Parts of the draft article that you can read by clicking on the above
link have been discussed by email. This page attempts to share the
discussion by including parts of emails from different people with links to
the relevant parts of the article. The article has links back to the
informed about developments in these discussions.
To present emails as part of a discussion I have had to reword them at
times. I have tried to remain true to what was originally said, but the
authors are not necessarily responsible for what I say they say. I
appreciate amendments and corrections.
Dennis Parker, Michelle Haynes and Kyriaki Anagnostopoulou asked about
the intended audiance for the article. Something that I had not made clear
in my emails. As Dennis Parker commented: "I would make different comments
if it is an internal paper to if it was an external publication etc".
The article did start as internal papers. A booklet called "What is SHE
doing with Email?" was distributed for comment on 5.5.1998 and an email on
"Conceptual Frameworks" was sent to members of the Sociology and
Criminology Academic Group on 11.9.1999 based on notes made on the back of
an agenda during the meeting. These were internal documents. I received
feedback from them, some of which I will incoporate below with a minimum of
The article on Email in active learning and active teaching is meant
for anyone who cares to read it. In this sense it is possibly both internal
and possibly external. It arose out of discussions with Ken Goulding, Barry
Jackson and John Annette about how the educational experience of different
modules can be made available to other people. Writing directly onto the
web is the way I am trying. It means, amongst other things, that the
students on SHE can see what is being written about the experiments in
which they are the heroes and heroines.
Most of the article will be a report on the qualitive and quantitative
research into student responses to electronic education that has been
carried out on SHE over the past two years (partly funded by the Centre for
Learning Development). Most of this has still to be written into the
The main part of the article that has been discussed in emails is at
the end, where I discuss the concepts I found useful in thinking about the
changes to our practice entailed by incorporating electronic communication
into the mix of media that we use for teaching and learning.
I am very grateful for all responses. (Thank you). Several have not yet
Malcolm Reid: Andrew says that as changing technology changes the basis
of our teaching and should revolutionise what we do. It would be better
still if we looked at the way it changes the nature of student
learning which is, arguably, more important than our teaching. In
fact, I try not to teach - I would much rather encourage a student to learn
than teach them any day.
Chris Osborne: It is not only changing technology that is changing the
whole basis of our teaching, but also changing social context and
attitudes, especially among the 'next generation'. The social
changes and technology changes are so interwoven that it is impossible to
say which is cause and which is effect - a symbiotic relationship?
I agree that staff and the institution need to learn to listen to
students more and to make more use of what is heard. This might be what an
Investors in People organisation does as a 'matter of course'?! The
feedback look from students into institutional action is not a strength of
the present system (for various reasons - inertia and resource implications
[It is fascinating to really think through the implications of a
'resource learning' university - not only do campuses go, but the
implications of what qualities you need in your teaching staff also change
John Annette: I liked especially this linkage between the use of
learning resources/technology and the renewal of a sense of academic
Chris Osborne: We should move from thinking about printed and
electronic resources as means of replacing the academic community of staff
and students towards thinking of them as means to revive and develop that
community. But it will be a different community, or a different looking
A general thought or prejudice? Information Technology zealots are
dangerous and should be keep well away from the design of new learning
contexts because they have forgotten what it is like to be a normal human
being. They assume that their fascination for the IT media is matched in
everybody else. It is not. For them it is a way of life, if not a religion
- for most people it is just a tool, and one they want to use
easily. [Following part of comment missing]
Malcolm Reid: I use the term 'collegiate' learning. I would argue that
resource based learning is about building collegiality which is wider than
an 'academic community' and serves for life. We should be building life
skills and lifelong learning which we can do more effectively by fostering
collegiate membership and responsibility. Collegiality also includes an
element of citizenship and ownership rather than simple membership.
Steve Torrance: I have been railing against the academic turf wars in
the university (and in others) for a long, long time. I think that people
are now beginning to see that collaboration across campuses and disciplines
is not just a noble cause (but not one for putting resources into) but a
Chris Osborne: What about mutuality, collaboration and cooperation in
the Higher Education sector as a whole? As students become able to 'pick
and mix' units/course of an electric shelf, and really exploit credit
accumulation, what effect will this have on institutions - cut throat
competition? or co-existence based on different specialisations (of
subject, of style, or whatever?)
Centralising Resource Services
Steve Torrance: I have suggested for some time that technical staff
should be upgraded to become learning resource coordinators, with
responsibilities tied to modules. Expertise and good practice could be
distributed and shared via these staff, to prevent academics reinventing
wheels in isolation or other academics feeling that they are being left
behind by bewildering new technical developments.
Chris Osborne: I absolutely agree that Learning Resource Services
should become central to the academic community. And, if the materials now
convey the great bulk (all) of the 'content' of the learning, what does
that reveal to be the key role of the teacher? (For I continue to believe
there is a role and a need, for a teacher - but as a 'facilitator' rather
than the traditional research-reputationed guru).
Afterthought - what also is the new role of the student? And what are
the required abilities and aptitudes of the student if he or she is to
succeed in this new information technology mediated resource-based context?
Where and how does the student acquire these qualities? We cannot always
assume that the student will come into Higher Education with them already.
Malcolm Reid: Learning to learn is important and has been neglected.
Our current cohort of students need to acquire these skills above all
others.They need to learn that Higher Education is different and is about
students learning. It is not about lecturers teaching. Lecturers are not
Malcolm says in another comment that he would much rather encourage a
student to learn than teach them any day. I think teaching is about
inspiring students. It is about providing the spark that lifts the student
into the sky like a rocket, rather than throwing water over the student's
smouldering enthusiasm. In a presentation to the Centre for Learning
Development, I suggested a three layer approach to the making autonomous
learning a reality: Ground: Paper and electronic resources that
empower students to study on their own. Air: Activities aimed at
igniting interest. Sky: Internet based dialogue (e.g. email) within
an academic community (including web context).
Steve Torrance: Extract from his Learning Achievement Self Evaluation
Any course at a University, any course anywhere has two sides: the
teaching side and the learning side. University education should stress
both these sides equally. On the one hand, the student, should expect
careful and effective teaching from the lecturers who are delivering
courses. On the other hand, students will want to make an active
contribution, in order to achieve the highest quality learning.
One of the central features of higher education is that it enables the
student to play an increasingly responsible role in his or her own
education process. Higher education needs to make the student's role as
learner more and more clear to the students, so that they can contribute as
much on the learning side, as we, the staff, are aiming to contribute on
the teaching side.
This means summoning up quite a lot of creativity and effort on the
I think the implication of what Steve writes is that
it will also require a lot of creativity and effort on the tutor's
part. Andrew Roberts
Chris Osborne: I am broadly agreed that the best software for web
working is the least sophisticated. Sophistication of technology (as
developed and/or propounded by enthusiasts) can by its complexity be a
disincentive to less intuitive or less skilled users. The medium can itself
be a barrier to communication. A good general principle would seem to be:
work at the level of the lowest denominator, but seek to raise it, of
Malcolm Reid: I agree that resources need to be shared between modules
and that this is an inherent problem with modular systems which seek
to break learning into small 'chunks'. Examples of shared resources that
overcome modular fragmentation can be found in the School of Social
Science. SocNet, the Social Science IntraNet, for example, creates a single
resource centre for students and staff.
The clearest way to develop a resource which spans modules may appear
to be use electronic resources. However, we have had shared resources for
some time in our libraries. Books are an interesting resource clearly
available across boundaries.
The most important thing to me is to ensure that students recognise
that modules are interdependent not independent and that they can use
resources from one in another. This is all about becoming independent
learners surely - and taking responsibility for ones own learning. Learning
to learn is important and has been neglected.
Chris Osborne: Should we consider staff as the key resources
(academic and support staff)? And, if the learning 'content' is no
longer the prime determinant of good teaching, then extrapolating leads to
the conclusion that good teachers can teach any subject. (That is to
say, they can help the student to learn the subject or whatever). So staff
then become the ultimate redeployable shared resource. [I agree that I am
being extremist, and a subject base is very helpful to good teaching, but
the general principal is still there].
Chris Osborne: The article argues that resource envelopes rather
than a measure of face to face contact hours with students should be used
to allocate financial resources to courses. I do not think we should
underestimate the 'threat' (real or perceived - the result is the same)
behind the seeming abandonment or reduction (is it really a reduction?) of
'contact hours'. Using contact hours means we have a demonstrable workload.
Demonstrable workload equals productivity. If you remove timetable contact
hours, how can a tutor justify his or he employment, or resist the
imposition of more work?
What we should be thinking about is some sort of system where a teacher
is seen as shepherd: success is getting all (or most) of his/her quota or
'flock' of students to a successful outcome. (This assumes a level playing
field for all flocks to graze on, of course). Is it revolution or blasphemy
to suggest that teaching success should be measured by student success,
rather than in terms of hours spent teaching or the weight of paper
Andrew Roberts' web Study Guide
Take a Break - Read a Poem
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