Mainstreaming Digital Education at #LTT15

Carol Blackwood, Digimap for Schools team.  Picture by Anne Robertson

Carol Blackwood, Digimap for Schools team. Picture by Anne Robertson

Earlier this week I attended the Holyrood Connect Learning Through Technology Conference in Glasgow as a guest of the Digimap for Schools team.  It’s the first time I’ve been to this conference and I confess that I came away rather perplexed as to precisely who the event was aimed at and what we were expected to take away. I’ve created a storify of my tweets here so you can judge for yourself, and my colleague Nicola Osborne live blogged the second day of the conference here.

University Digital Education Comes of Age – Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea

The highlight of the event, for me, was Tim O’Shea’s engaging keynote on the University of Edinburgh‘s ambitious plans to mainstream digital education by embracing openness, expanding the provision of MOOCs and online masters, and developing open educational resources. By 2020 the university expects to have 40,000 on-campus students, 10,000 off-campus online students, hundreds of MOOCs and thousands of OERs. Hybridity and blended learning are key to these plans, with students both on and off campus engaging with online learning resources.  In order to delivery this vision of mainstreaming digital education, O’Shea argued that the university needs a technology strategy that embraces applications within the institution, on the open web, and on learners own personal devices.

O’Shea explained that Edinburgh’s original rational for developing MOOCs was for reputational benefit, for fun, and to experiment with new modes of teaching and learning; not to make money.  The University of Edinburgh’s MOOCs embrace an eclectic range of subjects covering everything from chickens, to philosophy, to extraterrestrial life and back again, and while the majority of learners who engage with these courses are already highly educated, O’Shea believes strongly that MOOCs can play an important role in widening access and participation. The Edinburgh MOOCs have already made an important contribution to widening access by reaching into schools that the university would otherwise not have access to, enabling students to get a taste of the kind of learning experience the University of Edinburgh has to offer.  O’Shea concluded by highlighting the unexpected popularity of the Introduction to Philosophy MOOC which has been particularly successful in this regard; enabling large numbers of pre-entry students to find out what philosophy is all about, and leading to the creation of new masters level programmes.

 

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