MA Digital Technologies, Communication and Education

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Teaching and Learning Online

Course unit fact file
Unit code EDUC70050
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit considers the role and impact of technology on education in more independent learning contexts. The course unit provides experience of online learning throughout and takes advantage of this experiential aspect as an opportunity to explore and reflect on a range of topics intrinsically related to technology use in virtual learning contexts: 

  • technology and changing educational horizons; 
  • distance and distributed learning; 
  • computer-mediated communications and online learning;
  • Web2 and its implications for collaborative learning; 
  • building online learning community; 
  • supporting online learners; 
  • roles and skills of the online teacher; 
  • researching online learning;


  • develop advanced knowledge and understanding of research, theory and current issues of debate with respect to distance and distributed learning; 
  • explore the nature of the learner experience and learning needs within online learning environments in distance and distributed teaching contexts; 
  • explore the roles and skills of the online teacher and reappraise teacher development needs; 
  • provide experience of a number of relevant tools and environments, and consider their affordances for online teaching and learning. 

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful participants will be able to: 

  • demonstrate an understanding of how the practice of online distance and distributed learning relates to particular theoretical insights; 
  • identify key potentials and challenges of online distance and distributed learning approaches; 
  • demonstrate advanced knowledge and understanding of computer mediated communication, Web 2.0 tools and online learning environments to support distance and distributed learning;  
  • demonstrate an understanding of the online learner experience and implications for the design of tasks and the roles of e-tutor and e-learner; 

demonstrate an understanding of online teacher practice

Teaching and learning methods

This course unit adopts an experiential approach, reflecting course unit aims in teaching methodology and approach. It unites our onsite and distance communities virtually for all, with task cycles on the various topic areas over 2-3 weeks. Participants are directed to learning resources online, and collaborative tasks with peers, facilitated through asynchronous and synchronous computer mediated communication, form a key component of this course unit.

Intellectual skills

  • critically engage with research into teaching and learning online; 
  • reflect on and analyse experiential learning to demonstrate understanding of implications for teaching and learning in online environments;  
  • identify and explore critical aspects of teaching and learning online through enquiry based activity. 

Practical skills

  • use a range of technologies to support online teaching and learning; 
  • evaluate a range of tools with respect to their specific affordances for online teaching and learning 
  • apply their understanding of online teaching skills to their own contexts 

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • enhanced skills in academic literacies including academic presentation (on and off-line), information processing and online networking 
  • enhanced skills in using information and communication technologies (ICT) 
  • enhanced skills in interpersonal and intercultural communication 
  • enhanced skills in team work and collaborative practice 
  • an appreciation of the value of critical reflection in professional practice 
  • autonomy and enhanced metacognitive strategies with regard to study skills and further professional development 


Assessment methods

The assignment consists of two parts and includes both individual and group elements.


Part 1 - A group exploration of a topic. Working in self-selecting small groups around an agreed topic, students collaborate to produce a critical overview of the thinking and literature for this topic, considering the implications for teaching and learning online. This critical review will comprise 50% of your overall grade for this course unit and will be a group mark given to all members equally. The length of this work should be 4,500 words for your group of four people. But anything between 4000 and 5000 is acceptable.


Part 2 – An individual reflection about your experiences as an online learner and/or course creator. To aid this part of the assignment, students maintain a reflective journal. The assignment should discuss the student experience as an online learner and/or course creator in relation to relevant literature on online or distance learning experience and course design. They should include extracts from their journal to support the arguments they make.

This second part accounts for 50% of the mark. Alternatively, students can choose to submit this assignment as a written text of approximately 1500 words (with a range of 10% more or less), or if they prefer, they can submit an alternative from a text, like an audiocast, vide or a mixture of text. We suggest the video/audio text to be around 15 minutes which is equivalent to the 1500 written words.



Feedback methods

Formative feedback across the semester includes:

-Oral tutor feedback

-Written tutor feedback in discussion forums

- Peer-feedback

Recommended reading

During the course much of our reading is drawn from a number of journals in the field including the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, System, the British Journal of Educational Technology, Computers and Education, Language Learning and Technology ( the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology , Distance Education, Open Learning, and the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication (pre 2008 and then via library access). Students should keep a regular eye on these.

The following titles are referred to at different points in the course unit and are useful texts to gain an overview of some of the issues we explore.

Anderson, T. (2008) The Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Edmonton: AU press
Collis, B. & J. Moonen. (2001) Flexible Learning in a Digital World: Experiences and Expectations. London: Routledge Falmer
Garrison, D. R. & T. Anderson. (2002) E-Learning in the 21st Century: A Framework for Research and Practice. London: Routledge Falmer
Salmon, G. (2004) E-moderating: the Key to Teaching and Learning Online2nd Edition. London: Routledge

These texts explore particular aspects of online teaching and learning and will be relevant to individuals depending on their contexts.

Haythornwaite, C. and M. Kazmer. (2004) Learning, Culture and Community in Online Education. Peter Lang Publications
McConnell, D. (2006) E-learning Groups and Communities. Maidenhead: Open University Press
Tait, A. & R. Mills. (eds. 2002) Re-thinking Learner Support in Distance Education: Change and Continuity in an International Context. London: Routledge Falmer

White, C. (2003) Language Learning in Distance Education. Cambridge: CUP

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 25
Lectures 50
Tutorials 25
Independent study hours
Independent study 50

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Nahielly Beatriz Palacios Gonzalez Unit coordinator
Felix Kwihangana Unit coordinator

Additional notes

NB: It is advised to contact the tutor if you wish to take this unit as an option as availability may be limited.

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