. We will use a Moodle site to support our work on the blog allowing submission of assignments and we will have some private discussions in Google Hangouts.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course you will:

  • be able to demonstrate a critical understanding of what it means to be a ‘learner’ or a ‘student’, based on a sound analysis of currents movements in the literature
  • be able to evaluate the key ideas emerging from the literature on how the contexts of learning interact with what it means to be a ‘learner’ or a ‘student’
  • be prepared to design high quality education and training based on different perspectives on the student experience
  • be able to articulate a critical perspective on student diversity and its implications for high quality education and training

Structure

Block 1 Weeks 1-3

This block will focus on ‘being an individual learner’. This section of the course will consider students’ skill in learning and their epistemological and cognitive development and how this can be supported.

 

Block 2 Weeks 4 -7

This block is entitled ‘being a situated learner’. The interplay between individuals' learning histories and identities, their online environments and the distinctive 'ways of thinking and practising' which exist in particular academic and learning communities will be considered. This block also addresses some of the limitations of understanding learners as decontextualized separate selves, as can be the case in some of the literature discussed in the previous block.

 

Block 3 Weeks 8-10

The final block of the course is entitled ‘being an assemblage’ and will introduce participants to sociomaterial and ‘more-than-human’ perspectives. The emphasis here will be on questioning the notion of ‘studenthood’ as being an attribute of the individual, and emphasising how learning is enacted through complex assemblages of the human and non-human.

 

Assignment Preparation Weeks 11-12

 

Assessment

The course is assessed in two ways:

 

Part 1 (30%): A short reflective report (1000 words) on a key aspect of 'ways of thinking and practising' in your own subject area.

Part 2 (70%): A final assignment in two parts.

a) You will write a report identifying a particular aspect of the experience of being a digital learner which is troublesome for learners in your context, drawing on appropriate literature and taking a critical approach to the issues raised. (1500 words)

b) You will then outline an online learning activity for students which relates to the troublesome issue you have offered in part a). You will not be required to deliver the activity, but rather to outline its content and form and give a rationale for your chosen approach and the ways in which it is well aligned to learner diversity in your context. (1500 words)

Teaching Methods

The learning for this course will take place entirely online through a combination of: tasks and blogging in WordPress, and synchronous discussion using Google Hangouts. Each week one of your tutors will write an introductory blog giving you a steer about what to do that week. From week 3 two students will also take particular responsibility for contributions to the blog each week based on course readings and activities. All students will be expected to make substantive contributions every week. We will guide you toward which core readings to engage with and will set short structured tasks to underpin the asynchronous discussions.

Reading

Indicative texts are:

Fenwick, T. and Edward, R. (2016). Exploring the impact of digital technologies on professional responsibilities and education. European Educational Research Journal 15(1), 117-131.

Pratt, N. and Back, J. (2013). Using communities of practice as a tool to analyse developing identity in online discussion. Learning, Media and Technology 38(3), 284-300.

McLean, S. and Vermeylen, L. (2014). Transitions and pathways: self help reading and informal adult learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education 33(2), 125-140.

Ross, J. (2011). Traces of self: online reflective practices and performances in higher education. Teaching in Higher Education, 16(1), 113-126.

Requirements

As with all courses in the programme you will need regular access to a computer that is connected to the Internet. The machine should have (and you will be expected to be able to use) browser software, a word processor and an application such as Acrobat Reader to allow you to access files in PDF format. As we would like you to work multimodally, please ensure you have access to a computer which meets the requirements to view online videos and that you have speakers or headphones so that you can hear sound.