The Extended Classroom – Tech Enhanced Learning at Warwick

The Extended Classroom is our vision of the University as an integrated platform of technologies, spaces, services and techniques designed to sustain and amplify the value of student-teacher and student-student interactions.

Interactive guide to the Extended Classroom:

View the Extended Classroom cards set as a PDF.

View the Extended Classroom posters as a PDF.

The Extended Classroom is one half of a strategy for developing and embedding technology-enhanced academic practice – the other half being the organisational learning and design loop for achieving fit, stick, spread and grow. You might think of it as a set of design ideas, underpinned by clearly described design values, that redescribes and revitalises technology-enhanced learning for the age of ubiquitous computing, hyper-mobility and Platform Capitalism. It is complemented by our Student Champions Digichamps initiative.

For us the phrase “extended classroom” replaces the term “e-learning”. It complements the phrase “technology enhanced learning”, but from a perspective more biased towards a particular type of education and its development: the campus-based university.

This diagram puts the Extended Classroom, and the notion of “extending your classroom” into a developmental perspective, with the ultimate aim of developing the idea of the University as a platform, using which students and teachers can assemble well designed, well supported solutions. The move is from a fragmented series of experiences in “walled gardens” to a well integrated experience architecture built on an evolving common platform (which spans the physical and the digital).

From walled gardens to the extended classroomFrom walled gardens to the extended classroom

In a campus University like Warwick, platforms and assemblages are largely oriented to live, face-to-face events. The challenge of introducing digital technologies to enhance learning, teaching and the student experience (LTSE) is an especially good way of illustrating the power of platform lock-in.

And we really do suffer from the inertial forces of platform lock-in.

There are few compelling drivers for large numbers of people to go through the process of adopting new technologies and adapting existing practices. If you can get away with the speed and immediacy of a face-to-face un-mediated interaction, why bother with going digital? Similarly, if you can get things done, albeit inefficiently, using email, why use a VLE?

At Warwick, I have been working on this challenge for many years. More recently, we have evolved a way of thinking about technology enhanced learning that integrates with existing campus based practices, providing a smoother route to adoption-adaption. We call this The Extended Classroom.

The idea first emerged from discussions within the Academic Technology team prompted by the design dialogue relating to a new dedicated teaching and learning building (the first major building on campus to be dedicated to teaching only). I then gave a presentation to a mixed audience, including architects and students. I used the term Extended Classroom for the first time, and described a small subset of innovative learning design patterns:

  • multi-modal lectures;
  • seamless classrooms;
  • smooth inter-spatial flows;
  • persistent project spaces for students;
  • mass networking spaces.

You can see the graphics from the presentation in this article.

I then talked to many people across the university to develop the idea further. My definition of the Extended Classroom comes in two parts:

Discipline-focused interactions between students and academics are the most important element of higher education. Everything that wraps around such interactions, including technologies, environments and support services should be designed to amplify and sustain their value. We call this wider infrastructure, and the design value putting the academic-student relationship at its core, the Extended Classroom.

The first part is written to encourage all academics to recognize their own practice and challenges in the idea. The second part is then potentially more challenging:

Using new technologies and techniques we can take this basic principle much further. The idea is this: high quality opportunities for people to learn, to teach, to collaborate and to think should never be unnecessarily constrained by physical location, availability in time, disability or ownership of specific technologies.

People should be able to participate in academic activities, on an equal basis, regardless of such constraints and using the devices and media that suit them best. They should be able to flow academic activities continuously across multiple times, places and participants as required, with no additional effort necessary, making the most of the academic-student interaction.

The Extended Classroom helps students and teachers to be better prepared for class, better equipped in class and better able to continue learning after class. It enables consistency across the student experience.

These ideas have been introduced to a range of academics at Warwick, so as to gauge their reactions. The first of the parts seems less controversial. The second part causes widely different reactions from different academics – those who have worked in more of an online distance learning approach are more comfortable with the idea of a single platform that removes barriers. For others, it is a provocation – a threat to the habitual platform and the constraints that it imposes.

In February 2015 we launched the Extended Classroom initiative at Warwick with a fortnight of events (working with Audio-Visual Services and the Learning and Development Centre). Our initial approach is to re-describe seven simple and useful tools/services from our core, centrally-supported platform. The seven are:

  1. Lecture Capture (automate lecture recording);
  2. Personal Capture (manual recording);
  3. ResponseWare student engagement system;
  4. Moodle Quiz;
  5. Moodle Module Space
  6. MyPortfolio (Mahara e-portfolios);
  7. Tabula Student Profiles.

We created a set of eight postcards, communicating in a very straightforward way:

  • the name of the tool/service (in the case of ResponseWare, we added “Student Engagement System” to help make its purpose in the HE context clearer);
  • it’s principle use;
  • two simple value-propositions illustrating its value in relation to common needs and concerns;
  • further detail about its form and nature;
  • links to online information that explains how to get started with it.

The aim of these cards is to make the technologies more instantly recognisable to everyone in the University.