Martin Oliver, UCL & Jay Dempster, University of Warwick
It is noteworthy that this paper begins with an interesting choice of terminology. The authors describe how the increases in uses of technology created “a call for innovation” with Higher Education institutions being “obliged” to respond accordingly. Firstly this wording highlights how Higher Education has become more of a consumer market – with institutions having to sell themselves to potential customers. Secondly, it suggests that the sector did not necessarily take on these technical developments willingly. It is interesting to consider whether or not this was the case.
When it comes to developing e-learning approaches, the authors warn against the tendency to move on to the next innovation before thoroughly evaluating the effectiveness of the previous one. Technology can have a powerful influence on teaching and learning– whether positive or negative – so its introduction needs to be carefully planned, monitored and evaluated.
One of the principles put forward by the authors that underpins strategic development in e-learning is the need for connections between technical and pedagogical support. They describe how a common approach to e-learning has been for institutions to set up a separate ‘team’ with the role of introducing technology. This can segregate e-learning from other learning and teaching structures and processes and possibly result in innovations being established without strong theoretical underpinning. The current Warwick E-learning Strategy emphasises the importance of embedding e-learning in to normal practice – rather than treating it as a bolt-on activity. It also highlights the need for developments to be driven by pedagogical rather than technological demands. In a time when this strategy is being reviewed, staff might consider whether or not these aims have been achieved.
First appeared in Interactions Issue 18 Autumn 2002