Digital futures for learning

Course Details

Course code: EDUA11214

Course leader: Dr Jen Ross

Course delivery: Sep 2017


This course will give you the opportunity to consider the trajectory and implications of digital technologies for the future of learning.

The 2017 presentation of course will be co-tutored with Professor Sian Bayne and linked to the University of Edinburgh’s innovative Near Future Teaching project, and will be delivered in an open access format so that other students and staff at the University, and beyond, can engage with the discussions and materials we will develop throughout the course.

The course takes as its starting point three key themes - trust, resistance and mess - and uses them to guide exploration of emerging practices and technologies. We will ask: how are more established digital practices evolving? How will new digital technologies and trends impact on learning? How will the students and teachers of tomorrow construct their learning environments and practices?

The answers to these questions are highly context-dependent: the future of online education is volatile and subject to rapid change. For this reason a significant part of the course is structured as a programme of student-created and peer-assessed resources (in the form of Open Educational Resources, or OERs). Each OER will take one of the themes or issues from the initial block as a jumping off point for imagining and sharing what digital futures for learning might be like.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course you will be able to:

  • be able critically to consider and situate new and emerging trends and technologies;
  • be aware of some of the social factors influencing technological innovation, and vice versa;
  • be able to identify the potential of emerging technologies as environments for teaching and learning;
  • demonstrate practical skill in the deployment of emerging technologies for learning purposes.


The course is divided into four blocks. Block One involves reading around a number of themes and considering the key literature and ideas associated with each. Blocks Two and Three are research, writing and development periods. The final block, Block Four, involves you in engaging with and evaluating the OERs of your peers, and synthesising the outcomes of your OER development in written form.

Block 1
In this block, you will be introduced to the course and its aims, and will read broadly around the course themes, participating in discussions and synchronous tutorials. By the end of the block you will have decided on an area you would like to focus on for your position paper and OER.

Block 2
This is an independent research and writing block, during which you will research and write your position paper assignment, which forms the basis of content for your OER. Your tutor will be on hand to support this process. Your paper will be on a topic of your choice which is relevant to the course themes and the broad subject of “digital futures”

Block 3
During this block you will discuss, plan and develop learning resources for your peers, in the form of an OER based on your position paper topic.

Block 4
The final three weeks of the course will consist of students participating in and providing feedback on the OERs of their peers. During this period you will also begin to write your OER analysis paper.


There are three assignments in this course:

Position paper (30% of your final mark, tutor marked): You will write a position paper which extends the themes from Block 1 in a direction which is of personal or professional interest and relevance to you.

Open Educational Resource (30% of your final mark, peer marked & tutor moderated, 10% self assessed): You will design, develop and publish an OER based on your position paper topic. This may be theoretical and exploratory, involve a critical perspective on a new technology or environment, or be a problem- or issue-based resource. It can use interactive elements, as well as textual, visual, audio or multimedia communication across a single or a range of environments. The main requirement of the resource is that it engages the rest of the class in considering, in a scholarly way, issues relevant to the course. You are encouraged to consider making your resource more widely available – to others on the programme, or beyond – and the feedback you receive from your peers can help you to improve and develop your resource for this purpose.

OER analysis paper (30% of your final mark, tutor marked): You will write an analysis of your OER development, which will include a synthesis of the content of the discussion around it, and a reflection on the resource itself, the feedback given by the peer markers, and changes you have made as a result.

Teaching Methods

Methods include synchronous and asynchronous online discussion, digital resource development, reflective writing, and exploration of a range of digital environments as appropriate to the open educational resource topics.


Indicative readings are:

Collier, A., & Ross, J. (2016). Complexity, mess and not-yetness: teaching online with emerging technologies. In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Athabasca University Press.

Facer, K and Sandford, R (2010). The next 25 years?: future scenarios and future directions for education and technology. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26, 74-92.

Gough, N. (2013). Towards deconstructive nonalignment: A complexivist view of curriculum, teaching and learning. South African Journal of Higher Education, 27(5), 1213–1233.

Introna, L. D. (2016). Algorithms, Governance, and Governmentality: On Governing Academic Writing. Science, Technology & Human Values, 41(1), 17–49.

Kroll, J. A., Huey, J., Barocas, S., Felten, E. W., Reidenberg, J. R., Robinson, D. G., & Yu, H. (2016). Accountable Algorithms (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 2765268). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.

Shah, N. (2017). The cup runneth over: The body, the public and its regulation in digital activism. Crime, Media, Culture, 1741659017701803.


As with all courses, you will be required to have regular access to a computer with a good broadband connection, and will be responsible for providing your own computing equipment and consumables. All core readings will be provided online.