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Innovating e-Learning 2009 focuses on change

Last modified 27 Nov, 2009
Published 27 Nov, 2009
Author of the Demos report, The Edgeless University, Peter Bradwell opened the second theme of Innovating e-Learning 2009 with a warning note for higher education.

Universities are facing ‘a perfect storm’ of rising demand and strained resources, but Bradwell saw a solution in embracing what technology can offer. An explosion of free online resources and social media means that universities are no longer have sole rights over the generation of ideas, knowledge and innovation, he asserted, but technology should still be seen as an asset rather than a threat.

Technology helps learning by supporting collaboration, making information more readily obtainable and bringing people together. Technology can make research more freely available and enable more flexible and equitable access to learning. Universities, however, need to learn how to exploit this potential – the future lies in open, collaborative ways of working enhanced by technology rather than in the walled gardens of the past, Bradwell concluded.

The concept of ‘edgelessness’ appeared again in the sessions on virtual worlds. Virtual worlds researcher, John Kirriemuir, and session facilitator, David White, (Oxford University) explored the fine line between play and purposeful learning found in educational uses of virtual worlds and in games playing, but where were the familiar protocols and boundaries of traditional face-to-face teaching? Similar issues emerged in Alan Staley’s presentation of Shareville – a 3-D replica of a town created to support experiential and multidisciplinary learning at Birmingham City University:

‘We need to ask when should students play, when should they do it for real, and when should we try to replicate reality.’ Alan Staley Virtual worlds, successfully harnessed, made irresistible viewing. Delegates were enthralled by Kathy Trinder’s demonstration in Elluminate of uses of Second Life at Glasgow Caledonian University. Kathy argued that the speed of change should not cause a rush to judgement about how new platforms should be used:

‘Perhaps we should consider how we can avoid repeating what we already do in the physical world, and, instead of building 500-seat virtual lecture theatres, embrace pedagogies beyond our traditional models.’ Kathy Trinder

Elsewhere in the conference the real world was more in evidence but the winds of change were still blowing. Mike Neary (University of Lincoln) explored the relationship between pedagogic principles and the learning landscape, while Mark Stubbs (Manchester Metropolitan University) and Peter Bird presented findings from the Supporting Responsive Curricula Project. The project is funded under the JISC Institutional Approaches to Curriculum Design programme [] and seeks innovative ways of engaging employers and professional bodies in curriculum design.

A closing keynote by Nigel Paine, former Head of People Development at the BBC, on 27th November concludes the fourth Innovating e-Learning conference with thoughts around the shift he sees taking place from learning on courses to learning in communities.

Sessions at Innovating e-Learning 2009 remain open for reading and research by delegates until 1st January 2010. As in previous years, conference presentations and resources, including keynotes, will be made available within the next few weeks on the JISC website [] for general viewing.

Follow the conference on Twitter: #jiscel09

Quote ‘Wonderful informed and passionate debates plus great keynotes all recorded for playback in your own time.’ Nigel Paine


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