Brave new world of digital education

03 February 2014

New research centre seeks innovative ideas in digital learning.

Working with on-line chemistry teams to climb leader boards… Competing for mock engineering points in assessable games…

These are just some of the learning scenarios that are likely to be part of tertiary education within the next decade, according to the Director of Deakin’s new Centre for Research in Digital Learning, Professor Dirk Ifenthaler.

“Young people are growing up in a digital environment,” says Professor Ifenthaler, “and we are learning more and more about how to provide quality, personalised learning through technology. Gamification (applying elements of game playing to activities such as education) will be one important tool for motivating and retaining our students in the future.”

The new Centre is currently seeking expressions of interest for adjunct involvement from academics across Deakin who have innovative ideas in digital learning.

“We will be looking at both small and large scale innovations,” says Professor Ifenthaler. “The outcomes will flow to teaching models around the university.”

Professor Ifenthaler has recently joined Deakin from Open Universities Australia where he was Applied Research and Learning Analytics Manager. Since beginning his career in early childhood education, Professor Ifenthaler’s passion for education has taken him along a stellar trajectory. His career includes a Fullbright scholarship at the University of Oklahoma and academic posts in the German Universities of Freiburg and Mannheim. His research interests range from psychology, to educational science and instructional design, to data collection and analysis.

Professor Ifenthaler is also currently Editor-in-Chief of the international journal “Technology, Knowledge and Learning – Focussing on Innovative Learning Environments and Assessment.”

He emphasises that our understanding of digital learning has transformed – along with the technology - over the past 30 years and universities are on the cusp of a digital explosion.

“We are moving into a more personalised and adaptive style of digital teaching,” he says. “Curriculum can be designed to respond to the way in which students engage with material, with individual paths determined by how they demonstrate their understanding.”

Meta data and learning analytics will also have a major impact on teaching quality, providing direct feedback to learners and instructional designers about gaps, strengths, behavioural patterns and the effectiveness of specific tools, for instance.

Professor Ifenthaler says that good digital learning leads to additional motivation, which, in turn, leads to improved retention rates and learning outcomes. With this in mind, the new Centre for Research in Digital Learning will align with Deakin’s “Driving the Digital Frontier” teaching and learning strategy. It will have two major roles: supporting the Deakin teaching community by facilitating digital education; and contributing to international research.

In order to measure the effectiveness of specific tools, the Centre will conduct large scale implementation research of digital learning initiatives, such as those conducted by Deakin Learning Futures and other innovative projects. Activities scheduled throughout the year include bi-monthly webinars, visits from international scholars and an end-of-year showcase of projects undertaken.

Contact Professor Ifenthaler, to discuss your digital learning idea.

Professor Dirk Ifenthaler Professor Dirk Ifenthaler

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