Digital environments, learners’ needs and digital literacies

Reflections on understanding learners’ need and digital literacies

I filled out all the four questionnaires suggested by #ocTEL week 2 activity and felt they were of little use as they seemed quite generic and also to imply that an online course meant you were basically on your own with a computer screen. I think this is a very outdated way of presenting online learning and my experience of being online is a much more connected and collaborative experience. Like most other people I preferred the questionnaire that Helen Beetham linked to which was much more positive and realistic with useful feedback and suggestions as part of the results. It was also quite accurate in identifying that I am still very focused on reading and should consider interactive media, like videos more.

“The focus is not online learning but learning in a digitally rich environment”, is what Helen Beetham said in her discussion forum post with the topic: An Alternative Approach. An interesting point because this highlights that we can no longer as easily compartmentalise or differentiate between face to face and online – thought to be honest I am not so sure it was ever really that easy…

As pointed out by a number of other #ocTEL participants in forum discussions the need to manage student expectations about the courses they are on and what is expected of them by academics and the university is always important and needs to be made explicit (and part of the course) rather than taken for granted. The reality of all courses are that most of the activities and learning take place when the academics are not actually interacting (in any mode) w learners. Surely this makes it even more important to prepare learners for the digitally rich environments in which they will be and already are working and learning (both at University and afterwards)?

However, I wonder how much any member of academic staff see this as part of their role/responsibilities or even part of the course/module they are delivering? I also wonder how many members of academic staff use the digital rich environment they live in (I guess this is a fairly safe assumption?) for learning. I am concerned that digital literacies will be understood as a separate skill set to be learnt/taught on top of everything else and thus they become embroiled in the how can we possibly ‘cover more content’ argument and digital literacies will be seen to be in conflict with disciplinary knowledge/learning rather than an integral part of this.

I like the 8 essential essential elements of digital literacies developed by Dr Doug Belshaw mainly because it is not really a definition (and therefore not restrictive), not focused on skills, recognises the importance of context and the need for digital literacies to be co-constructed.

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3 Responses to Digital environments, learners’ needs and digital literacies

  1. Pingback: #ocTEL Week 2 Activities…

  2. Hi Katherine, – really like your thoughts on digital literacies and also the process of making explicit expectations on students from distance learning courses.

    I’ve mentioned this post in my own blog too: http://www.learningtechnologist.co.uk/2013/05/01/octel-week-2-activities/

  3. Sue Folley says:

    I agree with you that digital literacies are much more than a simple set of skills that can be tested by an online quiz. They also develop over time and with practice, so if you have never taken an online course before it does not mean you can’t, you can develop the skills as the course progresses. I think the most important things are the motivation to learn and the willingness to participate and engage. If these things are present, the skills and experience will develop. I think the questionnaires were only useful to get potential students to think about their motivations and commitment to engage with an online course, but should not be taken in isolation, but could form the start of a discussion about the course in general.

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