Akkadium Founder Mark Anderson argues that technology-enhanced learning should be underpinned by sound pedagogy at the 2018 Bett Show in London. Photo: J. Patterson.
Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Founder and Principal of Akkadium College.

Putting learning above technology in a world of online education

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As some of you probably know, I’m passionate about online learning. I’m so excited about the potential it has to open up access to education for millions of lifelong learners around the world.

That’s why I was thrilled when I was asked to give a talk at the 2018 Bett Show in London – the giant learning technology festival that brings edtech professionals together from all over world.

The event is a glittering showcase of exciting new technologies, tools and platforms, but my message to delegates was simple (if possibly a bit controversial in that particular setting). I wanted to talk about the importance of putting good pedagogy ahead of technology when designing technology-enhanced learning.

In short, just because we’re using technology in our teaching, it doesn’t mean we can throw those core educational goals and principles out of the window.

In fact, when technology is the main interface between teacher and learner (as with online distance learning) there’s a risk that the experience becomes more about the tech, and less about nurturing a transformative, student-focused learning experience.

This is why the pedagogical design that underpins the use of digital tools in education is absolutely critical.

The good news is, there are some reliable, tried and tested methods for designing online learning that put the learner (and not the technology) front and centre.

One of these, as I explained in the Bett Arena, is the ABC Curriculum Design model developed by learning technologists at UCL Digital Education. ABC is a collaborative storyboard-based process for designing a curriculum (whether face-to-face, online or blended) in a way that keeps the focus on the kinds of activities we’re actually asking learners to engage in.

ABC also ensures that pedagogical alignment is maintained between our intended learning outcomes, the teaching and learning activities, and the way in which learning is assessed.

I’ve found this model to be an incredibly powerful tool, and I’ve adapted my own version of it specifically for designing effective online learning. It’s a process that that we frequently use to design Akkadium College online courses, and I often introduce clients to it in my consultancy work.

When you have a good learning design in place, then you can go wild and explore all the cool tools and trends that might support the educational processes and the intended (and unintended) learning outcomes that make lifelong learning so valuable.

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