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Sustainable approaches to managing technology for learning

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The regular Experiences in Digital Learning webinars from the Centre for Online and Distance Education and the University of London Institute in Paris provide the opportunity to explore the rapid innovations and changes we are seeing in digital learning, teaching and assessment.

Our next Experience in Digital Learning webinar takes place on Thursday 22 June 2023 14.00 – 15.00 BST. In this webinar we will consider sustainable approaches to managing technology for learning.


A panel of distinguished speakers will lead the discussion and engage with other participants to address these issues, led by CODE fellow Alexandra Mihai. The panellists are:

  • Eileen Kennedy, Principal Research Fellow at UCL Knowledge Lab
  • Dominic Pates, Senior Educational Technologist at City, University of London

Presentation summaries

Eileen Kennedy - How sustainable is the emotional labour and meta-work of online teaching?

In research conducted during the pandemic, it was evident that many tutors prioritised a caring approach to teaching. This entailed not only providing emotional support but also attempting to provide opportunities for interaction so that tutors could better ascertain the needs of their students. This was praiseworthy but relied heavily on tutors’ good will, which is not sustainable longterm. A consistent finding was that moving teaching online created more work of all kinds, and it was clear from the emotive language tutors used that a large part of that work involved emotional labour.

Other aspects of this additional labour could be termed ‘meta-work’ or the work that has to be done to enable work to be done (e.g. set-up tasks required to teach online). Yet, this labour is often invisible to the institution. This may be because emotional labour and the meta-work required by online teaching are performed by those with the least status in the institution. This presentation argues that there are forms of labour that universities and other tertiary institutions disregard but are integral to the success of online teaching and learning. Unless the institution begins to recognise, reward and support this invisible labour, which often includes searching for and funding their own technology, then online teaching and learning will become unsustainable and lead to staff burnout. The presentation will invite a discussion around the kind of emotional labour and meta-work required for online teaching and how the institution can support this.

Dominic Pates - How green is my ed tech?
Ahmed (2023) calls the current moment in human history the ‘global phase-shift’, describing a ‘momentous metamorphosis as the old industrial system collapses and a new paradigm emerges’. That old system runs on fossil fuels, while the new one would be powered largely by renewable resources and living better within nature.
If this transition is towards a greener, cleaner world and everyone has a role to play in that transition, what does the role look like for learning technology, universities and online or distance education? If we have already begun the work of decolonising our curricula, how do we go about decarbonising our campuses and greening our syllabuses? Does learning technology help or hinder the transition?
This presentation navigates through some of the thickets of these thorny issues and looks for the green shoots of new and emerging ideas that we may want to nurture further.

Presenter details

Eileen Kennedy is a Principal Research Fellow at UCL Knowledge Lab, where she leads the MA in Education and Technology. Eileen researches learning design for online and blended higher and professional education, including caring approaches to online pedagogy. Eileen is part of two ESRC-funded research centres: the Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE) and the RELIEF Centre. At CGHE she is researching the transformative potential of scaling up digital learning. At the RELIEF Centre, her research focuses on co-designed massive open online collaborations – or CoMOOCs – to support professionals to build community knowledge together to tackle global challenges.

Dominic Pates is a Senior Educational Technologist at City, University of London, where he manages the educational technology relationship with three schools. Specialising in learning spaces, use of multimedia in teaching and learning design, he is also a cohost of the podcast Teaching Here And There, about hybrid teaching in higher education. Dom is a Senior Fellow with Advance HE and holds a Masters degree in Digital Media from Sussex University.