Teaching and Learning Online

University of Manchester, Manchester Institute of Education, MA Digital Technologies and Communication in Education. Content by unit leader Dr Gary Motteram: follow on twitter @garymotteram


This unit is about teaching and learning online and is built on an experiential pedagogy, so students have the opportunity to experiment with a number of different ways of interacting and working online.


An example of a key text for the unit is Anderson, T. (2016). Theories for learning with emerging technologies. In G. Veletsianos, (Ed.) Emergence and innovation in digital technologies. Chapter 3. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press. 


Available as a Google book or as a pdf download here:



Students form an online learning community and together use a variety of tools and take part in online live sessions and asynchronous discussions and activities. The course is divided into 6 parts:


  1. Getting started
  2. Tools and Communication
  3. Developments in distance, online/ e-learning
  4. Focus on the teacher
  5. Focus on the learner
  6. Assignment preparation



1: Getting started

In the first week we give you more detail about the course unit and how it works and get you engaging with your course colleagues.


Distance and online learning has become a very large and dynamic area. Technologies for online learning are in constant flux and development; research into this area is vibrant and expansive; each of us will also have had different experiences and interests. To try to account for some of these dynamic elements, the course unit will both provide pointers to core reading and tasks, but give you scope to dig into areas in greater depth. It will also encourage you to share your experiences and this will be facilitated by the use of various tools that allow for both group negotiation and collaborative publishing. An example resource explored in this section is below:


Youtube video: More Clicks, Fewer Bricks The Lecture Hall is Obsolete


2: Tools and Communication

This course is about online learning in distance and distributed contexts. There is a long-standing literature on distance learning, which will inform our thinking and we will be exploring this in unit 2. Over recent years, the terms distributed learning and blended learning have become a common focus of attention, especially in Higher and Further Education. Embedded in these developments are the recognition of changes in the way in which learning can extend much more readily beyond the four walls of a traditional classroom. This might be in terms of independent learning activities that still relate to face-to-face contexts; it may be also in terms of facilitating communication between peers in collaborative activity, again still rooted in face-to-face locations. And of course it may be in terms of shifting the whole learning process and experience to online environments.


So what does a default ‘toolkit’ look like? There is no doubt we have seen radical developments in online tools over recent years. What are we all using and for what purposes?


One example of the resources we examine to explore these questions is Jane Hart’s Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies:





3: Developments in distance, online/ e-learning

This aims to develop a shared cultural history of developments in the tradition of distance learning and then to demonstrate a continuum to paradigms that draw on these traditions but see ‘distance’ as part of onsite contexts too (e.g. through distributed or blended learning approaches). It encourages you to reflect further on the nature of specific technologies for online learning in those contexts. It starts, however, with reflecting on the bigger picture in our national situations, identifying strategies for development in education that may reflect an increasing move towards online learning for varied educational purposes. In this unit you will:


  • Investigate national and local ‘technology in education’ imperatives;
  • Understand developments in distance education;
  • Think further about the relationship between technology affordances and use in online and distance learning initiatives
  • Resources explored in this section include JISC resources and projects in online learning:





4: Focus on the teacher

In this section we look at some of the frameworks for practice in online contexts and the link between pedagogical thinking and implementation. This, of course, puts the spotlight on the teacher so we’ll look at roles and what is termed ‘teaching presence’.


This section is further divided into:

  • Introduction
  • Managed learning environments
  • Teaching for effective learning: identifying Salmon’s five stage model
  • Focus on online teaching ‘acts’ and the notion of teaching presence


In these sections you will explore: features of online learning environments; the challenges of online teaching; frameworks for online teaching practice. Our online explorations will take you to other learning environments and ask you to exchange your experiences of using these where relevant.


This link for ‘Using digital technologies to promote inclusive practices in education: a Futurelab handbook’ is one example of the many resources informing our explorations in this section :




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