Preparing for the future of digital learning

iPad and school books on a desk. COMMUNITY

A group of leading experts in digital learning from across the world will visit UniSA this month (March) to help build a roadmap to outline the evolving role digital learning plays in the modern economy.

From March 7, as part of UniSA’s Digital Learning Week, the visiting scholars will stage keynote addresses, learning cafés, workshops and other opportunities for staff to experiment and play with emerging learning technologies and to gain a better understanding of the research and innovations that are informing the future of learning in universities such as UniSA.

The vision – to bring an international team of researchers together to tackle complex educational problems – was proposed by UniSA’s Professor Shane Dawson, Professor George Siemens from the University of Texas at Arlington and Professor Dragan Gasevic from the University of Edinburgh.

The professors have worked together on numerous national and international research grants as well as developing and offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in learning analytics, and were also founding members of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (SOLAR).

Their long standing research partnership includes authoring a recently published report titled: “Preparing for the digital university: a review of the history and current state of distance, blended, and online learning”.

The report emphasises the considerable role technology has played in making distance and digital education as effective as traditional classroom instruction. Research also shows how an increasing number of students are taking online courses and how universities have responded by offering a greater range of blended and digital learning options on campuses.

According to the report, as information becomes easily accessible, with sophisticated technology and the proliferation of data and analytics, the potential for personalised adaptive learning has increased

Professor Siemens says the world is digitising and higher education is not immune to this transition, as we are moving from a knowledge revolution to a learning revolution.

“The trend is underway and seems to be accelerating, and it is clear that academic organisations are required to facilitate the advancement and adoption of digital learning research,” says Prof Siemens.

“Higher education leaders around the world are facing the difficult challenge of re-architecting the university to reflect the modern economy and the digital age. This learning week will enable time to evaluate the scope of changes facing higher education and to explore ways that universities can respond to ensure continued research and education excellence.”

The group of 16 national and international researchers visiting UniSA have extensive expertise in the fields of learning analytics, computer supported collaborative learning, networked learning, artificial intelligence, learning sciences, e-learning, natural language processing, complex systems and more.

Professor Dawson says it is the first time the multi-disciplinary group will come together to initiate a roadmap of collective research and innovation as well as aid the promotion and effective adoption of digital learning strategies.

“The digital learning week is one of many new initiatives at UniSA that reflect the University’s commitment to support its staff and students in experimenting and transitioning to new modes of learning and teaching practice,” Prof Dawson says.

“The digital learning week provides a unique opportunity for university staff across Adelaide to connect and engage with renowned international and national experts.”