COLLABORATIVE SOCIAL LEARNING: SOCIO-TECHNICAL MODULE DESIGN IN UK HIGHER EDUCATION – A CASE STUDY

N. Fair, L. Harris, H. Davis

University of Southampton (UNITED KINGDOM)
The Web and its associated mobile devices have significantly impacted Higher Education (HE) over the previous decade, yet HE curriculum and module design has often been slow to reflect this. Learning theories emphasising the distributed, networked aspects of learning have developed (e.g. Connectivism), which reflect the emerging social paradigm of networked individuals living, working and learning in a network society typified by far wider access to people and information than ever before. Consequently, the development of digital literacies and networking skills have become increasingly important. Furthermore, the Web has also provided new opportunities to enact HE pedagogies in module design, such as authenticity, learner-centredness and flexibility in where and when we learn.
This paper will present an undergraduate module entitled “Living and Working on the Web” at the University of Southampton; a module with no lectures, no essays and no exams. It will explore the module’s theoretical framework and socio-technical approach to design, which is based within the network paradigm on the principles of collaborative social learning, the co-construction of knowledge, self-reflection and digital literacies development.
Thematic analysis of official student feedback statements suggests that the development of digital literacies, the engaging nature of the module, the opportunity for Authenticity and Flexibility in learning, and the speed and usefulness of feedback from tutors were valued and students rated the module, on average, 4.6 out of 5 overall. However, there remain challenges in scaling up this module from cohorts of 45 or less to much larger cohorts.
The Living and Working on the Web module occupies an innovative space within the curriculum, is grounded in educational theory and HE pedagogies and recognises the modern, networked student. This informs its online learning and assessment cycle and focus on digital literacies and Personal Learning Network development. As such, it may indicate a role for socio-technical module design as one route to meet the challenges of future HE curriculum and module development.