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Digital or didactic: Using learning technology to confront the challenge of large cohort teaching

British Journal of Educational Technology
Wiley Blackwell (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
  • Technology
  • Vle
  • Teaching And Learning
  • Web 2.0
  • Design
  • Education
  • Engineering


This paper investigates whether the selective use of technology can begin to overcomethe challenge of large cohort teaching and deliver an enhanced student learningexperience. It describes the initial development and evaluation of a campus-basedmanagement course taught to 270 third year engineering undergraduates at TheUniversity of Manchester. The course is structured around weekly keynote lectures,supplemented with extensive use of a virtual learning environment (VLE) and keyWeb2.0 applications.The preliminary findings are that technology is not a panacea: face-to-face contact withteaching staff remains the priority for most students. Nevertheless, the VLE was found toimprove the student learning experience provided that• Use of technology does not reduce face-to-face teaching time;• Teaching faculty acknowledges that students are, for the most part, highly strategiclearners, engaging deeper with those technology tools that help them achieve theirdesired course outcomes;• Close attention is paid to learning design, aligning technology tools with the desiredlearning outcomes.Further work is now required to explore more effectively the use of the VLE andWeb 2.0as a vehicle for promoting collaborative learning. In addition, the authors will be redesigningcourse activities, both assessed and unassessed, to start to address the more loftyambition of moving students from an acquisitive to a participative model of learning.

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