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1.1 Technology supporting learning

Whether you are making the move to online teaching for the first time, shifting to a blended approach (combining online and face-to-face teaching), or developing your current approach, you will find it useful to reflect on the benefits that an internet connection can offer learners (Ferguson, 2019). These benefits go beyond the ability to participate in lectures or seminars when it is not possible to be on campus. They include connectivity, extension, inquiry, personalisation, publication and scale.

Connectivity: The internet has opened up many new ways of working with other people around the world. It offers a wide range of tools that can support networked, collaborative and conversational approaches to learning. These include the tools you looked at in Week 4 and the OER you considered in Week 6. Learners can link with others across the country and around the world.

Extension: The internet supports extended learning, connecting learning experiences across locations, times, devices and social settings. It offers new tools for creative exploration of the world and provides increasing opportunities to connect learning outside the classroom with learning inside the classroom.

Inquiry: Learners who have access to a smartphone also have access to an array of built-in sensors that enable them to measure, interrogate, analyse and record their environment. Technology provides them with new means and structures for organising data, new reference sources, and new tools that can be used to investigate this information space. The internet supports citizen inquiry, enabling learners to engage in scientific investigations that involve the collection and analysis of data on a worldwide scale.

Personalisation: Interactions with technology generate data sets that reveal patterns and trends. These data sets can be used to enhance an individual’s learning experience through offering learning paths or resources that are personalised to meet individual needs and learning preferences. They can also be used to enable learners to understand and develop their aptitudes and skills.

Publication: Learners are no longer restricted to a limited local audience. They can use digital tools and the internet to engage in authentic tasks that connect their learning with experiences beyond the institution. They can also share their work with a worldwide audience by publishing their creations or their findings.

Scale: Education can now be delivered at scale through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). When these scaled-up courses make use of social networking and learning through conversations, interactions become richer as learners around the world share ideas and perspectives. MOOCs, or parts of MOOCs, can either be incorporated within the curriculum to enrich it or offered to learners as extension activities.

When preparing for change, bear in mind that many students will not have a good internet connection at all times. This means planning for asynchronous interaction, so that activities can be carried out when individuals are online, rather than requiring everyone to be online at the same time. When students do need to be online together consider whether they could do this in groups, at a time of their choosing, rather than asking everyone to be online at the same time.