Bennett, Elizabeth (2011) Scaling up: how does it impact on pedagogy? In: The CAL Conference 2011: Learning Futures: Education, Technology and Sustainability, 13-15 April 2011, Manchester, UK. (Unpublished)

In current economic climate higher education institutions are looking for ways of teaching and learning more efficiently. One solution appears to be larger cohorts studying online (Fildes 2010). This model of large scale (over 1000 students) online delivery is something that the University of Huddersfield has been working with for the last 3 years.

The Open University has, of course, been a leader in the field of online distance education for the last ten years (or more). However the Open University institutional context is entirely different from that of traditional place based education such as University of Huddersfield. The Open University students make their choice of course knowing that that they will need to operate in a distance medium. Staff at the Open University have an accumulated set of roles, policies and practices which support distance delivery to guide and support them when moving from paper based on online provision.

The paper uses ethnographic data drawn from the experience of working as an academic developing courses that are delivered online in these two contrasting institutions (Coffey 1996). The paper outlines three key issues which have had the most major impact on the approach to the design of the online course for ‘place based institutions’. These issues are dubbed “lowest common denominator”, “playing the room”, “student autonomy”. The paper will unpack these issues, and explain how they impact on the pedagogy involved in large scale online delivery. The analysis indicates how the nature of the institution impacts on pedagogical choices.


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