Welcome to the April edition of Teaching Matters!

Innovative Learning Week

Teaching Matters is the University of Edinburgh’s website for debate about learning and teaching, for sharing ideas and approaches to teaching, and for showcasing our successes, including academic colleagues who are leading the way in delivering brilliant teaching.

Every month we take a theme and explore it through a video highlighting one of our ‘4*’ teachers, written features, a Focus on a School, and a number of blog contributions over the month. We also add news items as they come in and run an events listing page.

The theme for this month is digital education. The University has established itself in a world leadership position in digital education, evidenced by a steady stream of visitors from other universities, NGOs and government representatives, and by our influential partnerships and collaborations.

Technology-enhanced learning embedded in our residential degree programmes, over 60 fully online Masters programmes and certificates, and 30 Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are all part of our strategy to support excellence in education in the twenty-first century. Unusual amongst our peers, we signal our online education offerings at the top level of our university website. As a vital underpinning we also have strong digital education research.

This month’s blog and features (published throughout the month) will showcase a range of digital education activities from across the University, including:

But this leadership is not a signal to rest on our laurels – digital education is a rapidly evolving field and we shall have to invest resource, innovate and share an ambitious vision if we are to retain our place against increasing competition from our peers.

So what do I think the University should do next?

  • Use the power of learning analytics. We have world-class expertise in Prof Dragan Gasevic who will lead our learning and teaching analytics policy development, and we are embarking on a small-scale exploration with online Masters programmes.
  • Offer distance PhDs where feasible. Our online Masters students are potential candidates, and working adults, especially in developing countries are often unable to take time out of their careers. A recent report to the Researcher Experience Committee offers recommendations for making distance PhDs ‘normal’.
  • Take many more students on our online Masters programmes. We should target high-demand subjects and get much better at marketing our courses. Learning from our MOOCs should enable us to scale up and we should enable all-year-round study to speed progression rate through these part-time programmes.
  • Use our MOOCs (and those of peers) as introductory steps into full-credit courses and degree programmes. This enables working adults without sufficient academic qualifications to prove their abilities. Some of our peers in the USA are moving successfully in this direction.
  • Promote online courses from other universities as part of Edinburgh degree programmes (virtual Erasmus/exchanges) for the many students who cannot realistically study overseas and to expand choice for all our students.
  • Develop and require fully online courses for all our undergraduate students. As learning at advanced levels increasingly goes online, producing graduates without experience of fully online learning makes little sense.

I have talked and written about this subject over the past few years – if you are interested you can find these at: http://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/jeffhaywood.

I hope that you enjoy this edition of Teaching Matters and encourage you to get involved. Let us have your news, let us know when you are organising events on learning and teaching we can publicise, and send in your own blogs and comments.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Jeff Haywood

Jeff Haywood is Vice-Principal Digital Education, and Professor of Education and Technology in the School of Education. He leads the university’s digital education strategy, including its expanding portfolio of taught online Masters degrees and CPD and MOOCs. He has led, and been a partner in, numerous EU-, JISC-, SFC- and Research Council-funded projects in the field of technology in higher education and lifelong learning.

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