Category Archives: elearning

Learning from the “E-learning and Digital Cultures” course

E-learning and Digital Cultures was a 12-week course taught by me and Siân Bayne as part of the MSc in E-learning programme. It was innovative for the programme because of the nature of its engagement with digital cultures: it was open-access and disaggregated (you can see for yourself by browsing the web site), and made use of blogs, lifestreaming, twitter and a range of social and user-generated tools from across the web.

We’ll be presenting a paper at the Academic Identities for the 21st Century conference at Strathclyde University in June called “Posthuman academic identities in digital environments”, drawing on Siân’s recent work on uncanny digital pedagogies to talk about some of what we’ve learned from this course: how to work productively with volatility, disorientation, and strangeness.

nomination for edublog award

For this year’s Edublog Awards, I want to nominate the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in E-learning virtual graduation on 26 November 2009. Four of the students from the programme attended a graduation ceremony in Second Life, while two graduated in the University’s face to face ceremony in McEwan Hall. It was an extremely moving and amazing experience, especially when the principal asked those in McEwan Hall to give a round of applause for the virtual attendees. The whole concept and event (masterminded by my colleague Fiona Littleton) really deserves an Edublog award, I think!

Nomination for best educational use of a virtual world: Virtual Graduation at the University of Edinburgh

Update: Virtual Graduation won!! More information here:

Student writing online project website now up

The web site for the Student writing: innovative online strategies for assessment and feedback project (which we call SWOP for short) is now online at

The first stage of data generation is now under way with the appointment of our first four postgraduate research associates, who are keeping ethnographic accounts of their courses and facilitating a wiki for assessment and feedback stories.

Paper about digital natives

Here’s a paper that Siân Bayne and I wrote for the 2007 Society for Research in Higher Education conference – we are working on revising it in light of all the new literature about digital natives/immigrants/net generation since then, but I think the core arguments are still current, so thought I’d post it up here.

The ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’: a dangerous opposition

new project about feedback and student writing online

A small group of colleagues and I have been successful in getting funding for a two year project looking at innovative online strategies for assessment of and feedback on student writing. We’ll be looking in depth at digital writing practices on the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in E-learning programme, including:

  • tutor-student communication and formative feedback through reflective weblogs
  • assessing collaborative writing in wikis
  • assessing multimodal and hypertextual work
  • student-nominated assessment criteria
  • co-creating courses through discussion

The project officially started yesterday, and I’ll be heading it up. I’m really excited about it, especially because one of the things we’ll be doing is inviting students on the programme to work with us as co-researchers, conducting a series of ethnographies of particular courses and helping to develop an “assessment and feedback stories” wiki. We’ll also draw on archived data from the programme since it launched in 2006.

I’d really like to hear about other projects people have done which have used similar methodologies or explored similar themes. Please get in touch if you know of any!

Paper about teaching online: jesters, tricksters and fools

My colleague and supervisor Hamish Macleod and I first presented this paper at the 3rd Ideas in Cyberspace Education symposium at Loch Lomond in Scotland in March 2007. It draws in part on our experiences with the MSc in E-learning at Edinburgh. We’ve since revised it and it’s currently being considered for publication in an ICE3 book.

The paper takes a jester’s, trickster’s and fool’s look at teaching in online spaces. We argue that teaching in digital environments is different and requires different attitudes and strategies than its offline counterpart. We use archetypal, literary and historical characters of the fool, jester and trickster as metaphors to explore issues of authority, risk, innocence, fun, complexity, liminality and absurdity.

The paper was great fun to write, and I hope you enjoy it as well! Comments are very welcome.

Structure, authority and other noncepts: teaching in fool-ish spaces (PDF)