Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Munro, Morag
EdTech2017 - TEL in an Age of Supercomplexity: Challenges, Opportunities and Strategies
National Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) policy in an age of supercomplexity: What can the Irish Higher Education sector learn from a Critical Discourse Analysis of 10 years of UK policy?
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields
An age of supercomplexity calls for curricula and pedagogy for supercomplexity that engage students “as persons, not merely as knowers” and that foster “being for uncertainty” (Barnett 2012: 75). Despite the claimed transformative potential of Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) in this context (Hiltz and Turoff 2005), it would not seem that the prevailing implementations of TEL in Higher Education (HE) are cultivating curricula for supercomplexity. The Arts and Humanities are crucial to fostering the critical thought, imagination and interdisciplinary thinking essential to supporting learners to become engaged and responsible citizens in an age of supercomplexity (Nussbaum 2010); yet these areas of study are largely overlooked when it comes to provision of learning via technology. Globally, course provision via TEL is predominantly focused on vocational and ‘economically profitable’ areas of study (Carr-Chellman 2005; Guri-Rosenblit 2009; Selwyn 2011). In Ireland, less than 4% of postgraduate courses classified as being offered ‘online’ are in the Arts and Humanities[1]. Neither do the prevailing implementations of TEL appear to be supporting the development of a pedagogy for supercomplexity. Across the Irish HE sector, learning technologies are predominantly utilised for course administration, content dissemination and assessment submission (Blin and Munro 2008; Cosgrave et al. 2011; NFTLHE 2014). Again, this situation is not unique to Ireland (Unwin et al. 2010; Walker et al. 2013; Dahlstrom et al. 2014). Why has TEL failed so spectacularly in its claimed potential to transform HE? Notwithstanding the complex relationship between policy and practice (Nudzor 2009), national policies play a crucial role in framing how TEL is enacted in HE (De Freitas and Oliver 2005). With this in mind, in this paper I first review the findings of a Critical Discourse Analysis of thirteen UK TEL policies published between 2003 and 2013. The study employed thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) as a means to identify recurring themes across the corpus; these were then scrutinised via ‘Ideology critique’ (Held 1980) in order to expose myths, contradictions and biases. Since ideologies can be enacted and obscured by language (Henriksen 2011) my analysis also examined the role of visual presentation, lexical choices, and rhetorical techniques in communicating the policies. My findings demonstrate that, overall, the policies were predominantly motivated by neoliberal imperatives aimed at placing HE within the realm of the market and enhancing the UK’s economic competitiveness. Furthermore, the policies persistently reflect a deterministic and uncritical perspective towards technology. When conducting a policy analysis it is essential to consider what has been omitted (Keep 2011); across the texts scant reference is made to the role that TEL might play in relation to the crucial issues facing humanity in an age of supercomplexity. I will argue that the UK’s flawed TEL policy narrative has contributed to shaping TEL in the UK into a restricted form that is intensifying the negative impacts of neoliberalism on HE and that is diminishing any potential role that technology might play in fostering curricula and pedagogy for an age of supercomplexity. Finally, I discuss what the Irish HE sector might learn from these findings. [1] Source: Qualifax database - Online courses offered by Universities, Institutes of Technology and Third Level Colleges,