Personalised Learning in Higher Education Through E-mediated Instruction

Universities in the twenty-first century are changing rapidly to meet the demands of a new clientele. Universities are now more market-driven than ever before. To survive, they need to be innovative, flexible, and cutting edge. Luke et al. (2010) argue that the university now exists at the intersection of three broad logistical parameters, namely (1) the provision of world class degree programs and (2) the recruitment and retention of a diverse range of students within (3) an increasing agenda of accountability. We would add a fourth parameter to this list: personalised learning through e-mediated instruction. While an equity agenda seems to be served by ideas of personalising learning in higher education largely through e-mediated instruction, the broader parameters within which universities exist would suggest that personalisation is another means to attract and recruit students for the purposes of the market. Laurillard (2004) notes that

.while the ostensible aim is to use e-learning to improve the quality of the learning experience for students, the drivers of change are numerous, and learning quality ranks poorly in relation to most of them. Those of us who are working to improve student learning, and seeking to exploit e-learning to do so, have to ride each new wave of technological innovation in an attempt to divert it from its more natural course of techno-hype and drive it towards a quality agenda. (p. 27)

Laurillard recognises that the “sequence of technological change in interactive technologies has been an historical accident, driven by curiosity, the market, luck, politics, [and] never by the needs of the learners”. Laurillard further asserts that the power of the medium is that individuals can bend it to their personal needs within structured systems. Laurillard continues that educators have to build the means within systems so that the promise of personalisation through e-mediation is realised. This involves change that is both top-down and bottom-up.

For us, this means that personalised learning in higher education through e-mediation must provide both the hierarchy and the agents they affect to have an input in the manner in which this plays out through e-mediated instruction. Indeed, while preparing this chapter, we have noted that online proponents of e-mediated instruction, who largely derive from a private enterprise perspective, are now looking to education to find the means to make e-mediated instruction work. We find hope in this for our profession and our particular skill set.

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