Available now – Conceptualising the digital university: the intersection of policy, pedagogy and practice

So after a couple of years talking the idea around, another year or so getting a decent proposal together for a publisher, and about 9 months of writing, our book Conceptualising the Digital University: the intersection of policy, pedagogy and practice is now published.

Writing the book has been quite a journey for myself and my fellow authors, Bill Johnston and Keith Smyth. We have been working, presenting and producing papers on the topic of the digital university for a number of years now. I think the first joint blog post Bill and I wrote about it was back in 2012. Having the time and support to be able to write a whole book is undoubtedly a big perk of “the job”, but it is still a bit of a labour of love and lost holidays/weekends. When I get an actual hard copy that will be all but forgotten.

Our intent for the book was not to give a blueprint for what a digital university is, or should be. Rather it is an exploration of the current neoliberal context universities (particularly in the UK) are working in. What we have attempted to do is to provide a critique of current and potential developments based underpinned by critical pedagogy. Or as the blurb puts it

Despite the increasing ubiquity of the term, the concept of the digital university remains diffuse and indeterminate. This book examines what the term ‘digital university’ should encapsulate and the resulting challenges, possibilities and implications that digital technology and practice brings to higher education. Critiquing the current state of definition of the digital university construct, the authors propose a more holistic, integrated account that acknowledges the inherent diffuseness of the concept. The authors also question the extent to which digital technologies and practices can allow us to re-think the location of universities and curricula; and how they can extend higher education as a public good within the current wider political context. Framed inside a critical pedagogy perspective, this volume debates the role of the university in fostering the learning environments, skills and capabilities needed for critical engagement, active open participation and reflection in the digital age.

The role of open education does feature heavily in the book. However we were caught in the open paradox in terms of making this open access. One of the first discussions we had with the publisher when they approached us was around an open access version of the book. However, that option was just not financially viable for us, we didn’t (and still don’t) have spare £10k. We could have self published, but to be honest having the pressure of a contract and publisher deadlines meant that we actually wrote the book and didn’t just have great conversations every time we met. We managed to do both – though at times the chat was very distracting! We are now working with the publisher to try and get some chapters of the book openly available.

We see the book as just the start of even more conversations and debate around the future of universities. There were many areas we just didn’t have the space to cover adequately. However, we are looking forward to working through some of our ideas/approaches at a workshop at the OER19 conference in April. If you are interested in reviewing the book you can request a review copy here and if you do, please let me know.

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