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Engaged Online Teaching and the University’s Strategic Plan

Photo of a laptop showing the back of a teacher writing on a blackboard

Image: Not very engaged online teaching

Why teach online?

The University of Edinburgh’s (2016) Strategic Plan endorses “a digital culture that will culminate in a university where: every core service is fully digital; every educator is a digital educator; every student is a digital student”.

Who are our distance learners?

Online students tend to be older, more professionally minded, and with greater challenges to overcome in their work-life balance. Engaged online teaching can help with this.

What are the unique challenges faced by distance learners?

In ‘Making Distance Visible: Assembling Nearness in an Online Distance Learning Programme’, the authors make some key points

  • Online distance learners have complex relationships with the educational institutions and programmes they belong to.
  • There are intellectual and emotional distances that must be crossed in order to “arrive” on a programme and to engage with it.
  • Online learners in formal programmes have to weather fluctuations in time and intensity in their engagements with the course.
  • Students were striving to develop rigid procedures and fixed routines of studying, even though they described flexibility as a key factor in their choice of study mode.
  • Work is central to the lives of distance learners.
  • A key story in narratives about distance students is about developing a level of flexibility about when, where and how they engage in paid work, and taking personal responsibility for their development and future ability to remain in work by engaging in distance learning studies.
  • Resilience is needed to navigate conditions of complexity and change, so that the student keeps going and successfully achieves the qualification sought.
  • “Nearness” must continually be assembled, as online distance learners progress through the stages of formalized degree programmes and balance their other professional and personal commitments. There are elements of the assemblage – technological, relational, emotional, spatial – that can disrupt or bolster the resilience that students need to be able to manage the varying degrees of nearness to their programme that they experience over time.

“We see engaged online teaching as a counter to many of the narratives around online education: self-paced and highly personalised learning, MOOCs and drives towards increasing sizes of cohorts, automation around assessments, and designs that de-emphasise the human teacher, all of which might be appropriate in particular educational contexts. In this course, we are going a different direction. The model presented here suggests that rather than de-emphasise the human teacher, we augment ‘the teacher function’.”

‘Engaged Online Teaching’ Introduction

Engaged online teaching creates openings, motivates remote students to overcome their challenges in work-life-study balance and feel less distant.

Rather than de-emphasise the human teacher, we should augment ‘the teacher function’.

As part of this, we are about to encounter ‘Teacherbot’, something I have been looking forward to!


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