Shared understanding

horse
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

The first Polish language dictionary (published 1746) included definitions such as: “Horse: Everyone knows what a horse is.”

Within the world of digital and online learning, assumptions are often made that everyone knows what is being discussed and there is a shared understanding of the terms being used. The reality is that often everyone has their own understanding of a term, such as blended learning, but they are not the same.

This lack of shared understanding can result in very different experiences for students.

It is critical when planning a shared curriculum and programmes of study that there is a common definition of key terms being used so that across all academic staff and the student body are working from the same understanding.

This shared understanding becomes even more critical when additional terms, such as hybrid or hyflex, are used. As across the higher education sector, there is a lack of consistency in how such terms are used.

A simple exercise that can be undertaken is asking a room of people to write down their definitions of a key term, such as blended learning onto a post-it note and then for people to share and like which definitions they agree with. Second part of the exercise is to come up with a single clear definition that everyone understands, which will then be used going forward.

The definition doesn’t need to be definitive, but the relevant stakeholders need to have clarity and a shared understanding of that definition.

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