In the Lab: Music Rugby and Digital Learning

Turns out, rugby in New Zealand is taught not by age group, but by size of the player.

It makes a lot of sense for rugby. What can it show us about education? Why should students be grouped and taught by age, when aptitude and intellectual development are rarely defined so rigidly?

Can digital learning find its true role in making education a more organic and dynamic concept, without set lengths or inflexible curricula? Time, after all, is fixed – but students are not.

Digital learning is more and more a priority goal for higher education institutions. Digital learning is a reality, and business schools are probably late in adapting to this “new” form of learning. But what does it actually mean? What do we need to do to get it right and what are the challenges of providing a digital learning environment? What are the advantages and disadvantages? And what does this mean for the role of the lecturer?

Surrey Business School’s CoDE (Centre for Digital Economy) attended a panel discussion on these questions and more in the Business Insights Lab recently, provided by Surrey’s Centre for Management Learning in collaboration with BAM MKE (Management Knowledge and Education) and SIG Knowledge and Learning.

It was clear from the wide-ranging discussion that Digital cannot be considered a blanket approach, nor a panacea, in education as in any other industry; digital technology must be applied intelligently, with focus, and with an appreciation of each unique learning community and environment. Technology, in other words, must enhance the module’s objectives, not simply tick the Digital box – ultimately, pedagogy and learning design prevail.

Not only that – we agreed we may need to ‘forget’ the term Digital Learning and remember instead that it is in fact ‘learning in a digital space’ that more accurately describes the issue; it is the space that makes the difference, but the learning itself, i.e. the cognitive ability, remains.

Like all good debates, we ended up with more questions at the end than the beginning. Key issues to ponder included:

  • ‘What is it that digital can do that you can’t do in a classroom already?’
  • Can individual pockets of knowledge exchange begin to join up into larger online learning communities? ‘Almost like a small tribe’.
  • Lecturers need to be able to let go of the learning space, let go control.
  • The language of education is of a linear journey, with steps, outcomes, etc. Can we think of it more like the experience of music, with the exploration of ideas, feelings and themes?
  • What does a ‘learning conversation’ look like? Does digital enable us to all be learners together, rather than lecturer, student, etc? Can peer assessment play a role?
  • Can students be assessed on real-life experience? What is the role of traditional ‘credentialling’? Is the mark the key to opening the next door, or is it increasingly irrelevant?

It sounds like a ‘wicked problem’ to us: a complicated issue, with lots of stakeholders, and many potentially competing opinions and priorities. But – that’s what makes it a conversation worth having, and joining. Digital isn’t going away – so how can Management Education, and learning more broadly, take control of its potential proactively, rather than reactively? What do you think?

The panel featured:

Simon Strong, Managing Partner of Download Learning Ltd, a revolutionary new digital Learning Transfer Platform

Paul Hunter, PhD Student at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow – Paul’s research focuses on cross-cultural aspects of online course delivery impact

Michele Milner, PFHEA, Head of the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT)

University of East London

Lisa Anderson, Senior Lecturer in Management Education at University of Liverpool, Management School

Uzair Shah, Lecturer at Lancaster University, Management School, Department for Leadership & Management

You can hear the podcasts of the discussions that took place during the workshop here.

Click here for more on the themes that emerged from the panel discussion.