Report: Technology enhanced learning as a site for interdisciplinary research

Team: Gráinne Conole, Eileen Scanlon, Paul Mundin and Rob Farrow

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Gráinne Conole
21 April 2010

The aim of this research was to explore if there is anything specific about interdisciplinarity in a Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) research context, and to identify strategies for supporting, communicating and documenting interdisciplinarity. In particular, we were interested in what interdisciplinary working might bring to multi-discipline research teams to help them address challenges that are too broad or too complex to be solved by a single discipline. The project set out to explore what disciplines contribute to research into Technology Enhanced Learning, to document their cognate disciplines and to elicit their diverse epistemological beliefs, methodologies and approaches. It also set out to identify the main research challenges for interdisciplinary teams.

The research consisted of three main activities.

  • Firstly, Robert Farrow carried out a literature review of interdisciplinarity in general, and more specifically research into Technology Enhanced Learning.
  • Secondly, broader consultation with the TEL-research community was conducted through two online fora. The first was as part of a series of ‘hotseats’ associated with the Networked Learning conference. A positional paper on methodological issues in Networked Learning was used as a starting point for the discussion, along with a series of questions, including a number specifically around interdisciplinarity in TEL research. The paper and associated discussions can be found here ( In parallel a similar set of questions was posed on the social networking site, Cloudworks (
  • Thirdly, eighteen interviews were conducted with senior researchers within the field. The interviews were conducted and initially analysed by Paul Mundin. The following methodology was used to identify, gather, analyse and report on the information from the set of interviews. The initial set of questions arose from the discussions on the Networked Learning hot-seat forum and the discussion on the Cloudworks site, and from themes emerging from the literature review. The questions were constructed to explore an interviewee’s experience in interdisciplinarity, and the nature of interdisciplinarity both for research more generally construed, and specifically in Technology Enhanced Learning

A draft of the report is attached, we would welcome comments.

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Will Pollard
1:07pm 7 June 2010 (Edited 9:53am 8 June 2010)

I have added a link to another cloud but maybe the discussion would be better here. Not sure, maybe too specific.

I am working on a paper about Plan - Do - Check/Study - Act for Experimentality conference in July. Trying to get quality ideas related to learning. So the idea of crossing disciplines is interesting. Deming called one book the New Economics but it relates to stats, systems, psychology, and a theory of knowledge. Maybe I should drop the idea of quality as a subject and just regard it as a project. However, not sure what the Chartered Quality Institute would say.

One problem is that some academics refer to a "dark side" of mode two. This comes up in conversations. i cannot find much in writing. The paper has one example of this-

"The shift to commodification of knowledge and the knowledge society (see above) is also part of the problem."

pages 9,10

This commodification is seen as part of the shift from mode one to mode two. Is it really a problem? For who? Management Learning continues as a journal but not many people could understand it. The Fifth Discipline still sells as it makes sense for managers.


" the academic freedoms once guaranteed by classical Liberalism are increasingly marginalised in favour of entrepreneurial activity and the empowerment of managers."

page 11

When was this classical Liberalism? I think this "experimentality" theme is an aspect of modernity but I am not sure what came before modernity or what was good about it.

Will Pollard
9:52am 8 June 2010

Another thing is this term "technology enhanced learning" seems only to refer to digital. Print is technology and has changed learning since some date long ago yet to be agreed on. the link to the IPEX cloud finds a video on an OU purchase of Oce kit. If used for content not just admin, what is the relevant theory? Hard copy tech has not stopped.

Did print start during or after the medieval? Is it modern? Was life for academics better previously?

off topic? not yet?

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