The content of each of the OERu courses will be based solely on the use of OERs. It is increasingly clear that there is a critical mass of OERs that can support scholarly activities at the foundation level across a wide range of disciplines. Now that online access to such open educational resources for individual study is virtually unlimited, and the scope for social interactivity online is huge, there are many opportunities for pedagogical innovation. Further, if we are not to render a disservice to students, we need to ensure that their “learning journey” embraces digital literacies that will enable them to participate fully in technology-rich work environments.
The pedagogy of discovery has been inspired by a 2009 study managed by the Director of the Caledonian Academy, Professor Allison Littlejohn and her colleagues who developed a comprehensive framework for investigating “Learning Literacies for a Digital Age” (LLiDA) http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/llida/LLiDAReportJune2009.pdf . This seminal study delineates an expanded set of literacies, including academic practices (what competent learners do) and related digital practices (what competent digitally enabled learners do). As well as focusing on the significant contribution digital technologies can make to the development by students of such learning literacies as academic practice, metacognition, information literacy, ICT literacy, media literacy, the LLiDA team also included a detailed analysis of digital practices engendering citizenship, employability, communication and collaboration skills. The project highlights the value to students of developing expertise in selecting, critically evaluating and deploying a wide range of digital resources and digital tools to support scholarship in the context of particular disciplines. Students need to learn how to use digital technologies to participate in networks thereby contributing to knowledge acquisition and creation, to present information and evidence digitally in a range of media, to manage digital rights and responsibilities, and to use digital technologies to manage their own continuing professional development. If such learning and digital literacies were systematically embedded into the curriculum and pedagogy of higher education, students would develop the necessary expertise to act as self-directed learners capable of assessing and managing their lifelong learning needs.
The pedagogy of discovery aims to facilitate the development of learning literacies for a digital age by placing the student at the centre of an active learning process based on the widely acknowledged work of Professor Gilly Salmon on e-moderating and the associated five stage model for designing and managing e-tivities. The term ‘e-tivity’ was coined by Professor Salmon. It is a structured, student-centred online task that provides a framework for an e-learning activity. The e-moderator plays an important tutorial role, mentoring, encouraging and guiding student engagement. Because of the international scope and potentially huge scale of participation by large numbers of students, the pedagogy not only needs to be scalable and sustainable, but the content of courses needs to be adaptable to meet the local needs of students covering a range of diverse cultural settings. The pedagogy of discovery has therefore been designed to enable students to select and evaluate relevant OER content of personal interest appropriate to their needs within the intellectual framework provided by the course structure. Further, the recruitment of academic volunteers who can act as local e-moderators and who are able to contribute with cultural sensitivity to meet the needs of individual students is seen as critical to the effectiveness of the pedagogy.
In summary, the pedagogy of discovery provides students with direction, scaffolding and modeling, followed by practice and feedback. Learning activities then move to less structured tasks with opportunities for students to devise strategies, select content from available online resources, and use a variety of digital tools appropriate to the task and context. The pedagogy of discovery is based on well-designed learning activities challenging students to undertake meaningful investigations entailing the discovery, evaluation and discussion of OERs in collaborative networks with staff and students, thereby engendering the digital learning literacies necessary to support self-directed lifelong learning.