A ‘Manifesto for Teaching Online’: The Edinburgh Edict

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

The Manifesto for Teaching Online (2.24.12), written by teachers and researchers in the MSc in E-learning program at the University of Edinburgh from June 2010 to May 2011, is arguably the most exciting document for discussion to emerge thus far in 2012. It was distributed in the following format, but other formats are also available.

Click the image for the PDF version.

The manifesto is described as “a series of brief statements that attempt to capture what is generative and productive about online teaching, course design, writing, assessment and community. It is, and may remain, a living document that is reviewed and reworked periodically with colleagues, students and amongst the programme team …. Its primary purpose is to spark discussion, and to articulate a position about e-learning that informs the work of the project team, and the MSc in E-learning programme more broadly.”

The creators, however, are opening the discussion to a wider audience: “Our intention is that over the next few months the manifesto will stimulate discussion on a wider stage, fuel further research, and draw attention to the work being done here at Edinburgh in developing new perspectives on e-learning.”

Below, I’ve reproduced the entirety for easier viewing. I kept the apparent color coding in the asterisks as close to the original as possible.

Manifesto for Teaching Online
* Distance is a positive principle, not a deficit. Online can be the privileged mode.
* The possibility of the ‘online version’ is overstated. The best online courses are born digital.
* By redefining connection we find we can make eye contact online.
* ‘Best practice’ is a totalising term blind to context – there are many ways to get it right.
* Every course design is philosophy and belief in action.
* The aesthetics of online course design are too readily neglected: courses that are fair of (inter)face are better places to teach and learn in.
* Online courses are prone to cultures of surveillance: our visibility to each other is a pedagogical and ethical issue.
* Text is being toppled as the only mode that matters in academic writing.
* Visual and hypertextual representations allow arguments to emerge, rather than be stated.
* New forms of writing make assessors work harder: they remind us that assessment is an act of interpretation.
* Feedback can be digested, worked with, created from. In the absence of this, it is just ‘response’.
* Assessment strategies can be designed to allow for the possibility of resistance.
* A routine of plagiarism detection structures-in a relation of distrust.
* Assessment is a creative crisis as much as it is a statement of knowledge.
* Place is differently, not less, important online.
* Closed online spaces limit the educational power of the network.
* Online spaces can be permeable and flexible, letting networks and flows replace boundaries.
* Course processes are held in a tension between randomness and intentionality.
* Online teaching should not be downgraded into ‘facilitation’.
* Community and contact drive good online learning.
* Written by teachers and researchers in online education. University of Edinburgh MSc in E-learning 2011

12 Responses

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  2. […] in the MSc in E-learning program at the University of Edinburgh from June 2010 to May …Via etcjournal.com Valora esto: Me gusta:Me gustaSé el primero en decir que te gusta esta post. […]

  3. I find a subtext here that’s disturbing. The statements suggest an active and strong group of people opposing online distance learning in a variety of ways. In other words, such a manifesto would not be necessary in a logical world.

    Imagine the introduction of the book. Was such a manifesto necessary to get people to use books in learning? Did people suggest that books stifled creativity by putting the ideas on pages? Did they say that books created a “literacy divide” by denying learning to those who could not read? Did they complain that books result in a decline in people’s ability to remember because they could just look in the book? Of course, I wasn’t there at the time, and anti-book people would be unlikely to put these thoughts into books for us to read today. Some historian may be able to answer this question. It doesn’t matter.

    Learning through online communication makes perfect sense. Books actually allowed people to learn things without being physically present at the side of the author. In a sense, they were the first distance learning. I learned electrical wiring through books and much more without having to sit in a class or become an apprentice. That learning was “distance learning,” although not as wonderfully dynamic as today’s online distance learning.

    We can sit back today and criticize textbooks as old-fashioned and more. Yet, they freed up people from the tyranny of in-person learning and even freed up teachers from having to create all of that material themselves.

    Is it a fair comparison: the advent of books and the advent of online learning? I’d say so. The concept of online schooling, with all of its ramifications — many to be seen, is as big a deal in education as the invention of the printing press and thus textbooks. It’s bigger, I say, than blackboards.

    Just as books provided equal access to information for all who were literate and could gain access to a book (buy or borrow from friend or library), so will online education level the learning playing field for all who have access to the Internet. We just have to make sure that that access is as universal as access to a library has been — or ever even more so.

    The quality of education should not be tied to a postal (or zip) code. How’s that for a manifesto?

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  6. […] A ‘Manifesto for Teaching Online’: The Edinburgh Edict « Educational Technology and Change Jour… […]

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  8. In many countries in Europe broadband is there and so there is not a problem with the transmission of ideas. Here in the US we have whole groups and areas that have very limited broadband. We talk about doing something about it but… there is a divide that does not allow these practices.

    • Free (or close to it) access to the Internet for all is more important than broadband. What does broadband add? You can get HD movies?

      I built my software in the 1990s when dial-up was the norm. It works great in that mode. Yes, you may have to wait a bit (about a minute in some cases) for the video download, but that’s hardly an insurmountable barrier.

      People who create educational materials for the Internet do not have presume broadband for all. However, schools are a different matter. You cannot wait minutes for material in a 55-minute class.

      Every school should have broadband Internet as a basic right. Every person should have Internet access as a basic right. That’s my modification to what you said. I believe that this goal can be reached readily if we wish to accomplish it.

  9. Here are some statistics by infograph to help people understand that we are behind in Broadband speed and use.


    In the next reply I will post the US connectivity map

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