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The Changing Face of e-pedagogy? Staff Responses


Are e-learning approaches representing new ‘e’ pedagogies, distinctive from existing pedagogies, or are we are simply reinstating familiar favourites.


One fundamental question I would ask is about what audience this is directed at - the converted or the convertible?  [In this article] at one point, it is accepted that radical changes in culture and pedagogy are unlikely (which I would certainly accept), whereas at others the 'course' paradigm as a vehicle for learning is challenged and more creative and ambitious uses of e-learning are urged.  I suspect that the second springs from the first, in that the minority of paid-up converts will embrace more radical thinking whereas the current majority may be dissuaded by such talk.  In some ways this sets up an impossible challenge! Clarifying the targets might help to convey the range of pedagogies to the different groups.

Professor Michael Whitby, Classics

PVC (Teaching and Learning)


Jay 's piece raised several issues about the development of e learning which I would like to comment on. I should say that I am not entirely happy with the term e - learning.  I  know it has become the government's preferred term and is the one used by most institutions now but is it meant to refer specifically to networked communications or any use of ICT? And if the 'E' stands for electronic who wants to learn 'electronically' ? It is not a very appealing metaphor. Michael Hammond, Institute of Education

It may be that many of the new ‘e’ pedagogies are “reinstating familiar favourites” but is that necessarily bad?  It is important to focus on what e-learning tools do best.  They provide a permanent record of a learning event (unlike the unrecorded classroom lecture or discussion) to which the student and tutor can refer back and build on and develop.  In addition, they can be used to draw in a wider community with a new set of perspectives to add to the learning process.  

Rebecca Woolley, Library


I believe that e-pedagogy is different to conventional pedagogy, primarily because the experience of learner is likely to be different.  My primary concern at present is online distance learning, a form of pedagogy in which the learner is not physically present on campus. Such students must therefore receive and process all information without face-to-face tutoring. However, I believe that all forms of e-learning require a different approach from both teacher and student.

Sammy Adelman, School of Law


Whereas delivery methods may be changing, however, many of the skills we seek to teach in Theatre Studies remain the same.  … The form in which we choose to express the content we deliver, however, cannot help but influence the content itself.  In truth, opening the door to an ever-widening breadth of online information about our field—information it would be irresponsible for us to ignore. This demands that we concentrate on core skill development even more explicitly than before as our students struggle along with us to synthesize large amounts and different types of information. 

Christa Williford, Theatre Studies


My view of where e-pedagogy can take us is not that we are heading for a sudden revolution in models and modes of learning and teaching, but rather that we have a great chance for progressive (in both senses of the word) enrichment.

Loredana Polezzi, Department of Italian


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In so doing, we are taking a theoretical and pedagogical stand. But how do we translate this into a good practice guide for integrating and evaluating e-learning? Can we model these beliefs and values so that our uses of e-learning are built on educationally sound foundations?


I have encouraged the University to develop a coherent e-learning strategy (including a pedagogy) that will provide adequate support for the different needs that will arise. I fully appreciate the undesirability of pushing departments with different needs in one direction; however, there are so many common needs and interests …We must certainly find ways of delivering content in stimulating, interactive forms that enhance the learning experience. Above all, we must seek to view the process from the perspective of the learner in designing and delivering content.

Sammy Adelman, School of Law


It does seem like it would be possible, more explicitly, to write an ‘educationally sound’ manifesto for our university’s belief in research-led, ‘e-enhanced’ teaching and learning … I suppose this one of the areas I’m hoping to better understand through my work for the Warwick E-Learning Award.

Christa Williford, Theatre Studies


We need to be sensitive to students being at different stages of IT literacy. And we also need to be sensitive to the financial implications for students if we insist on their using IT.

Helen Dennis, English

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How can our professional instincts and disciplinary cultures be supported and what models of learning and teaching (and indeed research) does the technology afford?


My personal take is that technology and pedagogy have both to contribute [to our understanding of what is possible]. I know from discussion in the department that colleagues would be interested in using e-learning to enhance seminar learning, but this pedagogic aim is dependent on staff understanding what the available technology can deliver. They would also accept that the technology which delivers this particular pedagogic goal may open up other possibilities, so there is a chicken and egg process. But the key to delivering pedagogic objectives and promoting thinking about new possibilities is confidence in using the technology.

Professor Michael Whitby, Classics

PVC (Teaching and Learning)


Recent discussions of the future of HE have featured 'problem-based learning'. The idea, not a new one, is that rather than lecturers grinding through a syllabus ("Epidemiology and infectious diseases"), students are presented with a problem ("How can the spread of AIDS best be halted?") and they start from here using resources provided by the lecturer and those they find for themselves.

E-pedagogy as outlined in the article seems to me to be tailor made for this style of learning.  If it is to feature more widely in HE in the future, then it will have direct implications for the role of ICT.

John Pickering, Psychology


Mobile technology is a very exciting development in the e-learning trend, which will certainly help medical students get up to date information from internet-based sites at the patients' bedside.

Peter Ferry, Medical School


The technology itself provides new opportunities for patterns of study and modes of learning. The video-streamed lecture offered by some departments or online demonstration of a database (available from the Library web pages) are examples where the advantage of the technology, on one level, is merely to ease access and cope with increasing numbers of students. On another level, the student can participate in these virtual sessions in individual ways to enhance their learning.

Rebecca Woolley, Library

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How might we avoid the role of the subject expert being relegated to that of content "packager" rather than learning "composer"?


For students and lecturers alike, the conditioning of traditional classroom practices proved a powerful force. In general, we as lecturers like to maintain control over the content to which students are exposed, and students prefer to depend on lecturers for critical evaluation of any content before venturing their own opinions.

Christa Williford, Theatre Studies


I agree that there is a danger that what currently passes for e-pedagogy may too readily come to be regarded as just another administrative task. Whilst more and more syllabi are being placed on the web, and more materials are available over the internet, these are too often a digitalised form of printed materials.Teaching in conventional ways, with printed materials and course packs, and lectures and seminars, implies certain pedagogical approaches; since lecturers receive little or no formal training I am not sure that many of us are aware of the pedagogical issues involved in "normal" teaching.

Sammy Adelman, School of Law


I think your point that we tend to integrate the use of old technologies (eg. OHPs) without much fuss but that we foreground and draw attention to our use of new technologies is very pertinent. Recently I've tried a more softly softly approach. I've made websites available for all my modules, and they probably do enhance the learning experience of students who use them. But I've not foregrounded them in the teaching. They are there as a learning support for students who feel comfortable using them. (Although as the year progresses, they probably realize that they miss out if they don't consult them!)

Helen Dennis, English


Jay raises the important point that networked technologies can be used for many different modes of teaching and learning. She is surely right to suggest that delivering lecture notes on the WWW - or even posting multi media presentations - is not a particularly creative use of the media. However there is very often something in the media which subverts the original intention. For example learners using the WWW to view course material will very quickly turn to email to post queries to lecturers or to share ideas with fellow learners, whether this was planned into the course programme or not. Michael Hammond, Institute of Education

What e-learning can offer is an increasingly rich, flexible and potentially tailor-made learning environment (and that means tailor-made not just to the needs of the students, but also to those of the teachers and of the specificities of the subjects taught). Hence: clarity of aims and effective integration of means is paramount.

Loredana Polezzi, Department of Italian

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How can we deliver learning that is just-in-time, flexible and modular and adds value to the learning experience?


In working through the issues involved in the construction of an online masters degree it has become clear that simply transposing current content and practice into digital form is inadequate. I fully agree that the concept of a “course” as currently understood is likely to be inadequate. Sammy Adelman, School of Law

… if one regards making a transition to e-learning as a process of translating rather than re-writing past teaching and learning methodologies, it would make sense to me for the present, at least, to evaluate e-learning in similar ways to those other teaching and learning methods.

Christa Williford, Theatre Studies


To me e-pedagogy, thanks also to the metaphors and images attached to it (networks, hyperspaces, etc), rather than providing “bite-size chunks of knowledge”, is one of the best chances we have ever had to underline the 'connectedness' of knowledge …So, in terms of models and methods, for me e-pedagogy means precisely this: thinking of learning/teaching in connected ways, stressing the links between the processes, the parts, and so on. This means devising tasks which emphasise progression, joints between 'learning blocks'  .... It also means (as the article suggests) thinking of learning communities & knowledge networks (and there I definitely agree!).

Loredana Polezzi, Department of Italian

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In what ways can lecturers best integrate e-learning into their repertoire of teaching approaches and capabilities?


A major risk is to assume e-pedagogy is either radically different (and only applicable in radically different circumstances, by/to radically different people) or entirely neutral (i.e. just another way of doing the same thing). A related risk is to think of it as an add-on component (this is typically the case in independent-learning-only resources set up in parallel) to a 'traditionally taught' module.

Loredana Polezzi, Department of Italian


I think there is still an issue about the amount of support teaching staff get who want to develop websites. I would say that I have depended often on the good will of colleagues such as CAP, but that in the long run teaching staff should get more rather than less support. Before I felt able to insist that all my students use my websites I would probably need a research assistant to thoroughly update them and ensure that all my good intentions and scribbled notes to myself on backs of envelopes were converted into webpages. With the push towards the next RAE it's increasingly difficult to justify spending too much of one's own "research" time on updating a teaching website.

Helen Dennis, English


It is my impression that few people on campus are aware of how great the cultural change is likely to be when e-learning becomes more widespread ? and this has important pedagogical implications. The ways in which we teach will change greatly; what we must therefore seek to do is manage these changes in ways that are least threatening for academics and make best use of existing skills ? rather like the way in which we now word process many things that not so long ago were undertaken by secretarial staff.

Sammy Adelman, School of Law


I suspect that, in the same way the dot.com explosion floundered, e-pedagogy which does not at least refer to sound pedagogical foundations will result in poor quality learning experiences and undermine the positive progress that has been made. Many lecturers do feel overwhelmed by the abundance of new tools and will only be able to reflect upon their impact on teaching and learning when they have experimented, discussed and shared insights from others in their field. Time spent doing this would be time well spent in my opinion. It would seem useful to provide models of good practice in each field and encourage lecturers to construct pathways, which support the learning process and provide new ways to interact with students.

Teresa Mackinnon, Language Centre

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Are the educational possibilities offered by the technology – the e-pedagogies - perhaps not so much about new ways of learning as new ways of studying (and thus teaching)?


It may also mean rethinking not so much what we teach, but the uses we make of time and place: when does teaching take place? where? With respect to course design, what is the best progression between activities? Where does it take us, physically as well as virtually?

Which is why (and perhaps it is not so much of a paradox, but a lot of people seem to still forget it) thinking of infrastructure (spaces, indeed, and what learning/teaching opportunities they afford) is fundamental for the effective growth of e-pedagogy.

Loredana Polezzi, Department of Italian


As much as I subscribe to a commitment to adaptive learning I feel fairly comfortable about more routine uses of the technology. For example some learners like multiple choice questions. If an online resource can take care of generating different types of questions and providing routine feedback that is all well and good as long as we see that as time freed up for other more imaginative teaching be it on line or face to face. Michael Hammond, Institute of Education

Significantly, certain e-learning tools, where the student is asked to assess multiple outcomes, enable more evaluation rather than assimilation of information. Analytical and modelling tools are available to many more subject areas where once they were the preserve of scientific study.  The role of reflection, too, is facilitated by the increasing use of web logs.  These open up the opportunity to learn from the wider community and develop “cooperative and collaborative learning”.

Rebecca Woolley, Library


My opinion is that e-learning is yet another medium to support the social experience of learning.  Students learn by relating their own experiences to theories and by doing that understanding concepts by sharing ideas and interacting with fellow students and tutors.  I believe that e-learning can help with the above only if it is learner-focused, activity driven and based on interaction (between students and between student and tutor). 

Peter Ferry, Medical School


I believe that changes in technology will eventually change the way we experience teaching and learning, whether we like it or not, and so it seems better to be truly proactive about using e-learning where it makes sense to do so

Christa Williford, Theatre Studies

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So how will you go about developing e-learning with pedagogy in mind?


My views are much more cautious than some colleagues, but my perspective is that of the academic who is naturally interested in possible ways of enhancing student learning but who is also concerned about both competence in the relevant technology and the possibility of disrupting learning experiences which currently work reasonably well. These are the people who have to be brought on board if e-learning is to take off here.

Professor Michael Whitby, Classics

PVC (Teaching and Learning)


Where we choose to employ e-learning support, we may need to be willing to blur the boundaries of responsibility within traditional teaching and learning—outlining, delivering, and reconfiguring content—in ways that include both lecturer and student involvement on every level.  Taking small but steady steps in this direction, we will create for ourselves the luxury of a ‘more reflective, negotiated approach’ to e-learning design which is (like the best kind of classroom) flexible and customisable rather than restricting, laborious, and, perhaps, frightening to those charged with implementing it.

Christa Williford, Theatre Studies


Jay is right to push for a discussion of pedagogy. Technology will not tell us what should be taught and how it should be taught. However we might find our use of the technology makes us question our assumptions about teaching and learning. It is right to seek pedagogic clarity but meanwhile it is also alright to tinker. Michael Hammond, Institute of Education
I do not see e-learning environments and methods as separate from or substituting other types of pedagogy, but as integral, organic additions. The metaphor of a body of knowledge might be useful here: it's not just a question of what is peripheral and what is central, but of functions and co-ordination, with a common set of goals.

Loredana Polezzi, Department of Italian


Above all, at present, we need to talk, collaborate and exchange views, to learn from each other and from the inevitable mistakes we will make. There is no easy or perfect way of doing e-learning, as the fate of UKeU demonstrates, and we are still only on the foothills of what is possible; equally I have no doubt that e-learning is here to stay, that it will expand and that in a decade or so we will marvel at how far we have come in comparison to where we are today. To this end, it is crucial that the University provides resources, support and patience, that it be prepared to innovate and have patience with the glitches and problems that will inevitably arise.

Sammy Adelman, School of Law

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