Jay Dempster, Centre for Academic Practice, University of Warwick
Today’s e-learning tools are clearly meeting many organisational needs supporting administration, communication and information management and facilitating greater flexibility in work and study. In terms of the pedagogical demands, however, the role of e-learning is less than clear. Certainly, with e-learning comes new issues and responsibilities for curriculum development and the student learning experience. But is e-learning challenging and extending traditional teaching and learning paradigms or simply being used to replicate existing ones with the promise of greater efficiency?
How are we questioning the present e-learning innovations? How critical are we of the motivations for using e-learning? Who benefits and who is disadvantaged? Is our take-up of e-learning aligned with institutional agendas or do we wish simply a supportive playground in which to develop ideas and try things out? Do we understand how students behave in the electronic and virtual environments that are now second nature to many young people?
This issue of Interactions focuses on the theme of e-pedagogy. It aims to put professional practice in learning design back at the centre of discussions about e-learning. Building on the notion of research-like models of learning, presented in Forum Issue 26, the University is seeking to clarify those pedagogies that can support our values and beliefs about higher education in order to develop a framework for our uses of e-learning. We need to take a critical but constructive look at potential models of learning and teaching, both in our disciplines and institutionally, and relate these to current and possible future uses of e-learning at Warwick.
Across the University, there are several stakeholders in this debate: academic departments, academic services and centres of educational expertise, as well as IT and library services. An e-pedagogy working group of E-Learning Steering committee has been convened with the aim of bringing together the key influences and collaborations in discussing and constructing a pedagogical framework of value to staff in making appropriate uses of e-learning tools being developed centrally.
The article “The Changing Face of e-Pedagogy?” aims to get us thinking about which pedagogical pegs we might hook our e-learning devices upon. I have presented a range of issues and raised some questions about appropriate pedagogies for developing and evaluating e-learning at Warwick. Reflecting on academic practice helps us to make judgements as to whether our (e-learning) approaches are working well. In order to reflect on whether e-learning is supporting appropriate forms of pedagogy, we need some frame of reference – a set of educational philosophies that we hold at Warwick. And building on this, how we might make such ideas and best practice transparent and meaningful to staff and students alike.
A number of views from staff across the University have already been requested and the responses gathered are presented as a commentary to the various presuppositions. We are interested to hear from others about educational needs and the principles or models you currently use. We also seek views on the form of guidance on good practice that you would find helpful. A consultation process has been set up for this, see News.
Various viewpoints, new projects and recent experiences of Warwick staff are offered in the further three articles and the innovations in this issue. However, at this stage, there are likely to be more questions than answers, but these form a starting point for debate and exploration of desirable approaches in departments.
Dr Jay Dempster
Head of Educational Technology
Centre for Academic Practice
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 24 7652 4670