Rethink: Technology and Education

Dr Elizabeth Gemmill, Director of our Weekly Classes Programme, joined a panel in July on BBC Radio 4's 'Rethink' programme to discuss the role of technology in the future of education.

Panel members were asked to consider the following: 'During the pandemic many schools and universities relied on virtual lessons using video software. What is the role of technology in education? Will students be taught virtually or will online resources only be used to enhance the classroom experience?'

The move to online

The Department's face-to-face programme of weekly classes was transformed during the 2020-21 academic year into 'Weekly Oxford Worldwide' (WOW): 'online - live' classes that largely combined recorded lectures with live-time online meetings held weekly. The programme was extremely popular had the added benefit of extending the reach of our teaching, embraced the local community along with students from all over the UK, and more than 80 countries around the world. The result was a greater diversity of voices and perspectives being brought into the classroom - along with an uptick in student participation.

'We find that people are particularly engaged in their online learning,' said Elizabeth. 'A lot of our tutors are reporting that students are spending much more time asking questions, following up on links to digital resources. They are making the very best of online learning in ways that perhaps they were not before.'

But Elizabeth notes that merely moving face to face classes online is to miss the full potential of online learning.

'If you have the view that the purpose of education is to enable the very best understanding of things, then I think that the technology going forward should be employed to enhance understanding, not just replace conventional ways of understanding things,' she says, adding, 'we're thinking about how we do things so that people's understanding of a topic is not just achieved by a different means, but is actually better.'

Listen to Rethink's Technology and Education episode online on the BBC4 website.

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Published 18 August 2021