E-mediated Instruction

Given that personalised learning in higher education is almost always colocated with e-mediated instruction, it is important to define this term. We have agreed that e-mediated instruction is fundamentally the use of information and communication technologies or digital tools to manage learning content and response through technologies such as Internet search engines, blended learning tools, MOOCs, diagnostic tools, games, personalised programs, and virtual reality programs. The literature is replete with definitions of e-mediated instruction that are always couched with advice about the ways to incorporate its use in schools, in businesses, and in higher education. This form of learning concentrates on the learner and the

Fig. 1.5 Personalised learning colocated with e-mediated instruction

quality of the learning process (Abdelaziz et al. 2011; Gkatzidou and Pearson 2011; Li and Crump 2010). The challenge is in identifying how digital tools can be customised for education. e-mediated instruction has been given its greatest impetus through the Apple suite of inventions (and thereafter Samsung’s) which foreground the personal and individual needs of the user through iView, iPad, iPod, iPhone, iGlasses, and so on. Educators now have the means to design personalised programs with and for students using any and all of these devices and the facilities available through PC software. Figure 1.5 highlights the reality that not all personalised learning is e-mediated and not all e-mediated tools are enablers for personalised learning. Hence, the overlap is the section of learning that we are most interested in considering.

While we love the use of these tools in education, we have a number of concerns. The first concern is that the causal link that e-mediated instruction leads to better learning is yet to be made and/or proven. Although there has been an increasing amount of research into the potential of e-learning tools and technologies to support more learner-centred and personalised forms of learning (Ballard and Butler 2011; Davis 2011; Tunstall and Lynch 2010), questions exist as to whether the tech-driven, personalised approach to education actually works in terms of enhancing student learning outcomes. Davis (2011), for example, outlines how research is being conducted on a number of different technology-oriented personalised learning strategies in an attempt to determine what approach works best. She cites research in the USA where The Digital Learning Council called on schools to do a better job using digital tools to personalise learning. The request from the Council was preceded by the USA’s largest educational technology conference, held in June 2010. At this conference, numerous sessions were run to demonstrate how technology tools can be used to play with students’ strengths and weaknesses. At this particular conference, there were also a number of prominent virtual schools promoting personalisation and the use of digital tools to customise education. Despite these initiatives, Davis (2011) argues that the experts have still failed to identify the impact of the digital tools when evaluating a personalised learning approach.

Ballard and Butler (2010, 2011) have identified a similar trend in the UK where, despite consumer technologies offering a personalised relationship that is engaging and dynamic, the main challenge for learning providers is to capture and transpose this dynamism to an educational context. Despite the lack of research supporting a model to guide educational reforms, there has been widespread adoption of the personalised learning strategies (Abdelaziz et al. 2011; Ballard and Butler 2011; Chen 2009; Davis 2011; Gkatzidou and Pearson 2011; Li and Crump 2010; Tunstall and Lynch 2010). Even though e-learning systems are widely used, implementation of a system that will deliver personalised learning content relevant to an individual learner’s needs, preferences, and background has not yet been achieved (Li and Crump 2010).

Further, we are also concerned with the role of institutions in managing the innovative potential of such tools and the hours of learning that staff have to put in so that something that was once taught with a piece of chalk and a blackboard is now a matter of the teacher as project manager, artist, graphic designer, computer programmer, content specialist, marker, and counsellor. We wonder about the efficient use of resources here and are concerned that the increasingly hierarchical nature of the university within the accountability framework (Luke et al. 2010) will work against the innovative potential of these tools. For us, the increased use of e- mediated instruction has led us to define the term in relation to work intensification and oversimplification.

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