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QAA publishes 'building a taxonomy for digital learning'

Date: June 26 - 2020

While the majority of UK universities intend to offer some onsite teaching next term, most have nonetheless had to move quickly to a greater use of digital delivery. But how should universities and colleges describe the digital education on offer next year in a way that is clearly understood across the sector, and ensures students know what kind of experience they’ll be getting?

Following discussions with senior leaders and educators from across the higher education sector, QAA has published new guidance - Building a Taxonomy for Digital Learning - which aims to help build a common language to describe digital approaches to programme delivery. In doing so, the guidance will help education providers explain what students can expect from their programmes and allow them to better understand the differences between the learning experiences on offer.

Universities had to move quickly to introduce digital learning, so the terminologies used to describe the variety of digital learning experiences frequently differ from institution to institution, and even within institutions.

Building a Taxonomy for Digital Learning defines and assesses the most common terms that providers use to describe the ways in which they and their students engage with digital teaching and learning, helping those providers to evaluate the appropriateness of their own terminology. Achieving a consistency between terms such as ‘distance’ or ‘remote’ learning, ‘blended’ or ‘hybrid’ learning, ‘campus’ or ‘onsite’ delivery is important to ensure a better understanding of the learning experiences on offer.

The guidance also provides broad classifications of the type of experiences a student can expect when engaging with education and training programmes that include digital elements. By outlining these categories - ranging from ‘passive’ to ‘immersive’ digital engagement/experience - the guidance will help providers to better inform students and better help those students to compare and make informed choices about the different digital approaches.

Building a Taxonomy for Digital Learning - which also contains a glossary of associated terms that are used when communicating what elements of digital learning are being used - is not a regulatory requirement, but is intended as the starting point for an understanding of a common language for digital learning across the UK higher education sector. Following the publication, QAA will further engage with its members in order to greater embed a common approach to terminology across the sector.