Strategy question: go wild or imprison in the platform zoo?


1. Try to connect to, use and enhance personal digital capabilities
2. or create self-contained designed experience for which additional digital skills are not needed?

In the academic technology business we have in the past spent a lot of time building and maintaining  walled gardens in which learning can take place with technology. We construct platforms and add features that assure (we hope) reliability, predictability, lowered extraneous cognitive load (so that tech doesn’t get in the way of learning). This is often done as a panic measure to ensure that teachers and students feel confident in changing their practice. But it can result in an over-reliance on technologists. And we may be overlooking the digital capabilities that participants bring to the event, and which they could develop further and use in many other contexts beyond the institution.

I believe that we now need to be brave. Give up control. Expect more from participants. Let them develop their own personal repertoires and platforms. And stop worrying!

This doesn’t mean that we have to completely abandon institutional provision, but rather we need to develop a more sophisticated design dialogue and design capability amongst all of our participants. So for example it is easy for a collaboration of staff and students to decide upon tools that they should use based upon sound knowledge and deliberations – and in turn, they can feed back to us a clearer message concerning what they need from us (ac tech providers).

I’ve come up against this at the moment in a project with French Studies year abroad students. They need to be able to go off to France (and in some cases French overseas territories) and create resources in a travel writing style that they can share with specific people (teachers in schools), groups (classes) or the wider public. They need to be able to create and share videos, and in some instances build H5P interactive videos around the videos and presentations. That’s a complex set of requirements. And I shouldn’t be the person constructing a walled garden in which it takes place.

Dr Robert O'Toole NTF

Senior Teaching Fellow, Arts Faculty, University of Warwick. Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, National Teaching Fellow, Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence.

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