Designs on E-Learning International Conference: Paper – “Online Discussion Forums: Does Culture, Curriculum and Context Matter?” – K. Whittaker

Designs on E-Learning International Conference: Paper – “Online Discussion Forums: Does Culture, Curriculum and Context Matter?” – K. Whittaker

In September 2010, Kevin Whittaker of the New Media cluster, Faculty of Arts, Hull School of Art & Design, Hull, attended the Designs on E-Learning International Conference presented at The University for Creative Careers, Savannah, Georgia in the United States.

Kevin presented a paper to the attendees on the use and efficacy of VLE’s, LAM’s, and other contemporary technology implemented to aid traditional pedagogic practice; a paper he has since updated and presented to the HE Research conference attendees at the KC Stadium in 2011.

Presented at – Designs on E-Learning International Conference:

 The University for Creative Careers, Savannah College of Art Design, Savannah, Georgia, USA.

Date – 15-17 September 2010

 Paper Title – “Online Discussion Forums: Does Culture, Curriculum and Context Matter?”

Presented by Kevin Whittaker, Hull School of Art and Design, Hull College Group, Yorkshire, England, UK.


 This paper examines the reasons for the decline in student engagement with the online discussion forum and resources provided for Art and Design undergraduates on BA (Hons) Web Design, Games Design and Interactive Multimedia Design programmes.

Technological advancements in the internet have provided educational institutions with the opportunity to develop online learning environments, often in an attempt to replicate traditional teaching methods. There is evidence to suggest this has not had a major impact on learning. Pedagogical innovations in online teaching challenge the methodologies applied to these traditional approaches, and argue that there has been far too much focus on managing the integration of resource content. As a result, the fundamental process of education is often missing.

Students predominantly engaged with designing and building internet related products provides rich diversity leaning amongst student’s means they will often find their own online resources which they believe best meet their learning styles. However depending on the resource used, this can often lead to students constructing their own meaning incorrectly.  Blended e-learning is a challenging aspect of teaching and is influenced by the same individual characteristics and diversity of students in ‘face to face’ teaching. Activity based online learning has the potential to synthesise class room activities whilst providing discussion through distance learning.

Culture, curriculum and context influence teaching philosophy and practice. Online learning needs to focus on blending ‘real and virtual spaces’ otherwise the curriculum design will not be aligned. This paper explores the feasibility of utilising a Learning Activity Management System (LAMS) as an alternative to the traditional approach. This e-learning tool provides a highly intuitive visual authoring environment for creating sequences of learning activities.

link to event –

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Kevin Whittaker

Kevin Whittaker’s academic interests lie chiefly within the delivery and development of teaching and learning.

As our curriculum leader for five New Media courses – Animation, Digital Media Journalism, Games Design, Web Design and Interactive Media – Kevin co-ordinates the lecturers and the learning experiences of each. He also teaches and researches new ways of teaching.

He has delivered his theories on e-learning to an international conference audience in the USA, as well as presenting workshops on contemporary learning technology in the UK.

In 2010, Kevin delivered an innovative paper to the Designs On e-Learning International Conference at the University For Creative Careers in Savannah, Georgia, USA. In it, he questioned whether Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) simply replicate teaching mistakes of the past, suggesting Learning Activity Management Systems (LAMs) as a potential, highly visual alternative.

In 2011, he updated and developed his theories further and presented them before an HE research conference at Hull’s KC Stadium.

“We’re continually asking, ‘are we doing it right or are we doing it wrong?’,” says Kevin. “You can’t teach in the same way now as you used to 20 years ago. I do a lot of work with students along those lines and I correlate and share this information with all members of staff.”

Advancing technology, he says, allows educators to provide online learning environments. But, in order to educate students effectively, these environments must also adapt their content.

Kevin explains: “True online learning comes from blended learning environments.”

A particular area of interest is what Kevin describes as “user experience design”. In other words, how people actually use interactive products.

I do a lot of work on the technical aspects of mobile phone applications and tablets, as well as websites,” he says. “I work on ‘cultures’, looking at the differences between, for example, games design and web design. We’re trying to get our students ready for their respective workplaces, so we try to recreate each professional culture in the studio.”

Kevin’s own journey into the world of academia is an inspirational one. He left school at the age of 15 to do an engineering apprenticeship. Engineering qualifications at Hull College led him into a 20-year career in the British Merchant Navy, firstly as an engineering officer, then as chief engineer. When family life meant he wanted to spend more time at home, he began teaching and, it’s fair to say, found his calling as an educator and academic.

He began teaching Auto CAD systems to architecture students, completed a degree in electronics and communication systems at the University Of Lincoln as a mature student and, in his own words “never left university”.

In 2001, Lincoln asked him to lecture in architecture and work as a learning advisor. By the time Lincoln had merged with Hull College he was lecturing on New Media courses. And in 2012, he took on his current role of New Media programme leader and ran with it, creating e-learning tools to benefit students across all five of its subject areas.

“You never know what road you’re going to travel on when you get involved in education,” says Kevin. “In many ways, that’s what it’s all about.”

For more information, visit HERE and Hull School Of Art And Design’s New Media microsite.