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Cambridge University Library


Building Sustainable Digital Pedagogy | 27–28 September 2018

Over two days in September 2018 Cambridge Digital Library, with support from CRASSH and CDH, convened a conference with the aim of drawing focus onto how digital tools and resources are used in education and learning, and to explore an opportunity to strengthen the matrix of research, technology and education, with the role of the library as hub.

Dr. Rachael Padman began proceedings by setting us a challenge:

How can we expand the range of things we can do in the classroom or lecture theatre but stay true to our purpose as a University – which is not so much to teach as for students to learn, and what they learn mostly is how to “be”. They need as far as possible to work with the real materials of the subject, and not "teaching aids".

There are a broad range of stimulating projects and initiatives with a digital focus or theme at Cambridge. While many of these operate on a localised level across a varied range of subjects, there is an increasing sense of their joint impact and interconnectedness. The opportunity to share a platform at this conference highlighted many areas of similarity, both in problems and solutions, but also generated enthusiasm for further collaboration and sharing of ideas.

The experiences of our peers brought to light some key themes:

  • Resources for research and pedagogy can be successfully built through supporting the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF).
  • Creating scholarly digital pedagogy with an open and ethical ethos is challenging.
  • Disparity in the speed of the development of tools and resources and the pace of the learner’s grasp of those developments needs consideration.
  • Initiatives of any size have challenges to sustainability.
  • A suggested model road map for sustainable digital pedagogy.
  • The enduring relevance of the physicality of material.

Effective commercial and academic collaboration can also be key to the success of digital pedagogy initiatives. The potential concern over the commercial nature of the relationship can be offset by working with development companies with a genuine interest in presenting research in the best possible way. When successful, this link facilitates the use of research in a teaching environment to the benefit of all in the matrix.

The advantages of a diverse and inclusive culture are well established and are central to interdisciplinary collaboration on digital initiatives. The variety of approaches and thinking achieved when disciplines come together provides not only a more holistic outcome, but a better pedagogical experience for everyone.

The interaction of research, technology and learning is an iterative one and the opportunity to learn from the challenges faced by other institutions was important in developing cohesion across the broad range of institutions present. Focussing on the challenges in developing an effective approach to digital pedagogy brought to light the drivers, the vulnerabilities and the technical and human factors involved, and emphasised the role of the library as a central space to address these challenges and bring the various elements together.

So there is a great deal we can do to enhance the education of students without undermining tried and tested pedagogical methods. The overarching idea that there is scope to develop a more cohesive approach to pedagogical digital initiatives at Cambridge and much benefit in doing so, not least in the interest of sustainability. In drawing out and bringing together local enthusiasm and developing a sense of community, both the efficacy and sustainability of outcomes could be improved. There was a clear sense of the important role that libraries can play in driving and supporting this activity.

For further infomration you can also read the Conference Report pdf and find links to many of the projets and institutions represented at the conference under the related links list.


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