"We should be aware of the pedagogies that are possible as much as we are aware of the affordances of the technology. The two together make up technology-enhanced learning. They have got to be well formed partners that align completely with one another."
Peter Shukie, education studies course leader, Blackburn College
This element of our guide offers a brief account of the types to learning that you as learning designers might find useful. Curriculum design and support for online learning, provides a more detailed introduction to models and theories of learning.
What you need to know
There is no single type of pedagogic approach you are advised to take when designing learning with digital technologies. We take the view that certain approaches to learning activity are suited to achieving certain approaches to learning outcome, and that it is equally important to select the right digital tools to support your aims.
Achieving the right mix of learning activities, tools and technologies for each unit of learning is the art of the learning designer.
Active learning requires students to participate in their learning rather than being passive recipients of others’ knowledge, as occurs in traditional lectures or taught classes.
The advent of technology has done much to promote active learning by getting students to do a greater range of things (research, practice, discuss, present, self-assess, publish online) and by encouraging reflection about what they have done (e-portfolios, blogs, online debate or chat).
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This model of learning is also based around the belief that learning should be active, practical and challenging rather than theoretical and passive. And as before, digital tools can play a significant role by enabling ‘close-to-real’ learning experiences in disciplines as diverse as automotive engineering and medicine.
With the focus firmly on curricula that are responsive to the needs of the labour market, authentic learning based on simulation software, virtual worlds and gaming technologies and interactive role play in online learning environments will play an increasingly important role in the future.
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Blended learning is a combination of face-to-face activities and digital tools and resources designed to deliver the best possible learning experience.
The use of learning tools can occur before, during or after a face-to-face session and support a variety of pedagogic purposes. The blended component, for example, might aim to extend the time students spend on task, develop their information literacy skills, stimulate their interest before a class, or enable them to work at their own pace afterwards.
The term suggests careful and deliberate integration of online and face-to-face activities.
More general terms used to describe the use of technology in learning include 'technology-enhanced learning', ‘e-learning’ and ‘ILT’ (information learning technology).
Find out more
- Embedding blended learning in further education and skills
- Developing blended learning content approaches
- FutureLearn: blended learning essentials courses: getting started, embedding practice and developing digital skills
Watch the Ufi Charitable Trust video on how blended learning can help your students:
Flipped learning reverses the traditional sequence of delivery by a teacher followed by reinforcement activities for students. It is sometimes called 'upside down pedagogy' or 'just in time' teaching.
In a flipped approach, students engage with selected resources – usually learning content or quizzes on the VLE – before joining a virtual or face-to-face session during which they deepen their understanding of the topic.
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Watch a video from Flipped Institute on how flipped learning works:
Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is based on the investigation of questions, scenarios or problems. Teachers as facilitators help students identify issues to research to develop their knowledge and problem-solving ability. Inquiry-based learning, as a result, may contain elements of problem-based learning.
Inquiry-based learning can also form part of research-led or problem-based learning. Both approaches to learning design allow students to further their understanding of their discipline by undertaking relevant challenges and/or carrying out research of their own.
Inquiry-based and problem-based learning both entail students selecting the research methodologies and digital tools that best suit their purpose. It goes without saying that students learning this way will need a range of digital capabilities (see section on digital capability and employability).
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In the following video, students from the University of Sheffield discuss what inquiry-based learning means to them.
Online learning has long been associated with distance learning – now largely a technology-supported mode of learning which enables students to study for qualifications without attending classes.
More and more colleges and universities have used online learning to broaden their customer base and reduce their fixed costs. And increasingly, today’s time-poor and economically challenged students have been attracted by the flexibility of online distance learning.
This mode of delivery can also enable an institution to maintain choice for students by offering low-enrolment courses or modules online.
However, the ubiquity of access students have to the internet can mask how fundamentally different an experience a wholly online model of learning can be. Both students and staff need support and training to gain the most from this mode of learning.
In general, it is best to be led by pedagogic purpose rather than the availability and appeal of particular technologies when deciding which approach to learning to adopt – see the section on principles.
Nonetheless, partial or wholly online learning increases learner responsibility and control. Students learning online develop habits of self-regulation and digital skills that support their lifelong learning.
Research-led learning places students in the role of researchers to enable them to experience how knowledge is developed and applied in their discipline.
Research-led students work in partnership with their lecturers to construct new forms of knowledge and to deepen their understanding.
This enables students even at undergraduate level to become immersed in the practices of their discipline.
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University College London’s ‘connected curriculum’ asks students to participate in research and make connections between disciplines and with each other.
Team-based learning is a specific approach that can involve flipped learning and elements of inquiry/problem-based learning.
Students work in the same group over a period of time to collectively develop their understanding of core concepts and to solve problems. As in flipped learning, students engage with learning materials in advance of face-to-face sessions.
Multiple-choice questions used at the start of each session then test the knowledge of both the individual and the team. Tutors can give students immediate feedback in a type of formative assessment having assessed their readiness to move on.
Working in teams in this way helps tutors assess individuals’ progress but also enables students to develop a range of transferable skills.
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The University of Bradford’s School of Pharmacy redesigned its entire curriculum to take a team-based approach.
Work-based learning bridges the gap between formal education and training and employment by enabling students to achieve learning outcomes that are not normally possible in educational contexts. These include the acquisition of workplace skills and practices that advance their progress towards a chosen career. Work-based learning can also encompass apprenticeships (see apprenticeships section).
Depending on the qualification and the nature of the workplace, the institution’s role will vary from providing mentorship and tutorial functions to having full responsibility for students on work placements as part of a course. Thus a work-based learning model will necessarily entail close partnership working with employers over learning outcomes, course content and assessment.