This time last year, Martin Hawksey and I were putting together an online workshop that would explore fusion teaching (elsewhere called 'hybrid and 'hyflex') in the context of the Edinburgh Futures Institute. Among other things, fusion represents a way of thinking about pedagogy which avoids necessarily privileging either being on campus or online, but rather aspires to these modes of engagement as co-existing and working in complement. I think it's fair to say that, for the most part, these pedagogical approaches have emerged in response to the imposed conditions of Covid-19 and the uncertainty of accessing the physical spaces of the campus. The situation within EFI is different because, while our thinking has certainly been shaped by experiences over the last two years, it was always the case that our programmes would be simultaneously delivered on site and online. Going back several years, we have been building an entirely new portfolio of postgraduate programmes, rather than converting existing teaching into hybrid provision. At the same time, we have had the opportunity to inform the design of our teaching spaces, achieved through dialogue with architects and others responsible for reimagining a former Victorian hospital into our fusion home.
We have therefore been fortunate in having a high degree of influence over how our teaching spaces and practices might look, informed for instance by ideas that emerged from our workshop where we speculatively considered the configuration of space, technology and pedagogy. As a group of educational developers, learning technologists, lecturers, online students and researchers, we explored how fusion might work in four different learning contexts: an ideation studio, a flexible teaching space, a lecture space, and a social area such as a cafe. The ideas that emerged from our conversations were distilled into a series of philosophical propositions that provide ways of thinking about fusion pedagogy, alongside practical suggestions for how some of these ideas might be realised.
In setting the tone for the workshop, we worked hard to encourage participants to be creative in their suggestions, rather than feeling constrained by cost, class sizes and other issues. Much better, we decided, to come up with brilliant ideas that might need to be adapted or put on ice, than cautiously deferring to what we already do or know. This is reflected in the report that followed our workshop, which was written with the aim of informing thinking and suggesting possibilities around fusion spaces and pedagogies, rather than being a 'How to...' practical guide, or a set of 'Best practice...' pointers. After all, fusion - and probably any - teaching is contingent on the particular context, including the subject being studied, the intended audience, and other conditions besides.
Since sharing the report, I've had the opportunity to test out some of the propositions and practical ideas as I taught a course, The Future of Learning Organisations, in fusion mode earlier this semester. I'm slowly writing up some reflections on the experience, however here meanwhile is the report that emerged from the workshop that Martin Hawksey and I put together. Perhaps it might inform your thinking around how we can develop pedagogies to equally support, and combine, on site and online engagement?
I am a Lecturer in Digital Education (Education Futures), within the Centre for Research in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh.