It’s time to re-humanise e-learning

Avatars - Characters in Flat Design StyleWhat motivates engagement with the digital information environment? This is a question the Head of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the Arts London David White has been finding answers to using his ‘Visitors and Residents’ paradigm.


A speaker on the ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN Spotlight Stage, in this guest post White explains how his alternative to Marc Prensky’s digital natives and immigrants idea works and how his findings can be used to re-think online teaching methods.


By David White


What have you found most encouraging and inspiring in your learning, was it a pile of books or an enthusiastic teacher with a love of their subject? This is a question I ask when addressing the topic: re-humanising e-learning.



David White

My work focuses on understanding why learners use digital technology with an emphasis on exploring motivations to engage rather than assuming that adoption is about collecting functional skills. Using my ‘Visitors and Residents’ continuum I’m often reminded of the importance of the Web-as-a -place where people go to meet with each other.


It’s certainly the case that we spend much of our time online in ‘Visitor’ mode, seeking out information and not leaving behind a social trace but for many the Web is also a series of spaces where they can enjoy the presence of others. When individuals engage with the Web in this mode they are to a certain extent living, or residing, online.


And yet when it comes to teaching we tend to perceive the Web only in Visitor mode, treating it as some kind of chaotic library and an opportunity to broadcast content rather than connect with learners. We’ve become efficient at distributing curriculum materials to tens of thousands of people via centralised institutional systems and MOOCs but in doing so are we holding students at arm’s length and alienating those who don’t have the luxury of attending regular face-to-face opportunities?


In an age where access to content is becoming boundless the opportunity to connect with others is all the more crucial, especially for students who are building their sense of identity as learners and professionals.


I’m excited to be hosting a session for the new ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN Spotlight stage on the topic of re-humanising e-learning and, with help from the audience, will be exploring some of the ways in which we can create ‘conversation at scale’ online, using technology to connect learners with inspirational teachers and fellow students rather than simply throwing resources at them.




Register now and find out more about David White and the OEB Spolight Stage here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.