Educause: Rethinking the Digital Experience in Higher Education

Posted on Sep 19, 2014

Educause: Rethinking the Digital Experience in Higher Education

In “The Other End of the Scale: Rethinking the Digital Experience in Higher Education“, published in The Educause Review Online by William G. Thomas, III and Elizabeth Lorang article, the authors state that (emphasis added), 

This new [digitized] landscape means that faculty, students, and IT professionals in higher education are confronted with a series of almost daily instances in which choices about the design and outcome of their digital engagement tilt the scale toward either absence or presence, activity or passivity, the open web or system closure. Faculty members have rarely been asked to assess the pedagogical value, purpose, cost, and implications of these seismic shifts in tools and practices. Adaptation has often been administratively driven, characterized by the search for “system” solutions.

The move to the digital environment has been championed with rhetoric of openness, accessibility, and ubiquity even as colleges and universities paradoxically have arranged teaching … environments that are increasingly closed, offline, uneven, and gated. All of us in higher education talk with lofty idealism about the necessity of digital engagement in our classrooms and research environments, but we rarely ask what kind of engagement we want and on what terms.

If we develop our research and teaching in the open web, build highly integrated and open networks of scholarship into our teaching and learning, and enlist local people to participate with us in these endeavors, we dramatically shift the terms of digital engagement.

The article is centered mostly on analysis of digital archives and how editorial and legal limitations impose a somewhat recursive effect on what is knowable. Put another way, learners and researchers can only discover what has already been discovered and digitized, therefore imposing a surface-level depth to what is knowable despite the actual gaps and discontinuities found in databases. Knowledge databases are largely proprietary and driven by “systems solutions” rather than openness.

Instead, the authors propose a more reciprocal approach to constructing information and its structures – “community-based terms of digital engagement” – through participation in “the commons … with collaborative, self-reflective, critical, and active ‘making'”.

The Rich Media Playbook advocates the use of social networks and Web tools as a means for learners to create, organize, share, analyze, and present knowledge in ways that expand the learning ecology beyond the borders of the learning management system. By using rich media as a strategy in teaching online, we endorse the spirit of openness and “the commons” as the mark of exemplary digital citizenship.

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