Category Archives: teaching

Introducing the MSc in Education Futures

The last few years of my professional life have involved a number of projects with significant ‘behind the scenes’ activity, and none more than the development of the new MSc in Education Futures at the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). I started working in earnest on this programme in early 2019, when I was appointed to an EFI fellowship to develop a programme on the topic of ‘future education’. Along with a group of programme leads from across the university, the past three years have been a whirlwind of interdisciplinary conversations, curriculum and pedagogical design debates, administrative and academic milestones, and many and varied discussions about how to engage people across sectors in considering what the future of learning will be like, and what it will be for. 

The public launch of the programme last week, along with five others (Creative Industries, Data, Inequality and Society, Future Governance, Narrative Futures and Service Management and Design), means that we will quite soon know who will be joining us for the very first year of this new adventure. I really can’t wait, because a lot of our design considerations have been about how to bring together a group of participants with diverse experiences and areas of focus to investigate key topics around education and learning futures. It will be fantastic to see how this plays out when the programme begins next September.

One of the most interesting aspects of EFI is the ‘fusion’ design of the courses: all the Education Futures courses are designed around two-day ‘intensive’ sessions – available to study online or on campus ­– and wraparound online activity. Each 10-credit course will run for five weeks, including the two full-day intensives. My programme co-director, James Lamb, has written about how we are going about designing these courses – check out his blog post here.

The curriculum design process has been equally interesting. I’ve been engaging with speculative research and teaching approaches for the past ten years or so, and it has highlighted the productive challenges of working with ideas of the future (I’m currently writing a book about this!). The first year of courses will cover topics like the design of learning organisations, and education’s role in wicked problems and challenging futures. We are also working on courses that explore methods of engaging with futures (including through cultural heritage approaches, postdigital and speculative experiments, and social science fictions), issues of personalisation, social change, creativity and resilience, and lots more. In addition to these, there are shared ‘core’ courses that all EFI students will have access to that help develop creative and data skills, and a set of electives from across the programmes that are open to all EFI students to choose from. 

We’ll be piloting two of the courses between January-March 2022 – Future of Learning Organisations and Postdigital Society. The intensive sessions will take place in a specially designed fusion teaching space, and we’ve been playing around in that space and investigating the possibilities it is able to support. The programme team meets regularly and we have had amazing discussions about things like learning times and spaces, decolonising a futures-focused curriculum, and approaches to collaboration. There is a lot of energy for the new programme and for what we are each bringing from our own research, disciplinary context, teaching experiences, ideas about the future, and so on. I’ll introduce some other members of the team in a future post, and look out for a co-authored position paper from us in the next few months.

In the meantime, I warmly welcome questions about the programme – feel free to get in touch! To learn more, including about how to apply, check out the web site:

A new postgraduate programme in Education Futures at the Edinburgh Futures Institute

Shawl Design, 242. ECA Rare Books, University of Edinburgh Collections.

A big part of my working life for the next few years involves the development of a new postgraduate programme, to be part of the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). The programme is made up of a number of interlinked pathways, including one on Education Futures – this is the one I’m leading on. The programme will be interdisciplinary, challenge-led, and have core data and creative skills courses as well as a range of core and option courses for each pathway.

Education Futures is particularly exciting (in my view!) because it will focus on some of the key ideas and topics informing learning, knowledge and education across the whole life course, with an emphasis on understanding the relationships between data and education. I want to see the pathway appealing to people from all sectors of education and learning, including schools, workplace learning, community education, and higher and further education. Things are still in the early stages of development, but by studying this pathway, we want students to be able to:

  • Understand and critically examine possible futures for formal and informal education.
  • Analyse education’s role in shaping and responding to global challenges and social, political, cultural and environmental change.
  • Make critical links between education and data-driven innovation, exploring the geographies, mobilities, values, ethics and forms of measurement that come along with greater innovation with, use of, and reliance on data.

Course topics we’re currently discussing include the future of learning organisations; educating for the future; personalisation, surveillance and anonymity; policy, metrics and governance; education and work; agency and social change; participation, care, inclusion and culture; expertise, literacies, trust and data fluency – and more!

I’ll have lots more to say about this in the coming months. However, EFI has just launched a ‘market pulse’ survey to learn more about what people think about the proposed programme and Education pathway so far (there are also surveys available for some of the other pathways). If you are interested in the future of education, knowledge and learning, and have thoughts about this programme or might even be interested in studying something like this, I’d be really grateful for your input!

Get in touch if you have any questions about what we’re up to.

(ps – I chose the image for this post because it’s in the new University of Edinburgh collections colouring book, which is sitting on my desk waiting for me to colour…)

#edcmooc blogging

Along with the other teachers on the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC (#edcmooc), I’ll be blogging for the next five weeks at – our thoughts on the MOOC as it evolves, the first-time MOOC teacher’s perspective, and whatever else strikes us as relevant.

The MOOC has been gathering steam for the past couple of months, as participants began to meet, network and build support structures to make the most of their time on course. Now that the MOOC has launched, with 40,000 people enrolled, the way that these networks are starting to engage with the content we have developed is bound to be fascinating. I’m also very interested to see how these networks expand to welcome newer participants, and how those newer people experience that welcome.

One of my favourite participant-built environments so far: the EDCMOOC map – which has had to be locked for the time being because there were too many pins!

Rebooting the Digital Futures for Learning course

My option course on the MSc in E-learning is called “Digital Futures for Learning“. It’s a great course (if I do say so myself!) which is designed around student-developed and peer-assessed online events on topics relating to the core themes of the course. It means that we always have a chance to learn about and discuss the very latest developments in the field, as students are developing their events and position papers about 2 weeks before they lead them.

The course runs every two years, and it’s due to run again in September. Last time (in 2010) it was built on three broad themes:


and we read about issues related to mobile learning, the internet of things, remix, the politics of personalisation, and so on. Students produced amazing seminars on topics including the ethics of research in augmented environments, augmented reality and blended learning, ‘rip mix burn’ and learning, and controller-free technology. One of the seminar archives is here.

This year, I’m thinking that the themes might be ubiquity and openness (to bring in edupunk, Open Educational Resources, big data and so on) – wondering if we need a third, as these two cover so much ground. Still considering – comments welcome!

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.