Digital futures for learning

Course code:
Course leader:
Dr Jen Ross
Course delivery:
Jan 2025

This course will give you the opportunity to consider the trajectory and implications of digital technologies for the future of learning.

The course is led by Dr Jen Ross. It takes as its starting point three key themes: interfaces, visibility and sustainability and uses these themes to guide exploration of emerging practices and technologies. We will ask: how are more established digital practices evolving? How will new digital technologies and trends impact on learning? How will the students and teachers of tomorrow construct their learning environments and practices?

The answers to these questions are highly context-dependent: the future of online education is volatile and subject to rapid change. For this reason a significant part of the course is structured as a programme of student-created and peer-assessed resources (in the form of Open Educational Resources, or OERs). Each OER will take one of the themes or issues from the initial block as a jumping off point for imagining and sharing what digital futures for learning might be like.

Read about the assessment approach to this course here: Student-created, peer-assessed Open Educational Resources

An open resource, including student-generated OERs from earlier course instances, is available here:

On completion of the course you will be able to:

  • be able critically to consider and situate new and emerging trends and technologies;
  • be aware of some of the social factors influencing technological innovation, and vice versa;
  • be able to identify the potential of emerging technologies as environments for teaching and learning;
  • demonstrate practical skill in the deployment of emerging technologies for learning purposes.

The course is divided into four blocks. Block One involves reading around a number of themes and considering the key literature and ideas associated with each. Blocks Two and Three are research, writing and development periods. The final block, Block Four, involves you in engaging with and evaluating the OERs of your peers, and synthesising the outcomes of your OER development in written form.

Block 1
In this block, you will be introduced to the course and its aims, and will read broadly around the education futures and futures methods as well as the three course themes, participating in asynchronous and synchronous discussions and engaging in creative tasks. By the end of the block you will have decided on an area you would like to focus on for your position paper and OER.

Block 2
This is an independent research and writing block, during which you will research and write your position paper assignment, which forms the basis of content for your OER. Your tutor will be on hand to support this process. Your paper will be on a topic of your choice which is relevant to the course themes and the broad subject of “digital futures”

Block 3
During this block you will discuss, plan and develop learning resources for your peers, in the form of an OER based on your position paper topic.

Block 4
The final three weeks of the course will consist of students participating in and providing feedback on the OERs of their peers. During this period you will also begin to revise your OER for final submission.

There are two assignments in this course:

Position paper (40% of your final mark): You will write a position paper which extends the themes from Block 1 in a direction which is of personal or professional interest and relevance to you.

Open Educational Resource (60% of your final mark: 50% tutor assessed, 10% self assessed) Each participant will design, develop and present an Open Educational Resource for your peers, based on your position paper topic. You will receive formative feedback from peers, and have an opportunity to modify your OER and write a reflective commentary and allocate a self-assessment mark before final submission. The OER may be theoretical and exploratory, involve a critical perspective on a new technology or environment, or be a problem- or issue-based resource. It can use interactive elements, as well as textual, visual, audio or multimedia communication across a single or a range of environments. The main requirement of the resource is that it engages the rest of the class in considering, in a scholarly way, issues relevant to the course. 

Methods include synchronous and asynchronous online discussion, digital resource development, reflective writing, and exploration of a range of digital environments as appropriate to the open educational resource topics.

These indicative readings for September 2023 give a flavour of the course's approach to futures work and to the three themes we will explore (please note that all are available through the university's e-library):

Facer, K. (2016) ‘Using the Future in Education: Creating Space for Openness, Hope and Novelty’, in Lees, H. E. and Noddings, N. (eds) The Palgrave International Handbook of Alternative Education. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 63–78. 

Pollock, N. and Williams, R. (2010) ‘The business of expectations: How promissory organizations shape technology and innovation’, Social Studies of Science, 40(4), pp. 525–548. Available at:

Cerratto Pargman, T., Lindberg, Y., & Buch, A. (2022). Automation Is Coming! Exploring Future(s)-Oriented Methods in Education. Postdigital Science and Education.

Prieto, J. de la F., Lacasa, P., & Martínez-Borda, R. (2022). Approaching metaverses: Mixed reality interfaces in youth media platforms. New Techno Humanities, 2(2), 136–145.

Arora, P. (2019). Benign dataveillance? Examining novel data-driven governance systems in India and China. First Monday, 24(4).

Puussaar, A., Montague, K., Peacock, S., Nappey, T., Anderson, R., Jonczyk, J., Wright, P., & James, P. (2022). SenseMyStreet: Sensor Commissioning Toolkit for Communities. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 6(CSCW2), Article CSCW2.

Kumar, A. (2019). Between metis and techne: Politics, possibilities and limits of improvisation. Social & Cultural Geography, 0(0), 1–24.

Selwyn, N. (2023). Digital degrowth: Toward radically sustainable education technology. Learning, Media and Technology, 0(0), 1–14.

As with all courses, you will be required to have regular access to a computer with a good broadband connection, and will be responsible for providing your own computing equipment and consumables. All core readings will be provided online.