Beautiful Landscape With Bridge, by George Hodan License: CC0 Public Domain
Can students take a lead on managing and promoting their own learning?
Does this have to happen in the confines of institutional virtual learning environments?
Can academics and students take back control of their digital presence?
These were all questions explored yesterday in a workshop facilitated by Jim Groom at the National University of Ireland Galway title: Student As Partner: Enhancing Student Engagement Through a Focus on Assessment As Learning in Digital Spaces.
Let me quote from the advertising text to give you a flavour of what this event sought to deal with
The Student as Producer model advocates a pedagogic approach foregrounding student voice, choice and creativity so that students can recognise themselves in a world of their own design and take responsibility for their own learning. This has broad ramifications across the institution with respect to digital technology, learning spaces, and assessment (Healy et al., 2014; Neary et al., 2015). The Domain of One’s Own initiative emphasises a partnership approach to teaching and learning, and reworks the relationships between research and teaching; producing and consuming; and educators and students (Groom & Lamb, 2014). Partnership with students, not only as learners but as teachers and assessors, can contribute to developing graduate attributes and personal learning networks that can sustain students/graduates well beyond their time in higher education.
Groom, J., & Lamb, B. 2014. Reclaiming innovation. Educause Review (June 2014).
Healey, M., Flint, A., & Harrington, K. 2014. Engagement through partnership: Students as partners in learning and teaching in Higher Education. York: Higher Education Academy.
Neary, M., Saunders, G., Hagyard, A. & Derricott, D. (2015). Student as Producer: Research-engaged teaching, an institutional strategy. York: Higher Education Academy.
It is time for me to own up to the fact that I was co-responsible for this event along with my colleague Catherine Cronin. I am not an educational technology person so the event was conceived as an exploration of the space between different sets of ideas, specifically those of ‘student as producer’ and ‘open educational practices‘ (OEP), using Domain of Ones Own (DoOO). Catherine has already written about her hopes for the workshop and will write refections on it shortly. I want to focus on the elements I was mostly interested in and the thoughts I have had following working with Jim.
I was particularly interested in how ideas of students as producers (SaP) could articulate with technologies associated with open educational practices. In the workshop I outlined SaP as covering at least three dimensions;
- Students as researchers: students engaged in different kinds of research like activity, and presenting the outcome of their inquiries.
- Students devising learning materials: students involved in the development of curricular materials. For instance a project at the University of Lincoln UK involved undergraduate students producing a range of learning materials for an Introduction to Chemistry course.
- Students as assessors: biology students at Vanderbilt University USA were engaged in devising laboratory based experiments and the assessment of these as an alternative to the traditional lab practical.
From my perspective students are engaged in assessment as learning in all of these examples. Students not only need to know what to learn, but why that knowledge is important (compared to alternatives), and to determine how they can learn. When further developed students also engage in generating new knowledge and meaning.
But how does this dovetail with OEP?
One way of understanding how approaches such as DoOO align with SaP is articulated by Audrey Waters recently as concerning,
Students have lost control of their personal data
By working in digital silos specially designed for the classroom (versus those tools that they will encounter in their personal and professional lives) students are not asked to consider how digital technologies work and/or how these technologies impact their lives
Education technologies, particularly those that enable “algorithmic decision-making,” need transparency and understanding
(You can substitute the word “scholar” for “student” in all cases above, too, I think.)
Whether it is VLEs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Academia or other platforms, we exchange our personal data and learning outcomes and teaching materials (in the case of VLEs) in exchange for use of these proprietorial services. DoOO offers the opportunity to control how our personal data is used and to control our digital presence. Jim shared examples of how academics were able to fashion strong digital identities that were not confined to the institution they happened to work in at any particular moment. This meant they could construct digital identities that were not confined to corporate priorities and branding. The same can be done by students. This relates to an issue raised both by Audrey Waters in her blog post and Catherine Cronin at the workshop – that the nature of VLEs and proprietorial platforms means that students and academics do not really engage with digital literacies such as protection of personal data, privacy, copyright, etc.
DoOO, for me, is attractive because it can be supportive of public and open scholarship. Similarly, it can support students to be producers of knowledge and meaning rather than consumers.