staff perceptions of how things may change

Most of our staff interviewees felt that the fundamentals of teaching and learning at Oxford will change little over the next few years.

‘No matter what the technologies are, people who are reading left to right are probably going to continue to read left to right.  Grad students are still going to struggle with how much time their [literature] reviews take and how much time it takes them to write their thesis.’

Tutors argue that close face-to-face interaction remains the best way to help science students to apply new concepts and overcome the issues they encounter, and to probe humanities students’ ability to construct a coherent argument from multiple sources. It is considered more important to protect one-to-one teaching than to develop online ways of studying. Few could envisage  online courses achieving  the particular kinds of dialogue and responsiveness to which the teaching staff are committed.

One tutor, who is an active user of innovative technology in his teaching and research, pointed out that what might seem to be inertia is actually a system that still works. He warned that Oxford will have to be careful to ‘safeguard the value of place’ as ‘a counterbalance to the dehumanising processes of networking remotely, virtually.’ For him, it is a matter of ‘the judicious use of technology to support models of learning that we think are important and [should be] perpetuated’: that is, enriching current learning, not doing new types of learning. The special quality of the ‘Oxford experience’ is no longer an excuse for outdated methods or technologies.

Therefore, it is the ways in which technology is used to support teaching and learning that are likely to change the most, with increases in mobile devices, e-books, and podcasts featuring most strongly in interviewees’ predictions. A ‘huge explosion’ in use of podcasting  is predicted but there is no expectation that demand for face-to-face courses will decrease correspondingly.  (DIGE 5.9.1)

The DIGE report  describes digital services provided by Oxford for students and staff to enhance the learning experience and learning support activities, and a vision for the systems and services for the next five years. The recommendations report was  reviewed by Education Committee on 1st June.

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