manifesto for teaching online


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Manifesto for teaching online

The manifesto for teaching online is intended to stimulate ideas about creative online teaching. It was written by teachers and researchers in the field of online education, in connection with the MSc in E-learning programme at the University of Edinburgh. It attempts to rethink some of the orthodoxies and unexamined truisms surrounding the field. Each point is deliberately interpretable, and this page is a starting point for some of those interpretations. If you are working with the manifesto, or part of it, put a comment on our manifesto web site: http://onlineteachingmanifesto.wordpress.com/ or email us a link to any online content you produce - we will add a link to our site.

Manifesto web site: in order to provide an interactive space in which to discuss and share content relating to the manifesto, we've created a separate web site at http://onlineteachingmanifesto.wordpress.com/ . You can leave comments there, and can also subscribe to the blog.

24 February - an article in Inside Higher Ed discusses the manifesto as a "meme".

manifesto for teaching online

On this page:

the text

Manifesto for teaching online - Written by teachers and researchers in online education. University of Edinburgh MSc in E-learning 2011

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. 

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Manifesto for teaching online by http://www.education.ed.ac.uk/swop/manifesto.html is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


the PDF

see or download the manifesto in PDF format

Let us know if you would like paper postcards of the manifesto - email jen.ross@ed.ac.uk with your postal address.

Thanks to Oliver Brookes for his design of the PDF, poster and postcard.


the video

A manifesto for teaching online on Vimeo. The video is an interpretation of the manifesto, commissioned from one of the students on the MSc in E-learning programme, James Lamb.


more about the manifesto

The manifesto was a key output from the Student Writing project. It is 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 of the MSc in E-learning. 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. This position is best summarised by the first of the manifesto statements:

Distance is a positive principle, not a deficit. Online can be the privileged mode.

Such a position is at odds with dominant discourses of e-learning that describe it either in terms of replication of offline practices, or in terms of inadequacy, where e-learning is the “second best” option when “real” (face-to-face) learning is not available or practical. We reject both of these discourses, and the instrumental approaches to e-learning that tend to accompany them.

The manifesto was actively developed over a period of a year, June 2010–May 2011. It was grounded in the work of the research associates and the key themes that emerged from their ethnographic accounts. It was shaped and refined during a series of intensive discussions amongst the project team that brought together our own research perspectives, knowledge, and teaching experiences.

We held a number of events in March and April 2011 to discuss and debate the manifesto. The first was part of the MSc in E-learning away day, and involved the whole programme team analysing and discussing the document. This was followed by a presentation and discussion session at the E-learning@Ed conference, a lunchtime seminar with invited colleagues from around the University, and a week-long collaborative writing and discussion event with students on the MSc in E-learning programme. Responses to the document ranged from excitement to discomfort, but the most important aspect of the process was the opportunity to discuss vital issues relating to e-learning with colleagues and students, and to draw out and debate positions that usually go unstated.

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.


updated 27 February 2012

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