The following abstract has been submitted to the Plymouth E-Learning Conference. The panel has been in development for some while – we’ll see if it makes it!

Floods? Snow? Swine Flu? Terrorist Threats?  “Keep Calm and Carry On”

During the Second World War, the British government sought to use appropriate communications tools to convey policy to the populace, whether via posters, newspapers, radio, or legislation. Resource restrictions meant that there was not always a free choice in which to use.

Sound familiar? It should.

As James Clay indicated in a blog post on January 10th snow, floods and swine flu all have the potential bring our physical campus to a halt, for valid health and safety reasons.  Institutions announce via local radio and the web that they are closed to students and staff. In most institutions such crises effectively bring the entire workforce to a halt. Despite the digital options available, the word ‘closed’ implies that no (formal) activity will take place, and sends the message to staff and students that they do not need to go to work, or even do any work, even if they could.[1]

Culturally, most institutions do not incorporate online or virtual learning into everyday working cultures, at any level: management, staff or students. Those who do not routinely use digital options can’t see that closing the physical institution need not have a significant impact on the business of the institution, if that business can be carried out at home or online. The issue is not to focus upon contingency planning, but to focus on changing the way people work when there isn’t snow and changing the way people think when there is.

Although this debate will centre largely upon Web 2.0 methods, it will take an outcomes-focused approach, rather than a tools focused approach, in line with William Morris’s quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. We consider what is necessary, not just in times of crisis, but in implementing everyday e-practice to meet learning and teaching needs.

No tool offers “one size fits all”, so each panellist will focus upon a specific relationship, for example communication between institution/staff, tutor/student, student/student, institution/external, and identify some of the most appropriate tools, and the pedagogical purpose that they serve. Which tool is most appropriate for the outcome required? What does that the approach provide that previous methods haven’t? What drawbacks are acknowledged in the use of each with regards to the outcomes required? What institutional cultural factors will need to be addressed?


The exact panel is to be confirmed, but will include: James Clay (ILT & Learning Resources Manager at Gloucestershire College), Dr Carolin Esser (Lecturer, English, University of Winchester) Dr Bex Lewis (Lecturer History/Media Studies, Blended Learning Fellow, University of Winchester). The panel will be allocated less than 10 minutes each, before strongly encouraged debate from the floor, building upon discussions which will have started beforehand online.


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