Conceptualising the digital university – sharing the testimonials

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My fellow authors Keith Smyth and Bill Johnson and I have been delighted with the response to our recently published book Conceptualising the Digital University: the intersection of policy, pedagogy and practice. The download figures we can see from the website are very encouraging.

We are actively working on some open access papers around key themes of the book but whilst we are working on these and wait for reviews we know about to come out, we thought it would be good to share the testimonials for the book given to us by some respected colleagues who got early access to the book.

Our thoughts about the book have been influenced by many people in our community and over in Keith’s blog we are sharing the acknowledgements section in the book as a way of saying thank you again to many colleagues and friends who have been inspired, challenged and supported our work.

I read this book with a sense of both recognition and urgency. This is not a manifesto about utopian digital futures, but rather a provocative invitation to re-think higher education and its role in increasingly open, networked, and participatory culture. Written in a language of “hope and critique” (Giroux, 2011), the authors use the lenses of critical pedagogy and praxis to offer a compelling case for troubling the existing boundaries of universities – and thus for greater openness and democratic engagement within and beyond higher education. The questions and analytical frameworks proposed by the authors should stimulate much dialogue and debate by educators, academic developers, policy makers, and all interested in the future of higher education. A vital and timely book.  – Dr Catherine Cronin.

This timely work examines the power of the digital in context with what is hap- pening to education today, and in particular to Higher Education. Understanding education in terms of human development, it is comforting that narratives of education as a public good are being related through the digital. We live with the golden promises of technology to emancipate and extend social and intellectual benefits to the many, however this thinking needs to be matched with the practi- cal details whilst not shying away from critique of expanding a successful mono- culture. Just as with the industrial revolution before, our technology industries are proposing revolutions which lead us round the same circle, down the same paths of behaviour. Scrutiny of formal education reveals how learning has been commodified and narrowed; just as we have come to consume the natural world we have come to consume education. This book provides robust analyses and alternative envisioning to the consumption of education exploring how technol- ogy can be used as a tool to open up vital opportunities to everyone, as well as essential vistas to those in the academy if it is not to atrophy as an intelligent organ of human society. – Alex Dunedin, Ragged University.

This is a timely and necessary book. All universities are in some form negotiating their relationship with the digital context they now operate within – what does it mean for students, staff, ways of learning, methods of research and the role of the university in society. What and how should we teach in order to give students the appropriate skills to operate as effective citizens in a digital world? These are all questions which the higher education sector seeks answers for. The issue is that often the answers to such questions are provided by those with a vested interest – technology vendors or ed tech consultants. What this book does is place these types of questions within a meaningful and well reasoned framework. The book addresses this in three sections, looking first at the broadly neo-liberal context within which the digital university operates, and what this means. In the second part, how the digital university might be conceptualised and practically implemented is considered. Lastly, the authors address how such a digital university is situated within a social context. By addressing these elements, a comprehensive, critical and nuanced picture of the digital university can be established, rather than one determined by a technological perspective alone. It is therefore essential reading for anyone with an interest in the digital evolution of the university. – Professor Martin Weller.

We’ve been waiting for this: a book-length critique of the ‘digital university’ that gives full attention to the political context. Johnston, MacNeill and Smith explore the role that digital technologies have played in corporatising the academy, from the curriculum to learning environments, and from business models to terms of academic employment. They’re hopeful enough and engaged enough in the wider world to also show how alternative digital pedagogies and strategies might be pursued, reframing higher education as an open, critical and democratic project. Helen Beetham.

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