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The future of the university?

November 26th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

I’ve been participating in the Jisc on-line e-Learning conference this week, based on my video on ‘Do Institutions have a future‘. I’ will post later on the organisation and use of technology at  the conference – although just to say here that I think it a great pity Jisc did not make this an open conference.

Anyway the discussion has swung back and forth looking at such issues as drivers and barriers to change, models of governance and democracy, resilience and change and the design of physical and on-line learning spaces. One interesting feature is the influence of the ecology movement both in raising the issue of energy resources as a driver for change and in borrowing ideas from the wider environmental movement as the basis for change in educational institutions.

I am particularly taken by idea sput forward by Fred Garnett on participatory education in a participatory democracy and the work of London Learning Lab on an Open Context Model of Learning – Transformational Pedagogy.

Here’s a quick contribution I have just made on one of the conference threads on ‘Are the barriers still too high for change?’
“Been in meetings all day so only just catching up on discussions. But issues seem to be a continuation of yesterday. A few thoughts – the student ‘voice’ hasn’t appeared here. and in driving change students will be important. Are the barriers too high. Well – not if we are talking about barriers to learning. those are coming down everyday as more and more high quality learning materials appear on the internet. I was at a friends house lat night where she had to kindness to let me watch the football on television. Being bored herself, she was playing or so I thought on her ipod touch. When I looked at what she was doing she was following a tutorial on Exel. However she was frustrated that Flash videos will not play on the ipod so I showed her ITunes U which has 200000 videos and podcasts freely available on line. That is not counting of course all the OERs appearing daily. And there are increasing numbers of free courses.

The question then is what is the role of the university. Is iTunes U and OERs a barrier to change in universities? A threat?  If we have abundance of free resources how do universities react. Do they promote peer group learning using OERs? Or emphasise their role in accreditation. And if we move towards outcomes based learning will the traditional course model any longer hold sway. Or do we see universities as spaces for learning in the community linked organically to other community learning spaces in the way Fred seems to suggest.”

2 Responses to “The future of the university?”

  1. Frances Bell says:

    If there is one thing that we are not short of it’s resources. What do students value in formal education? I would guess it’s the learning activities – sometimes in groups – and also being able to talk to an academic about what they might do differently. In my experience of teaching Y1 undergraduates, I think that my impact is not so much in the lecture that I strive to create, publish in multiple formats but rather in their individual and group tasks, and in the moment when I have a conversation about their first assessed task and how what they did related to the brief.

  2. You might be interested in my thoughts regarding these matters at:

    Daniel Christian

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    News Bites

    Open Educational Resources

    BYU researcher John Hilton has published a new study on OER, student efficacy, and user perceptions – a synthesis of research published between 2015 and 2018. Looking at sixteen efficacy and twenty perception studies involving over 120,000 students or faculty, the study’s results suggest that students achieve the same or better learning outcomes when using OER while saving a significant amount of money, and that the majority of faculty and students who’ve used OER had a positive experience and would do so again.

    Digital Literacy

    A National Survey fin Wales in 2017-18 showed that 15% of adults (aged 16 and over) in Wales do not regularly use the internet. However, this figure is much higher (26%) amongst people with a limiting long-standing illness, disability or infirmity.

    A new Welsh Government programme has been launched which will work with organisations across Wales, in order to help people increase their confidence using digital technology, with the aim of helping them improve and manage their health and well-being.

    Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being, follows on from the initial Digital Communities Wales (DCW) programme which enabled 62,500 people to reap the benefits of going online in the last two years.

    See here for more information

    Zero Hours Contracts

    Figures from the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in total almost 11,500 people – both academics and support staff – working in universities on a standard basis were on a zero-hours contract in 2017-18, out of a total staff head count of about 430,000, reports the Times Higher Education.  Zero-hours contract means the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum working hours

    Separate figures that only look at the number of people who are employed on “atypical” academic contracts (such as people working on projects) show that 23 per cent of them, or just over 16,000, had a zero-hours contract.

    Resistance decreases over time

    Interesting research on student centered learning and student buy in, as picked up by an article in Inside Higher Ed. A new study published in PLOS ONE, called “Knowing Is Half the Battle: Assessments of Both Student Perception and Performance Are Necessary to Successfully Evaluate Curricular Transformation finds that student resistance to curriculum innovation decreases over time as it becomes the institutional norm, and that students increasingly link active learning to their learning gains over time

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