By Charlotte Davidson, Publications Officer, Communications and Marketing, University of Edinburgh

Electronic education and learning professional Professor Sian Bayne is hard us to see technology not just as a device for learning, but as something that fundamentally alters how we understand.

When we consider of digital learning, normally we image a sole college student, hunched over a small display with eyes glazed. Study carried out at the University of Edinburgh demonstrates that harnessing know-how in the proper way can have a enormous impression on on the net education and is a significantly cry from this out-of-date assumption.

“Education has adjusted a ton above the final 15 to 20 several years as systems have shifted,” clarifies Professor Sian Bayne, Director for the Centre for Research in Instruction at the College of Edinburgh. Her research challenges preconceptions of electronic education and explores the possibilities of new technologies to make on the web discovering more sustainable, helpful and available.

Professor Sian Bayne wears a teal top and is sat with her chin resting on her hand smiling directly into camera.

The Covid disaster

In the latest weather, it’s difficult to feel about digital education and learning without looking at the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The Covid electronic pivot was clearly a massive challenge for everybody operating in all sectors of education,” claims Professor Bayne. “It was hugely traumatic and hard when the pandemic kicked off – college students and personnel all experienced.”

As we were being forced to reconsider the use of electronic technologies in day-to-day lifestyle, the role of on the internet understanding was thrown into the spotlight: “We have viewed some really radical, speedy alterations which are going to persist extended just after the pandemic is about.”

But whilst the problem set genuine strain on equally events, Professor Bayne is optimistic about its outcome on digital education and learning: “As a sector, it is now turning out to be very clear that – awful even though it was – we are emerging out of it with a much much better sense of the options of resourceful digital education, and considerably larger assurance in operating with finding out systems.

“It’s so critical that we have a solid, vital exploration foundation which can assistance us comprehend the implications of these shifts, particularly their consequences on essential social issues like accessibility, equity, inclusion, privacy and the good quality of teaching.”

A woman sits looking at her iPad wearing headphones.

Solid foundations

Professor Bayne and her group at the Centre for Study in Schooling are developing just that. Their interdisciplinary research in electronic education and learning focuses on knowledge exchange and impression, supporting genuine transform in the way technologies are comprehended and utilised in education: “We study digital education in intercontinental contexts, seeking to recognize how it can help advancement agendas, and how cultural dissimilarities influence its use.

“We have carried out a great deal of get the job done with museums and galleries all over casual electronic training, and we have a powerful strand of perform looking at the social, political and moral affect of info culture on education and learning. Our Knowledge Training in Educational facilities crew does excellent get the job done on details literacy and details citizenship inside colleges, and we have a wonderful portfolio of study on the position of technological innovation on the daily life of pre-university young children.”


One of their first jobs that marked a massive change in the landscape of electronic education and learning was the creation of significant open up on the internet classes, or MOOCs. Professor Bayne shares additional: “We had been associated extremely early on with MOOCs – from as considerably again as 2012 when they have been model new and complete of a sense of probability! Our College was a genuine chief in this space.”

In 2013 the workforce was invited to become the initial Uk member of the Stanford University-centered MOOC system, Coursera, where they formulated one particular of the extremely initially courses. “It enabled social engagement involving a huge cohort of learners – just before that most system MOOCs ended up about learners consuming content rather than about new forms of educating and community constructing,” explains Professor Bayne. “We utilized our study to make dynamic, engaged strategies of doing training at scale. Our MOOC – termed E-mastering and Electronic Cultures – was incredibly ground breaking at the time.”

Now these kinds of quick on line classes are considerably extra prevalent, but Professor Bayne is eager to remind us that their effect is even now very important: “They continue to be a wonderful matter – a way of sharing our perform and enabling thousands and thousands of learners to benefit from our study. We now have a big portfolio of exceptional brief classes that we supply from Edinburgh and they are so important in the way they permit us to access out to learners globally.”

A close up of a persons hands typing on a keyboard.

Outside of increased education

It is not just higher training institutions that have been using small on line courses, and looking at the added benefits. Just after the launch of E-understanding and Digital Cultures, Professor Bayne and her team were being approached by the World Financial institution. She elaborates: “The open up understanding lead at the Globe Bank turned mindful of the MOOC, and liked the dynamic method to engaging learners that we produced for that.”

Professor Bayne and her group consulted on the progress of the World Bank MOOC portfolio: “The models we developed underpinned a ton of the MOOCs they ended up giving. The first one particular we designed with them – named Convert Down the Warmth: Why a 4 Diploma Hotter Environment Should be Avoided – has reached over 39,000 learners in extra than 180 nations around the world.”

Extra than a software

So what accurately is the very best way to harness digital education and learning and make this kind of affect? Professor Bayne has written thoroughly on the issue, and in 2020 her team posted their Manifesto of Teach On line. Given that then, it is been translated into Spanish, Chinese and Croatian and utilized in teaching materials across the globe.

“It’s definitely enjoyable to see people today using the Manifesto! These of us in the author crew often see the postcard model pinned up in offices all above the position,” claims Professor Bayne. “It’s a piece of work we are really proud of.

“The Manifesto is significant since it takes advantage of our research to make a powerful established of statements about exercise – in a way it’s 1 of the most immediate mobilisations of our study agenda, and it’s encouraging encourage dialogue and advise alter all over the globe,” she continues. As this is these types of a quick-moving area, the group is already organizing a 3rd version.

1 of the critical teachings of the manifesto, is to demonstrate that technological innovation can be so considerably far more than a singular factor of on-line studying. Professor Bayne points out extra: “There is nevertheless a tendency for people today to see technological innovation as a device – in education and learning this surfaces as an assumption that we can just use know-how to make our training improved, a lot more productive, much more scalable, much more responsive and so on.”

It’s this posture that Professor Bayne and her group have been wanting to counter by their research, and a reason why their operate has had these kinds of effect. “The part of technological innovation in society is a great deal additional complex than that instrumentalist check out would have us consider,” carries on Professor Bayne. “Technology does not just increase practice – it alterations it, and changes the landscape in which we get the job done as educators.”

A woman sits at a home office desk

The pandemic also served to obstacle an additional assumption of digital understanding that Professor Bayne and the staff deal with in the Manifesto – that of it getting inferior to in-particular person teaching. Professor Bayne elaborates: “We however see that a whole lot in community and media discourse and it’s so reductive. Our exploration has proven that it is significantly additional nuanced than that.

“Covid-19 has given us a large amount of insight into how introducing elements of on the internet instructing increases training – can make it much more available, far more engaging,” she continues, “But well just before that we had formulated in our individual University and somewhere else so lots of illustrations of superb, leading top quality digital pedagogy. What we require in foreseeable future is additional assurance and overall flexibility in the way that we balance and mix modes to the gain of our students.”

Top the way

Seeking again on the past several yrs, Professor Bayne is specifically very pleased of how the Centre and her workforce have grown considering the fact that 2015: “We have a crew of 20 academics and 25 PhD students performing outstanding, significant do the job now – I feel our investigation is genuinely helping to make training greater.”

Even with how much they’ve arrive, Professor Bayne continue to has formidable programs for the long run, particularly by way of collaboration across topics. Performing with the Edinburgh Futures Institute, which provides the prospect to tackle today’s issues across disciplines to discover new views and methods, is a person chance. She shares additional: “There are regions of investigate we would like to grow – local climate change and sustainable digital education and learning, ethical information futures, and accountable and just electronic schooling in international contexts. These are I assume the main worries for the field and for the sector frequently above the coming decade, and we want to be in a posture to guide these conversations. Connecting up with new work occurring elsewhere in the College – in distinct the Edinburgh Futures Institute – is likely to genuinely enable us develop our comprehending of these crucial regions above the coming many years.”

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