SOCIALLY IMMERSIVE LEARNING: A NEW PEDAGOGY
UK Higher Education (HE) changes are driven by political impetus, social, economic and technological forces to bring about a highly-skilled workforce. Healthcare education in particular benefits from the adoption of new innovative ways to learn how to manage patient-centred integrated care. The balance of simultaneous skill and knowledge acquisition, such as in Healthcare, renders independent digital learning an attractive proposition for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and the National Health Service (NHS). Application of digital technology to support learning increases flexibility and accessibility, but raises other issues. Lack of Information, Communication and Technological (ICT) expertise among learners, insufficient or unreliable internet access, equipment failure, software compatibility, staff confidence in digital education and above all, a contemporary pedagogy harnessing the combined HE-Society experiences.
This paper describes a socially immersive learning (SIL) pedagogy as a departure from existing ways of being. It has arisen because of a range of factors that have caused a more fluid and fragmented political, economic and social landscape affording individuals to develop a new skill set of connectivity and collaboration as their self-determined learning needs dictate. Decision-making processes are important, as many HEIs currently pay scant attention to teaching students ‘how to learn’ within a particular pedagogy such as e-learning, Technology Enhanced Learning, Technology Enabled Learning, with the expectation that students will seamlessly adapt to a different mode of learning. HEI systems are predominately designed for on-campus students; hence information relates to location thus raising identity issues for the online learner. Systems thinking overlooks the lived experience of online teaching, and the time investment required. E-learning is often perceived as ‘geographically remote’ and that the spatial remoteness of the tutor renders the relationship more distant, thereby overlooking the strong relational aspects that can exist in e-learning and online communities.
In an increasingly connected world in which the graduates of the future will be required to work across disciplines on inter-connected collective ‘wicked’ problems. Silo working in university departments must become permeable to enable collaboration, networking and collective decision making. These changes, accompanied by the rise in degree apprenticeships which relocate elements of learning off-campus and into the workplace and social spaces, present challenges and openings to create student-centric engagement, enhance student experience and new learning opportunities in contemporary higher education.
The implications of this development are to move beyond education design that aligns to preconceived notions of how individuals learn in prescribed places and using existing familiar methods (curriculum, schemes of work, defined learning content, defined learning outcomes) to the changing role and identity of the teacher, learner and contexts and collaboration where learning occurs. This new approach has the potential to become a keystone in a social movement that readily crosses, physical, social, economic and political boundaries to develop learning and translate that into ways of impacting on society as a global citizen.