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Unit information: Learning in Online Communities in 2015/16

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Unit name Learning in Online Communities
Unit code EDUCM0049
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Sue Timmis
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Education
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

Learning and educational practices increasingly cross different knowledge domains, cultures and communities including online communities and technologically –mediated settings, giving rising to new opportunities afforded by digital technologies, spaces and cultures.

The aim of this unit is introduce students to current research and practice in the use of digital technologies that support learning in online communities and settings, particularly in higher education, in the workplace and informal settings. It also aims to explore the relationship between learning, collaboration and community and how this relates to education in online and blended (online and offline) learning environments.

A key element of this unit is an experiential learning component where students work together in small groups throughout the ten weeks on a collaborative inquiry-based research project. This includes working together online and the use of digital technologies to support the collaboration. The aim of the project is to enable students to experience learning in online (and offline) settings first-hand and to gain some early experience of developing a small-scale research project.

Intended Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit students will be able to demonstrate that they can:

  • Develop theoretical understandings about the relationship between digital tools, learners and learning in on-line settings and communities
  • Investigate and develop an understanding of the different settings and learning spaces in which digital tools are engaged to support both formal and informal learning activities, particularly in lifelong and post compulsory education;
  • Develop an overview of some of the major themes in research and practice concerned with learning in online communities.
  • Engage in a small scale collaborative research project drawing on the work of the unit and integrating research methods

Teaching Information

The course will be taught face-to-face, but will be supported by the University virtual learning environment. Students will be encouraged to work in groups to support collaborative learning and to provide user feedback on design ideas. The unit includes a variety of teaching and learning methods, including: lectures, tutorials and workshops, small group activities such as supported reading groups, group presentations and the collaborative inquiry –based research project, outlined in the description.

The use of digital technologies is integral to the work of the unit. All students will be required to use the VLE as standard to obtain administrative details about the course, to access course materials and for submission of coursework. Students will also use the university VLE to support their projects when not in class. They will also be expected to investigate and operationalise a number of other online platforms and tools to support the collaborative work at a distance, depending on their needs. Students will also create a video to present their research findings which will involve shooting and editing video footage and sound. Furthermore, engagement with online resources to extend the work of the unit will be expected: to supplement and support, to provide revision or associated materials and resources, and to offer extension activities and links to further sector-specific information.

Contact Hours

20 hours

Assessment Information

Summative assessment:

For this unit students are required to submit two pieces of work. Both pieces of work are assessed and will receive individual feedback and a literal grade mapped against the fixed point numerical scale used in the Graduate School of Education. These two grades will create an overall weighted grade used to determine the overall unit grade. NB - This numerical weighted grade will be mapped back onto the literal grading scale.

Part One (1, 500 words) Weighted at 30%

A reflective and critical analysis of the process and outcomes of the collaborative group project and the use of digital tools, related to the literature from the unit and other units.

Part Two (2,500 words) Weighted at 70%

Consider one example of the use of digital technology to support learning communities from the group project or from the work of the unit or your reading associated with the unit as an in-depth case study: - (examples might include:- use of social networking for a particular community or the use digital tools for developing particular identities for a community). Undertake a short literature review to show how these (or similar) digital technologies are being used in either informal or formal settings (or both).

Critically analyse the case chosen, drawing on the literature to discuss one or two key themes or factors in detail – for example: the affordances and design of tools, the development of community, support for learning and identity building, communication or collaboration.

Reading and References

  • Bonderup Dohn, N (2009) Web 2.0: Inherent tensions and evident challenges for education. International Journal of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Vol 4 , pp 343–363
  • Goodfellow, R., & Lea, M. R. (Eds.). (2013). Literacy in the Digital University: Learning as social practice in a digital world: Critical perspectives on learning, scholarship and technology. Routledge.
  • Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Ludvigsen, S., Lund, A., Rasmussen, I. & Säljö, R. (Eds.) (2011) Learning Across Sites: New tools, infrastructures and practices Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
  • Balachef, N., Ludvigsen, S., deJong, T., Lazonder, T & S. Barnes, S.(Eds) (2009) Technology-enhanced learning: Principles and products. Springer,
  • Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press