The problem we face with digital reading


I think it’s safe to say, we’ve probably all experienced the challenges around getting students to read in our academic environments, but has this been made worse since the pandemic? There’s a lot of assumptions in this area but little validation it seems.

At a recent SEDA workshop looking into transitions into Higher Education, I posed a number of questions to the audience around the perception of digital reading practice. As part of the work we’re doing in this space as part of or QAA Collaborative Enhancement Project ‘Active Online Reading’,  looking into students’ digital reading practice, we are seeking to better understand the problems students face, the barriers to academic reading, and the solutions that our students and academic community have used to overcome these barriers.

Below is a summary of the community’s contributions to this problem space.

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Pick and Mix Induction for Professional Academics

At a typical staff development session, if you ask a participant how they came into their academic role, chances are they were from a professional background.  This may not be surprising as higher education has always had a long association with many professions and industries. Yet the demand for professionals in academic roles -practitioner academics- has grown significantly over the years with public services, such as nursing and policing, now requiring mandatory HE qualifications (Bekhradnia and Beech, 2018) in parallel with rapid growth in degree apprenticeships (Universities UK, 2019).

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Content as king is dead….long live the partnership!

In this blog post we share the experience of developing a Curriculum Framework for a new, and the first, technological university in Ireland. This was undertaken as a partnership across all sectors of the organisation with an emphasis on students as partners both within the development process and, subsequently, as participants in the curriculum. Continue reading

Episode 3: Time to Refocus

“This is not a busy time. This is your life.”

Hugh Kearns has written extensively about time management in academia and the above direct quote from one of his workshops might resonate. Do you ever hear yourself saying ‘Yes, it’s just a bit nuts at the moment but things will be better next week when I’ve worked late every night to get task X over the line’? Not surprisingly next week comes along with a whole new set of needs ready to suck up all your time and headspace again. What is surprising is that many of us think and work like this constantly. A constant stream of busyness and scheduled activity is very much our daily life except it’s not how we might have hoped to find ourselves living. Continue reading

Learning Design Bootcamp – Supporting Higher Education institutions before, during and after COVID-19

The Learning Design Bootcamp started in 2019 as an idea to support Higher Education (HE) institutions in the design and development of online/blended learning when online learning was an option in HE. However, in the second year, as soon as the Bootcamp 2020 was launched, the pandemic hit, becoming an exclusive and extremely timely activity supporting HE institutions in the transition to online learning. Continue reading

Online Learning and its Discontents

Around ten years ago an IT-savvy colleague called me a shoveller. It was an accusation; that I was not rising to the challenges of e-learning because I was simply shovelling resources I had already developed (in a previous era) onto an e-learning space (like Blackboard). I was guilty as charged and I was grateful to him for alerting me to the need to curriculum-build from the ground up, and to accept that the principles of universal design applied equally to the world of IT as anything else. Continue reading

What is an educational truth?

‘Fake News!’ The rallying call of Donald Trump, which he uses to urge his supporters not to believe mainstream media stories, particularly those that don’t tally with how he sees things. This is, literally, the world according to Trump, and that world is a very right wing one, centred on unfettered capitalism, individualism, and a return to the good old days. But the left has always distrusted the mainstream media too, arguing that far from being a socialist conspiracy, most of the large media outlets grew big precisely because they benefitted from capitalistic practices, including support from corporate advertising. In which case, if the media trades in truth, it does so in a world of mistrust and compromise. Continue reading

Flexible Learning Fundamentals

Since the initial lockdown in March, Universities and other HEIs have mobilised the creation of workstreams, groups and packets (whatever the preferred term) to invest substantial time and effort in the planning, contingency and re-planning of what might (or might not) lie ahead and how we should respond. The community and creativity of colleagues across HE has been mobilised to develop a wide range of responses so that we can continue to deliver high quality education and these responses have been shaped through the outpouring of sets of principles and guidance designed to offer clarity on how we should go about continuing to offer that quality educational experience. However, these policies appear to be largely tailored towards a particular direction of travel e.g. principles we should follow if we are to migrate fully online, guidance for effectively blending students’ learning, guidance for effective hybrid teaching. Particularly during the initial stages of response, this guidance is particularly helpful. Continue reading

Episode 2: Head Space and the multitasking myth

According to popular stereotypes, women are good at multitasking, suggesting that men are not. However, research shows that, in general, people are not good at multitasking (Laloyaux et al, 2018): the human brain does not function optimally when called upon to multitask to the degree that we currently do (Levitin 2014). Levitin also outlines that the brain has an attention network and a daydreaming network. When one is on, the other is off. Attention evolved to keep us alive, whereas daydreaming allows for downtime, vital space for the brain to drift aimlessly. This is creative, but also restorative. Levitin refers to these two networks as ‘yin and yang’. Have you noticed that you day-dream less and less these days? Academic work demands multitasking, which keeps the attention network on alert and stifles daydreaming. Letting your mind wander will never be factored into workloads; it is the antithesis of ‘work’. And yet it isn’t. Day dreaming allows us to continue to function at a high level. It is essential. Continue reading