Dean of Learning and Teaching, and Professor of Pedagogy, at the University of the Highlands and Islands. I lead the teams who work in partnership with colleagues across the university in the areas of learning and teaching strategy, professional development and recognition in learning and teaching, curriculum innovation, digital education practice, academic standards, and educational scholarship.
I have also led the development of the Learning and Teaching Academy as UHI’s hub for enhancement and innovation in learning and teaching, with a focus on co-ordinating strategic learning and teaching initiatives, providing an integrated range of professional development and recognition opportunities for colleagues with learning and teaching responsibilities, and through the development of the University Mentoring Scheme. I also oversee the development and implementation of UHI’s Learning and Teaching Enhancement Strategy, and co-ordinate the development of educational research at UHI.
Prior to joining UHI I was programme leader for an award winning MSc Blended and Online Education. I also developed the openly licensed 3E Framework for designing technology-enhanced learning which has been implemented (in original or adapted form) by a range of institutions within and beyond the UK.
I’m one of the founding editors of the online, open-access Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice (@JofPAAP), and Vice Chair of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT).
I use this blog to share thoughts on aspects of education, learning, technology and inclusion in a purely personal capacity, and to keep track of presentations and papers.
I’m on Twitter @smythkrs and LinkedIn at http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/keith-smyth/14/89/589.
One thought on “About”
Many thanks for your comments, and I hope you picked up my comment over on your blog explaining I’d come back to you. I hope you’re also enjoying #ocTEL so far!
I think the experience you’ve had with your students is not uncommon. The programme I run, which I drew some examples from for last week’s webinar, is our MSc Blended and Online Education. This is also an online programme, and while participation levels are very good overall (perhaps because those on the programme are there to experience and understand online learning and teaching), I think assessed tasks do tend to carry more weight and legitimacy for students. I think this is the case at any level of FE or HE study, and is certainly the case if the students in question are also workng professionals who need to make strategic decisions about what to prioritise by way of their engagement. Just as you indicate.
However, we have found that direct assessment is not necessary for active engagement online – providing the ways in which we are asking our participants to engage online can be seen to have clear individual and collective benefits.
Take the example I shared whereby each week two or three students are given a couple of terms to research and add to a collaborative online glossary. Students were not assessed on this, but we did explain that everyone was expected to contribute. We also explained that the terms that we’d be asking two or three participants to define each week would be directly related to key topics being explored that week, and that collectively the group would be creating a really valuable resource to support their learning generally as well as to act as a reference document for individual and group coursework.
Perhaps crucially though, we asked everyone to ‘sign up’ for the week they would be defining terms for through indicating their preference using a shared group sign-up sheet. I think that online, just as much as face-to-face, public declarations of what an individual learner agrees to do become very important.
There are other factors to consider, for example how structured and assessed co-operative or collaborative tasks can be used to get groups working together at the outset of a course, but can be withdrawn over time as the group establishes itself online. In our own programme, there are no assessed collaborative tasks beyond the third module, but by that time the group has gelled and we make regular use of unassessed discussion forums, peer support groups, and online guest expert sessions.
In terms of why this kind of engagement is important online, I think there are a few things to consider. The first is the enrichment of learning and understanding that can occur when individuals need to discuss similarities and differences of opinion, argue their case, or engage with values and opinions that are informed by different cultural experiences and perspectives. Then there is the opportunity, when learners collaborate, of them being able to engage with and learn from undertaking tasks that would be too time consuming or complex for an individual to do alone. There are all kinds of benefits wrapped up in that.
Crucially though, in blended and online contexts getting learners to collaborate online is helping them to develop the broader digital skills and literacies that are increasingly important out with formal educational contexts. And, in courses like ours which are often taken by professionals already in the field, there is another important dimension to co-operative and collaborative tasks. This lies in harnessing the professional knowledge and experience in the group as a resource for everyone’s learning (tutor included).
This is becoming a new blog post, rather than a response to your comments, so please excuse me there. I’ll stop now, but as mentioned over on your blog I’d be very happy to have a further chat around these issues. There are things we’ve found to work, through trial and error, that we can share with you. Equally it would be very valuable to hear more about what you’re doing.
In the grand scheme of things we’re all really pretty new to this and we don’t have the same shared understanding of what works online as we do for works in the classroom.