Education and digital culture

Course Details

Course code: EDUA11322

Course leader: Dr Michael Gallagher

Course delivery: Jan 2021, Sept 2021


This course explores online education through emerging digital culture. On the basis that we cannot easily separate education from our everyday surroundings, the EDC course considers how our immersion in an evolving digital world affects us socially and culturally, but also as teachers and learners. To do this we explore education through algorithmic culture, community culture and cyberculture. At each stage we draw on relevant theories and readings, but will also encourage you to make connections through film, music, literature, art and other artefacts and practices that help us to see online education through digital culture.                                       

Taking this course will be an opportunity to consider how the digital domain changes the way we understand community, knowledge-production, and what it means to be human, in the context of increasingly sophisticated technologies permeating everyday education. It will almost certainly be unlike other courses you have previously taken, as we construct and convey meaning by collectively organising a film festival, curating a gallery of digital artefacts, and undertaking case study research around an online educational community. Most of this activity will place on the open web (rather than within the institutional learning management system) and coursework will be presented in a digital format, to align with the nature of the course itself.

Learning Outcomes

On completion of the course you will:

  • have a critical awareness of the key concepts emerging from the study of digital culture, via cyberculture theory, cultural and media studies;
  • be able to assess the implications of this thought for the history, development and deployment of e-learning technologies;
  • be able to synthesise these ideas in order to develop critically-aware, media-specific pedagogies for online learning;
  • have developed practical skills in the use of social media and the presentation of academic discourse online.


The course will be divided into 3 themed blocks that will enable us to explore education in relation to our evolving digital world: Cyberculture, Community culture and Algorithmic culture. Across each of these blocks you will be collecting and collating content that support critical connections between education and digital culture. This could include journal articles, film clips, book excerpts, news articles, photographs, pieces of music and beyond. You will also produce original content in each block, including a cyberculture film review (block 1), a case study of an online community (block 2), and an account of an exercise in ‘algorithmic play’ (block 3). You will also produce a final assignment: the ‘digital essay’, explained below. 

Prelude and practice (week 1) On the basis that the Education and Digital Culture course might be quite different to what you have experienced before, we will spend the first week: discussing the context to our explorations that will follow; becoming comfortable with the different digital environments we will be working in; discussing some of the different methods we will use in the weeks that follow and; establishing a spirit of collaboration that will shape our activity across the course. 

Block 1: Cyberculture (weeks 2, 3 and 4) This first block will consider some of the over-arching narratives within popular culture which have driven our understanding of digital culture and its relation to education. This will include a 'cyberculture film festival', where we get together to watch and discuss connections between film clips and theories and ideas from the course readings. As with each of the course blocks, you will also be spending time seeking out and then reflecting upon different digital artefacts that talk to us about cyberculture and ‘technology enhanced learning’ from an educational perspective, for instance how these representations continue to inform our understanding of the nature of education online. 

Block 2: Community culture (week 5, 6 and 7) This second block will consider the concept of online community, using case study research as a method for doing so. As a group we will explore a range of active online educational communities, while at the same time examining the research literature around community online. Drawing across these activities, you will then carry out a short case study of a chosen online community. 

Block 3: Algorithmic culture (week 8, 9 and 10) This block will look at the ways in which large quantities of digital data, and the algorithms that operate across it, are informing contemporary culture within and beyond educational contexts. Ted Striphas defines ‘algorithmic culture’ as: ‘the ways in which computers, running complex mathematical formulae, engage in what’s often considered to be the traditional work of culture: the sorting, classifying, and hierarchizing of people, places, objects, and ideas.’  In this block we will consider this idea and its implications for digital education, as we participate in activities that interrogate the algorithms working beneath the interface of some popular networked spaces. 

Curation and composition (weeks 11 and 12) The final part of the course gives you time to reflect upon and then rearrange your gathered and generated content (curation), and also to craft a digital essay that explores a course theme (composition). You will be supported in this work by course tutors.  


Assessment tab:

There are two elements to the assessment for this course – the exhibition and the digital essay.

The exhibition: The main part of the assessment is an exhibition of the content that you will have prepared across the first 10 weeks of the course. As you move through each block of the course you will be gathering digital content - ‘artefacts’ - that provide a way of examining the relationship between education and digital culture. You will add each of these artefacts (which might be news articles, photographs, pieces of music, film clips and beyond) to an online canvas, alongside a short reflection on how they relate to the readings, theories or ideas we have been exploring. At the end of each block you will look back across the assembled artefacts and will write a short reflection on what they can tell us about the relationship between education and digital culture. These reviews will be added to your online exhibition, as will your cybercultures film review (block 1), the case study of an online community that you prepared (block 2) and an account of your algorithmic play exercise.

The digital essay: You are required to submit an essay on an aspect of the course content defined by yourself. You must present this digitally. This might be a web essay, a video, an animation, and so on. In other words, we are using the term ‘essay’ very broadly. The idea is that you explore the possibilities presented by digital, networked media for representing formal academic knowledge. You will agree the topic and medium for your digital essay with your course tutor before embarking on it. Technical prowess is not formally assessed – we are rather looking for imaginative and rigorous ways of presenting your academic work online, and a critical engagement with the course themes. 

Teaching Methods

This course places a strong emphasis on collaboration, as you explore ideas and share work with peers and tutors, who will in turn provide you with regular feedback via comments, questions and encouragement. The course also encourages imagination and creativity, although always with a clear critical edge, as we examine and construct artefacts in ways that help us to explore the relationship between education and digital culture. Please note, though, that we do not expect you to have video-making or similar technical skills in order to contribute fully to activities. There will be synchronous interaction at each stage of the course, however more time will be spent working asynchronously as we craft and comment on our own work, and that of others. In keeping with the spirit of the course where most of our activity takes place on the open web, these sessions will take place or draw upon networked environments such as Padlet, Watch2Gether, YouTube, Vimeo, Mixcloud and beyond. Before deciding to study this course, please do consider whether you are happy to collaborate and share content in these kinds of overtly public and social spaces of the web, rather than in the more closed space of Moodle and other institutional environments. 


Indicative readings are:

Knox, J. 2015. Digital Cultures and Education. Springer Encyclopaedia of Educational Theory and Philosophy.

Bell, D. J., Loader, B., Pleace, N., Schuler, D. (2004) Cyberculture: the key concepts. London: Routledge.

Hand, M. (2008) Making Digital Cultures. Aldershot: Ashgate

Bayne, S. (2010) Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies. London Review of Education, Vol 8, No.1. pp. 5-13.

Striphas, T. (2014). Algorithmic culture. “Culture now has two audiences: people and machines” A medium corporation.


As with all courses, you will be required to have regular access to a computer, with microphone, headphones and a good broadband connection to support synchronous sessions that will take place (for instance in Collaborate). All readings and other resources will be provided online. For some of the digital spaces we use it might be necessary to create an account (although not pay a fee to do so).