Teaching and learning innovation

2 Aug 2012

The use of technology in higher education courses continues to be provocative because of the immensity of the possible changes, states Gerry White in DERN.


The potential for differing expectations between students and teachers using digital technologies also can create an unpredictable environment in an atmosphere dominated by accountability. How digital technologies are best used in higher education teaching and learning is slowly emerging, although the use of digital technologies in learning and research have become entrenched.

A small group of academics, with strong educational technology research and teaching experience, have adapted the format of the New Media Consortium  Horizons reports and have produced a very exciting and novel report about innovating with pedagogy. The report, Innovating Pedagogy 2012, the first in a series of annual reports from The Open University, selects and discusses ten pedagogies where information and communications technologies (ICT) can make a difference.

Innovating Pedagogy 2012 discusses how university educational leaders can innovate with pedagogy using e-books, short courses, assessment, badges for accrediting learning, massive open online courses (MOOCs), open scholarly publishing, seamless learning, learning analytics, personal inquiry and community knowledge building. The discussion for each innovation is rich being informed by research, and based on experience and information from colleagues globally. The central focus for viewing the pedagogical innovations is on ‘the theory and practice of teaching, learning, and assessment’ (p. 6). The discussions are backed-up with a list of resources that are a mixture of research, pilot projects and comments about successful innovative programs in higher education.

The discussion about e-books is fascinating because in the past these ‘devices did not support the students’ current study practices such as having several documents open on a desk simultaneously, annotating pages, using sticky notes and bookmarking’ (p. 8). These barriers are now being overcome and the possibility for individual study and social study, for example the Concept Grid method, can now be realised. The semantic linking between shared notes and student comments on course documents can lead to student reflection and deep learning. Tablet computers also have a number of inbuilt tools that can be used for language learning and inquiry learning. Assessment can be designed to be embedded in the course-work and available on tablets.

‘The traditional business of educational publishing is being disrupted by new types of online content and a revolt from their institutional subscribers over sustainable charging models and practices’ (p. 11). The possibility of publisher-led short courses for leisure learning products and continuing professional development may provide an alternative. Such ‘attractively packaged consumer products [may be able to] satisfy immediate learning needs’ (p. 12).

Innovating Pedagogy 2012 reflects on badges to accredit learning as part of an open framework for gaining recognition of skills and achievements. Badges build on the work of the Mozzilla Foundation and contain links to tools that can be used to explore a topic and share information. ‘Badges appear to offer a natural match to Open Educational Resources [which] currently lack the context and drivers of accredited material’ (p. 17).

The report is a brilliant review of innovations with pedagogy in order to maximise and extend teaching, learning and assessment using digital technologies. The possibility of MOOCs, pioneered by Canadians George Siemens and Stephen Downes, to run courses for parallel accreditation and interested learners, as well as to increase student numbers and the university profile, are exciting. And so too are the discussions about the rebirth of academic publishing, seamless in-class and out-of-class learning, and learning analytics that uses data mining to benefit both the institution, and teaching and learning.

This 35-page report is the first major discussion of a range of pedagogies in tertiary education. It has far reaching insights and practical information that could benefit post-compulsory schooling, training and higher education. Innovating Pedagogy 2012 is a ‘must-read’ report for lecturers seeking to have a greater impact on learning and achievement, and who wish to harness digital technologies to improve their courses.


Gerry White is Principal Research Fellow: Teaching & Learning using Digital Technologies, Australian Council for Educational Research

This article was first published on the Digital Education Research Network (DERN)

Read the full article on DERN (free registration required)

Image: Flickr / ElectronicFrontierFoundation

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