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Delivering Digitally: managing the transition to the knowledge media – review


Name: Delivering Digitally: managing the transition to the knowledge media
Authors: Alistair Inglis, Peter Ling and Vera Joosten
Publisher: Kogan Page, London, 2002
Price: £19.99
ISBN: 0749434716

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I missed the first edition of this book, sadly, but found this new edition to be absolutely essential reading for anyone with an interest in teaching and learning, irrespective of whether you are interested in digital technologies. Unusually, I’ll start the review of this book at the end of the last chapter, as this is where the central philosophy of the book is re-stated with beautiful clarity.

"There is a risk that in rushing to embrace the possibilities that the digital technologies offer, advocates of the new learning technologies may lose sight of the primary goal – improving student learning. The message we have tried to convey throughout this book is that the true potential of the knowledge media lies not so much in lowering the costs of the delivery of programmes and courses, but in enhancing the quality of the student’s learning experience."

This is what sets out this book for me as easily the best of its type I’ve come across. It is an authoritative, well structured and thorough guide, which would be useful for teachers, managers, enthusiasts and indeed students, but at its heart there is the central concern for the benefits which can accrue to the learner, rather than the institution, organisation or government. This may not suit everyone wishing to climb on the technology bandwagon, but taking a read of this book before doing so may make success much more likely in the long run.

The book is structured in such a way that it can be used as a ‘toolkit’, where it is possible to dip in and out, and use the most appropriate sections for you. There are four key sections on Context, Implementation, Quality Improvement and The Future, and each builds through focussed explanation, sound use of sources and research, and an analysis of the advantages and disadvantages which can be faced at all stages of development, implementation and evaluation. There are case studies embedded within the text, which include success stories, but also failures of digital technologies, and this reflects the overall approach, which presents the ‘knowledge media’ as complex and challenging, and needing careful consideration when being used for such an important venture as delivering or supporting learning.

There are also checklists and other useful frameworks, and a very useful glossary, and list of web sources, as well as a comprehensive bibliography.

There is so much in the book that covering it all in a review is impossible, so I’ll select two sections to give an example of the way the book works.

Chapter Three – Learning in and Electronic Environment

A number of aspects of teaching and learning are discussed, and how these can be applied in an electronic environment, and there is a brief discussion of pedagogical approaches, the degree to which learning may be effective with or without a teacher and direct interaction between learners. The overall preferred approach is to seek to provide an active learning experience for the learner when using the ‘knowledge media’, as this is most likely to result in the depth and breadth of learning which is needed. The ways in which technology can affect the learning process, and whether electronic delivery is more effective are both considered, and the chapter concludes with the thought- provoking notion that:

"The knowledge media hold the promise of delivering education and training more effectively by providing students with a much richer environment in which to learn. Whether that promise is realized depends on how the media are used."

Chapter 12 – Improving the quality on online learning programmes

This chapter is very full, and contains as clear a statement of quality improvement based on ‘best practice’ as you could wish to find. Refreshingly free of some of the ‘quality speak’ which seems to bedevil education and training, this section could be useful just for what it says about quality improvement itself, and I’ll certainly be using it when I next teach quality management to FE teachers. When you add the way in which the best practice model to applied to online learning, and the highly detailed ‘best practice framework’ which is provided, you have an indispensable set of indicators which could be used to minimize any problems of online learning, and maximize learning for the students.

Overall, I found the authority and accessibility of this book, combined with its breadth of vision, and focussed good advice to be exemplary, and would recommend it to anyone.

We can only hope that some of those who implement online learning may actually read it, and take note of what it has to say !

Jim Crawley


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