“Online education is a space at the edges of what a lot of people are comfortable with,” she says. “So we have an opportunity still to ask the kinds of questions that tend to get forgotten when something becomes really familiar.”
Some examples of fertile terrain for discussion she gives are: the use of algorithms and code to inform teaching practices, the advent of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, over the past few years, and how the materiality linked to online learning — computers, modems and network coverage — is unevenly distributed around the world.
This year also marks the 10th anniversary of the University of Edinburgh’s Master of Science in Digital Education. Ross directed the program for three years, which has more than 200 students from all over the world enrolled at any given time.
“It asks students and faculty to work together to think critically about issues to do with online distance learning, blended learning, technology in the classroom, and to just really probe at some of the things that the manifesto gets at,” Ross says.
Also during her tenure at the University of Edinburgh, Ross co-founded the eLearning and Digital Cultures MOOC, which has had enrolment numbers of more than 75,000. Dealing with such a massive body of students was enlightening, Ross says.
“We learned a ton about the way that people will really grab onto opportunities to make communities with each other in online spaces.”