About the research

Project team

News and events

Manifesto for teaching online

The MSc in E-learning programme at the University of Edinburgh is innovative both in the context of the field of e-learning, and in the context of the University. It stands out because of its experimental approach to course design and teaching and its critical and theoretical perspectives on online learning, and it is strongly underpinned by the excellence, energy and commitment of its participants.

Student writing: innovative online strategies for assessment & feedback was funded from 2009-2011 by the Principal's Teaching Award Scheme at the University of Edinburgh to take a closer look at some of the programme’s practices. Our goals were to understand better how our approach works, how to make that approach even better, and how to share what we have learned with others interested in online and distance learning. Over the past two years the project has been an important source of insight into the assessment, feedback and digital writing practices of the MSc in E-learning.

The key data generated by the project were a series of student-led ethnographies of courses, where students acted as participant observers and kept field notes that were analysed and used to develop three key project themes:

  • Feedback cultures;

  • Negotiating tensions: isolation and community; silence and noise; absence and presence; individuality and convergence; freedom and constraint;

  • Emotion, conflict and investment.

The project also drew on the rich source of data we have in our archived online course interactions with and between students, and generated assessment and feedback stories from students and teachers.

We hosted two multimodal assessment roundtables, presented our work at several conferences and events, created a web site, and held a series of events to discuss and develop our manifesto for teaching online.

The project had four main successes:

  • The project team, who are also the majority of the core teaching team on the MSc in E-learning programme, engaged in a wide-ranging and iterative process of enquiry, discussion and debate about the nature of assessment, feedback, writing, community and design in the context of our programme. Through our manifesto we have developed a shared basis from which to further develop our research and practice as a team.

  • Working with students as research associates has opened up new avenues of collaboration and possibilities for future research for the programme.

  • The project provided some very positive experiences for postgraduate students on our programme, and contributed to their development as scholars in the field of e-learning. Research associates described their time on the project as providing “double learning”, and a deeper understanding of qualitative research, online assessment and feedback, and their own learning.

  • Our manifesto for teaching online, developed throughout the second year of the project, has proven to be an outstanding stimulus for dialogue. The team, and our colleagues and students, have found it to be generative, controversial, motivating and exciting. It provides a much needed conceptual perspective on the practices of teaching online, and we plan to develop it further over the coming months.

We will be publishing and presenting the findings from the project over the next year, and will continue to disseminate and discuss the manifesto locally and internationally via online channels. As a team, we have built on the successes of this project with a further PTAS-funded project.


updated 1 November 2011

contact jen.ross@ed.ac.uk for more information