Building a taxonomy for digital learning

online learning

The QAA have published this useful article Building a taxonomy for digital learning that aims to build a common language to describe digital approaches of teaching and learning.

Building a Taxonomy for Digital Learning defines and assesses the most common terms that providers use to describe the ways in which they and their students engage with digital teaching and learning, helping those providers to evaluate the appropriateness of their own terminology. Achieving a consistency between terms such as ‘distance’ or ‘remote’ learning, ‘blended’ or ‘hybrid’ learning, ‘campus’ or ‘onsite’ delivery is important to ensure a better understanding of the learning experiences on offer.

It begins with the definitions of terms used by educators and highlights the differences between some of these that are used interchangeably but have nuanced differences. For example online vs virtual vs digital; blended vs hybrid; distance vs remote; and one that has been quite contentious during Covid19 for many is social distancing vs physical distancing. Many called for the term social distancing to be replaced by physical to emphasise that during this time being able to engage in social interaction online was ever more important as a way to engage with family, friends, peers and in the context of learning and teaching our students.

In section 2 it goes on to provide a taxonomy of students’ digital experiences. These include:

  • Passive digital engagement/experience:
    Where little or no aspect of the learning and teaching activity on offer is designed to be
    delivered digitally.
  • Supportive digital engagement/experience:
    Where some of the learning and teaching activities developed by a provider are supported by digital support materials.
  • Augmented digital engagement/experience:
    Where learning and teaching activities developed by a provider are designed with digital learning aspects as a core part of the engagement, intended to enhance students’
    experience of onsite learning.
  • Interactive digital engagement/experience:
    Where digital learning and teaching activities are designed by a provider as the primary way in which students will engage, both with the programme and with each other.
  • Immersive digital engagement/experience:
    Where digital learning and teaching activities are designed by a provider as the only way in which students will engage, both with the programme and with each other.

The 3rd section provides a comprehensive glossary of terms and definitions. Whilst this is not an exhaustive list, it spans 6 pages and goes some way to demonstrate the terms we are using. With this in mind it is important that we make sure we clearly explain what these mean to our students who may not be familiar with them.

You can read the complete QAA report below.

Click to access building-a-taxonomy-for-digital-learning.pdf

About Sue Beckingham

A National Teaching Fellow, Educational Developer and Principal Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
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