An approach to research - Overview
The pandemic has accelerated a trend towards online and digital methods to support higher, technical apprenticeship and work-based/integrated learning. A movement can be seen from initial ‘emergency online teaching and learning’ to better thought out and more pedagogically effective use of technology. A blended approach is appearing post-Covid, with the learning and logistical benefits from digital methods ensuring that many of the changes implemented are likely to be adopted permanently. Progress is however uneven, and there is still a need for improved practice in online methods and to improve the integration of theoretical and practical learning and address issues of learner difficulties and appropriate adjustments.
Part of the purpose of the research we have undertaken as IDEAL partners is to tell the stories of what adaptations have happened during Covid - what works well and not well. What we mean by ‘digital pedagogy’ has also been central to our exploration. For some, digital pedagogy is not about using digital technologies for teaching. More precisely it is about approaching those tools from a critical pedagogical perspective. So, in effect it is as much about using digital tools thoughtfully as it is about deciding when not to use digital tools and technology, and about paying attention to the impact of digital tools on teaching, learning and assessment.
IDEAL’s aims are part of a European endeavour to directly influence practitioner competencies and ongoing professional development in digital pedagogy and showcase through exploration and case studies how we are building back better in relation to digital pedagogy and vocational, education and training including in apprenticeships, work-based and work-integrated learning. Higher Education Institutions globally have the opportunity and responsibility to showcase and share what constitutes best pedagogical practice in the use of digital technology and set standards and benchmarks which will raise expectations amongst institutions, practitioners, and policy makers. IDEAL will bring new perspectives to and recognition of the value of ‘using digital’ by viewing best and emerging practice using several reference points to identify "success and quality characteristics" from pedagogical practice and help enhance and inform delivery, encourage new reflections on high level teaching and assessment and revise the approach to staff digital competencies.
Ultimately, our research will give a good picture of what is going on. We have asked the following questions:
- Where are institutions now? What are the examples of strategies, actions, things that work and don’t work, barriers to implementation, and barriers to use (including assumptions about availability of technology, bandwidth, affordability, capacity, and willingness of learners to adopt)?
- Is there any difference between higher education and further education?
- What has value beyond the pandemic? By the time the IDEAL project concludes, coronavirus-related problems could be receding significantly – but it is important to capture things that improve access and accessibility, flexibility, reduce the need for travel, change educational paradigms. How can the benefits deliver better efficiencies - be more productive?
- What types of solutions are featuring, or could feature?
- How do these sit within different contexts (e.g., learner characteristics, occupational fields, remoteness, income/budget levels, environmental sustainability)?
- How does all this affect educational approaches, pedagogies, and techniques?
- What do individuals – from institutional/policy level to day-to-day delivery – need to know and be able to do to work with technology effectively? What does help (materials, examples, use-cases etc.) look like?
- How do existing digital competency frameworks (given the existing Deduction and Training Foundation (UK) Framework and DigCompEdu framework compare? Do these frameworks reflect what’s needed?