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CHANGES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING -THE CHALLENGES OF FLEXIBLE LEARNING. Decline or renewal of higher education? Threats and possibilities amidst a global epidemic situation Horizon Scanning Report Series VOLUME 2

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  • Future of Higher Education Research Centre at Budapest Business School

Abstract

This report is the second part of a series by the Future of Higher Education Research Centre at Budapest Business School. It addresses the changes and drivers related to the challenge of flexible learning in HE. It starts with a short description of the present state, then outlines some major issues and initiatives regarding the increasing demand for flexible learning. Finally, it introduces three forms of flexible operation concerning higher education institutions in order to initiate individual reflections and collective discussions about the future of HE.
Budapest,2020
Decline or renewal of higher education?
Threats and possibilities amidst a global epidemic situation
Horizon Scanning Report Series
VOLUME 2
Zsuzsanna GÉRING – Gábor KIRÁLY
CHANGES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING
– THE CHALLENGES OF FLEXIBLE LEARNING
Future of Higher
Education
Budapest Business School
Budapest, 2020
This report is the second part of a series by the Future of Higher Education Research Centre at Budapest
Business School. It aims to find answers to the question ‘What trends can be identified affecting the future
of higher education (HE) based on academic and semi-academic discourses?’. The abrupt change in higher
education (just as in any other spheres of life) due to the COVID-19 global pandemic made this exercise
more urgent and topical. Therefore, we decided to publish our initial findings to help orient different
stakeholders in HE.
Details about the series and the Centre: https://future-higher-education.com/
This report addresses the changes and drivers related to the challenge of flexible learning in HE. It starts
with a short description of the present state, then outlines some major issues and initiatives regarding the
increasing demand for flexible learning. Finally, it introduces three forms of flexible operation concerning
higher education institutions in order to initiate individual reflections and collective discussions about the
future of HE.
PRESENT STATE:
A PLETHORA OF ONLINE CONTENTS YET A STRUGGLE WITH DIGITAL TRANSITION
The present state of HE from the angle of flexible learning can be characterised by a surprising
contradiction. On the one hand, there is a plethora of free online1 educational materials, and a lot of HEIs
rely on online platforms and student-management systems in their daily operation. On the other hand, the
sudden and fast transition to a digital education due to the COVID-19 pandemic caused a substantial
upheaval in HE, as if no forerunners and previous experience were available at all in the sector (not to
mention those initiatives which have been present in a growing number outside or at the fringes of higher
education institutions - HEIs).
The nature of online educational content varies considerably. As for their 'width', they can take the shape
of a few-minutes-long online video focusing on a single problem at one end (e.g. a math equation or a
comparison of the ideas of two thinkers), or that of a complex online course at the other end (e.g. on
'corpus linguistics' or 'Python programming' an bloc). While as for 'depth', the range goes from the
collected notes of enthusiastic students to professionally curated study guides and lessons given by
recognized professors. Furthermore, there are differences when it comes to the level of student- (or
listener-) involvement, too. Numerous self-made videos provide information to those who will listen,
without any claim to feedback or assessment. However, there are online courses with assessments,
feedback systems and even with certificates at the end (like most of the massive online open courses –
MOOCs). Moreover, it is not only HEIs that provide such certificated contents, but also organisations
outside of the educational sector as traditionally conceived (e.g. Google, PwC or The Linux Foundation).
¹Naturally, we are aware that not only digital educational materials are available and proliferate in the market. However, printed books, offline courses etc. are
typically much more expensive and time-consuming and significantly less flexible than their digital equivalents (e-books, online videos and MOOCs). Therefore,
we focus our attention on online materials.
However, most of these contents remain on the 'knowledge transfer' side of education, with little or no
claim of offering personal development or personal connection between teacher and student.
Nonetheless, many HEIs have made their first steps into this realm by providing educational materials not
only to their own students, but to a wider audience. HEIs face an increasing demand to render both their
administrative systems and the content they offer more flexible.
While HEIs worldwide were looking for answers to these challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic happened
and resulted in a rather frantic attempt to translate present offline learning and teaching practices into the
online space, turning traditional HEIs into fully digital universities within weeks. This meant significant
changes in teaching and learning practices and, in turn, may also lead to changes in the infrastructure of
these practices. Despite their dramatic and sudden nature, these developments cannot be considered
disruptive innovations, since they are realised within the present (offline) institutional structure. The
changes we currently observe are incremental – lecturers and students start to adopt basic online
solutions to facilitate learning, instructors are getting involved in a closer cooperation with each other and
support staff (both in the realms of IT and instructional design) than before.
Despite these sudden changes, it seems that the 'old' organisational logic and framework of teaching and
learning remain intact. For providing educational services as soon as possible under this new and highly
uncertain situation, HEIs think “inside the box” when they ask instructors to continue giving lectures
(even if they do so online and asynchronously) but also to be available in certain real-time settings for
students' questions. The primary form of knowledge acquisition is still based on lectures with
accompanying activities, quizzes and tests, etc. In line with this, instructors might attempt to apply the
same, tried-and-tested modes of assessment (i.e. exams, term papers, group presentations) as before, only
in a digital context. This means that presently it is the transmitting ‘media’ rather than the content and the
practices that are changing. Similarly, the assessment ‘mindset’ tends to remain the same (even if the
implementation of traditional assessment forms might slightly differ). It is reasonable to assume that
these practices and mindsets are not only institutionally embedded but also involve emotional
attachments as far as the faculty is concerned.
In our opinion, one of the reasons behind this struggle of digitalisation is the lack of flexibility in the HE
system and its institutions. Therefore, in the following pages, we offer some innovations, drivers and
challenges as far as flexible learning is concerned. These have the potential to affect HE content
development, and practices of teaching and learning both in the short and long run.
INNOVATIONS, DRIVERS AND CHALLENGES
New content
In recent years, there has been an ongoing discourse about the roles and functions of HE. These
discussions also brought the content of education into the limelight. Several expectations are articulated
about its form and pedagogical function. Some of these expectations are related to the 'future
work/future skills' discourse (see in a later volume), which, broadly, posits that HE should focus on
future-related skill development rather than on general knowledge transfer. Similarly, the growing
competition for students between HEIs and also independent education providers necessitate the
adoption of new and 'future-oriented' (i.e. easily marketable) topics into curricula. This ‘demand for new’
is not only limited to the content of education but also requires changes in its delivery as well. These
requirements are partly connected to technological development (such as online courses, e-learning
materials, gamification), and are partly related to the growing demand of deeper student involvement.
Technology and student-centred education are intertwined in the rising need for personalised content as
a new challenge for HEIs.
Critical note:
The logic of the market, which requires skills and knowledge that are 'useful' and 'profitable' already in the
short run, threatens the role of HEIs as providers of general knowledge (see the differences of 'just-in-case'
and 'just-in-time' learning in Volume 1 ). Accordingly, universities and disciplines which cannot prove that
they are – directly – profitable are in danger of losing their positions. It is important to note that in the
long run, it is hardly, if at all, predictable what constitutes useful knowledge. Another aspect of the
demand for rapid, new content provision is that it might give rise to content and providers which are not
necessarily accredited and/or checked academically.
Moreover, regarding technological solutions for personal learning, although several elements of these are
available, they are not yet integrated into fully functional and comprehensive packages. This may be the
reason why these technologies did not permeate education on a global scale, hence their impact remains
limited for the time being. Nevertheless, if the technological 'nut' of the personalised provision of
education is cracked, it can drastically change the educational landscape on a global level. Some experts
argue that these potential changes can lead to the end of education in its present form, while others
emphasise that the role of lecturers (and HEIs) will not disappear but will be transformed (from knowledge
provider to personal mentor and tutor). A lot will depend on the development of a new division of labour
between instructors and technology.
Content development
The challenges regarding the expectations of new and personalised content raise the question of whether
HEIs will or should be the only – or at least, the most acknowledged – content suppliers in the education
market. Even the current situation suggests that growing competition can be expected in this regard, both
between HEIs and non-academic knowledge providers, as well as HEIs themselves. In this situation, one
possible scenario for HEIs is collaboration. This could mean that they team up with other HEIs or even with
private/independent education providers to offer shared courses or programmes. (This might also be a way
to ‘save’ disciplines and programmes that are not profitable enough when run by one institution alone.)
Critical note:
Presently, the application of innovative educational technologies (such as adaptive learning systems or
even the development of MOOCs) are quite expensive and, thus, they are not affordable ‘en masse’ for all
HEIs. Moreover, those providers who so far appeared in the market are often specialised to niche markets
and offer a special form of education for a highly selective student population. Therefore, while there are
numerous attempts to establish and spread new organisational forms and/or operational logics (like
online universities or private online academies), until now the competition has been segmented. The
question is whether the sudden displacement of higher education into online spaces due to the pandemic
will initiate profound changes at HEIs (both in the form and content of education), as some predict; or if it
will remain only an interesting intermezzo after which everything will move back to the old ways – with
maybe a bit more openness and enthusiasm towards online solutions.
Additionally, the new personalised form of
education requires not only disciplinary
knowledge, but also IT, instructional and
web design know-how in order to make a
course or programme successful. This
further emphasises the need for
teamwork among lecturers and
instructional designers (and other
technical support staff); for example, to
develop simulations, animations, and
assessments collaboratively. Accordingly,
this means that new skills will be
demanded (even from instructors) and
new jobs will be created at HEIs.
Curriculum design
The changes in curriculum design are not related to its being something innovative (curriculum is not a new
thing), but to a shift towards a more learning-centred perspective in education, together with collaborative and
participatory approaches. This is partly based on new teaching and learning practices (see Volume 1), and partly
on the evolving technological systems applicable in education. These transitions in the ‘teaching ecosystem’
require curricula which incorporate digital solutions and emphasise collaboration between lecturers and
students, as well as between lecturers of different disciplines. Those curricula which are designed intentionally
based on these principles can provide a more flexible and student-centred learning experience. Moreover, they
might organize programs into coherent systems of learning by creating transparent and multifaceted
connections among subjects. There are even suggestions to delegate the task of knowledge transfer (sharing
pieces of information) to digital environments and use the in-person classes for skill development and
project-based activities. This is in line with the broader changes in the economy and society that necessitate the
acquisition of special future skills and mindsets on the part of prospective employees (such as systems thinking,
adaptability, and problem-solving skills).
A further aspect of the new curriculum design is the question of personalisation. Based on the available
technological background and the increasingly personalised (digital) environments, HE is faced with the
challenge of personalisation not only in content-related issues but of the personalisation of learning pathways as
well. Naturally, this raises the question whether HEIs could (and/or should) offer personalised curricula. The
personalised curriculum can be interpreted at two levels: on the one hand, it can mean a personalised way of
acquiring the knowledge and skills the university offers; on the other hand, it can refer to a curriculum which is
shaped according to the given student's background knowledge and skills, future goals, and/or requirements
from possible future workplaces. In the first case, the general goals and outcomes are similar for all students, only
the learning pathways may differ among them, while in the second case, the whole curriculum (including the
goals and outcomes) is totally individualised and vary from student to student.
Critical note:
Nowadays, most instructors (especially in teaching-oriented institutions) are prepared for (and excel in)
knowledge transfer for groups, while they are much less certain about how to facilitate the development of skills
and intellect at an individual level. To change this situation would require considerable re-orientation from
instructors and new administrative systems (not to mention the role and ways of assessment).
Regarding the question of personalised curriculum, we should be aware of the disadvantages of extremely
individualised learning pathways, namely, the difficulty of organising group-based learning activities (both in
classrooms and in online spaces) and the possible loss of the sense of belonging to groups and organisations.
Engagement and immersion
The lack of considerable student engagement and immersion is one of the most pressing issues
surrounding HE. Considerable frustration has been accumulated regarding this topic over recent
years/decades. While a significant proportion of students feel that classes are not engaging and
interesting enough, instructors often feel that it is very difficult to raise and maintain the attention of their
students with any learning activity. New technological platforms and devices are often depicted as
possible solutions by providing direct hands-on experiences to students. These can mobilise the skills and
pieces of knowledge which are most familiar to them from their everyday lives.
Using games, applying VR and/or offering stimulus-rich online environments in education might even
engage students who feel alienated from their studies. Simultaneously, providing new and innovative
contents is an important way to demonstrate the up-to-date and youthful character of higher education.
According to some experts, a further option to improve student engagement might be to give students
responsibility to plan and design their own learning paths, whether it is at the level of choosing from
several alternatives to finish a course, or at the level of creating tailor-made personalised curriculum
designs.
Critical note:
The solutions discussed above can only be successful if an initial level of student motivation is present.
They will not enhance engagement and immersion without the students wanting to develop themselves,
however ‘flashy’ they may be. Furthermore, it is an important question whether a new and innovative
device is in itself enough to improve students’ commitment and increase their attention. Moreover, it is
still undecided whether expensive digital solutions providing technology-driven engagement and
immersion (like VR) are really necessary to deep, long-lasting, substantive learning. Alternatively, it is
possible that ‘real’ learning can only be cultivated in personal relationships by deliberately practicing
certain skills and frequently reviewing and deepening knowledge. These activities are not always fun and
engaging but require grit, tenacity and intense concentration for long periods of time.
Feedback and assessment
Critical note:
Despite the fact that high-quality personalised feedback and formative assessment are hugely important,
they are quite rarely applied in a massified HE context. Innovative student-centred solutions are more
likely to show up at new and independent education providers. These new approaches create a
competition to traditional HEIs. Eventually, maybe exactly this very competition could force HEIs to move
into this direction. Furthermore, the current pandemic situation is a considerable push to reconsider the
aims and modes of assessment due to the changing circumstances and premises of tests, written and oral
exams, etc.
Feedback is an essential part of education with several implications. Firstly, since quality education requires
constant assessment and feedback, the ‘bare-bones’ online courses aiming for information transfer are off
the mark (some therefore say that they cannot be considered ‘education’). Secondly, there is always room
for improvement in the quality and mode of assessment in higher education. New technological processes
have the potential to provide instant and personalised feedback and assessment, which have the potential
to enhance student development and even engagement (generating positive emotions for learning by
providing students with up-to-date knowledge of their own learning process and progress).
Furthermore, they might monitor the progress
of every student, facilitating them on their way,
and sending signals to the instructor or to the
faculty about impending trouble; thus, helping
to avoid disappointment and, in turn, dropout.
However, and this is the third point, in those
new ways of teaching and learning which are
focused on skill development, such as
problem-solving in project- and group-work
setting, the formal assessment techniques are
only partly applicable, if at all. Here, even the
role and meaning of feedback is quite different
and hardly translatable to formal points and
grades. The importance of self-evaluation and
peer evaluation might increase in these cases;
however, their implementation must be
preceded by widescale organisational
experimentation.
Division of labour between HEIs and other organisations
There are mutually interconnected expectations that push existing universities to collaborate more
closely with other organisations. These are as follows: providing new, innovative and future-proof content
and skills; applying new digital solutions; and remaining afloat in an increasingly competitive and
globalising educational sector. However, different paths are open to HEIs to deal with these influences. As
one of the possible solutions, universities could team up with each other to offer shared courses or even
programmes, saving development and labour cost, and accordingly, avoiding the danger of falling out of
the competition. This way even the disappearance of the not directly marketable disciplines (like many of
the social sciences and humanities) might be avoided. Secondly, universities can form partnerships with
private or independent education providers or even with non-educational organisations in order to be up
to date both in content and in technology. Lastly, HEIs can form stronger ties with companies to better
channel corporate needs and future expectations regarding skills into curricula, while at the same time
asking them to provide materials and expertise for problem- or project-based education. These
collaborations could considerably enhance the quality and future-readiness of higher education.
Critical note:
Nonetheless, we should be aware of two critical points. Firstly, opening up to more influence from the market
could lead to a narrowed curriculum and shorten the time horizon of learning goals, which is not necessarily
the main ambition of HE. Secondly, a narrowed focus on new and innovative content might undermine the
so-called 'knowledge custodian' role of HE (preserving knowledge for future use even if it is not directly
actionable in the present), and even render some disciplines unviable (mainly in the humanities) – even though
we can never know what knowledge is going to be useful and important in the long run in a global world.
Socialisation
Knowledge transfer and skill development do not cover the full array of missions of HE. It also has a
socialising function helping people to find their way in their work lives as professionals and in their social
lives as citizens. This seems to be one of the roles of education which is not contested by other actors in
the field for the time being. Accordingly, some argue that socialisation can become one of the top missions
of universities. However, if socialisation takes the centre stage, this might have implication concerning the
content and modes of knowledge transfer and skill development (see Volume 1). The most important
dilemma here is whether HEIs should focus on more new and up-to-date topics and technologies in
partnership with private sector organisations or should they pay special attention to those skills and
capabilities which help shape students into ethically aware professionals, psychologically resilient
individuals and responsible citizens. Therefore, the main question is whether universities should choose
from among these roles or try to incorporate all of them into their operation.
Critical note:
The necessity to open up to new ideas and technologies is unavoidable for HEIs if they want to remain
afloat. This even means closer connection with the labour market, the economy and society. However, this
opening up of universities in addition to the increasing demand of on-the-job trainings could lead to losing
their socialising role regarding citizenship, professional and ethical perspectives.
Digital infrastructure and technological background of flexible learning
Regarding the infrastructure underpinning flexible learning practices, many argue that the most important
technologies and applications are available at the present moment. There are online learning management
systems (such as Coospace, Moodle and others) as well as presentation tools and a number of others that help
teaching. Although the technologies that could facilitate personalised assessment and feedback in an online
learning environment (such as adaptive learning technologies, VR simulations, AI-based algorithms) are also
available, they are not mature yet, especially in an HE context. Therefore, we are yet to see a revolution in which
the whole of higher education – spanning through form, content and inner logic – is reshaped by technologies
that enclose it in a virtual/digital environment. To reach this phase, new content formats, cutting-edge digital
devices (e.g. easy to use and accessible VR tools), adaptive learning technologies providing personalised learning
paths and assessment forms, and the technological background of offering the interplay of synchronous and
asynchronous education in a virtual space are all ‘must have-s’. Nevertheless, they are still not sufficient all by
themselves, instead their functionalities need to converge into a new and integrated learning ecosystem.
Critical note:
A general problem looming over the proliferating IT infrastructure everywhere is that of cybersecurity. We can
assume that the types of learning ecosystems discussed above would store and share huge amounts of personal
data. To protect students as well as instructors and institutions, much higher levels of security measures are
required than what presently characterise HEIs.
Regarding the move from the present state to this highly technologised infrastructural environment, one
important ‘bottleneck’ is not the availability of necessary technologies, but rather the lack of and extreme
expensiveness of adequate content (e.g. VR simulations). A further important aspect is how the present instructor
and student populations would react to these changes, whether they would feel comfortable enough using these
solutions so that they modify their practices.
The importance of this question is currently being felt by these very stakeholders in higher education, seeing that
they all have to adapt to the challenge of full digitalisation during the time of COVID-19 in 2020. The way they
experience the adaptation to the pandemic might prove crucial when decisions about the radical transformation
necessary to move towards a more digitalised and personalised system of higher education are being made. Lastly,
we can also wonder whether without huge external pressure like COVID-19 in 2020, which turned the ‘might’ of
digital education into a ‘must’ within weeks, how long a transition to digital infrastructure would have taken.
Such a high level of technologisation in HE would require
a totally different institutional set-up with significantly
altered inner structure and division of labour between
various parties inside the organisation (see the role and
importance of instructional designers, IT experts etc.).
Moreover, it would also necessitate a considerably
different instructor role, a much more complex and
fine-grained content structure, as well as new learning
practices (likely with a more diverse student population).
POSSIBLE FORMS OF FLEXIBILITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Flexibility ‘in the house’
One of the possible solutions to the challenges regarding flexible education is to provide it inside the higher
education institution. In this case, the HEIs attempt to offer a very colourful palette of content with new and
personalised curriculum options. Here, flexibility remains within the institution, that is, the students have
great freedom at absolving the necessary tasks and credits to the qualification, they can move back and forth
between courses and trainings, they design their own pathways, organise their time, decide the length and
depth of their education at the institution – within a very broad framework.
This direction requires considerable renewal from every HEI (and this could exacerbate the competition),
both in the sense of providing tailor-made content and with regards to the management and administration
of diverse and multifaceted learning pathways. However, in this situation, students choose an institution and
remain there until their graduation; therefore, the main characteristics of the educational ecosystem remain
quite the same as now. Furthermore, the socialisation role of HE remains intact. As for the role of instructors,
this would not entail a complete change or transformation, rather a specialisation into content providers
and/or personal mentors. The technologies required in this scenario are ones that underpin the tasks of
knowledge transfer and personal feedback; therefore, they are more likely to play a supportive and
supplementary role than to redefine the whole system.
Flexibility
‘in the house’
Educational
networks around
higher education
institutions
Student-centred
educational
network without an
institutional anchor
Educational networks around higher education institutions
An alternative route is available to HEIs if they are willing to venture out from their strongholds to build
alliances with other HEIs, independent providers and non-educational organisations. This means that the
HEIs might develop some new contents and provide personalised curricula, but their range of topics will be
limited to those which belong to their main profile and strength. However, they acknowledge ‘external’
achievements including courses and certificates acquired at other institutions within their network. This way
students can choose from a very wide range of topics and courses, with high flexibility in their length and
depths. Nonetheless, students still belong to an ‘alma mater’ and they are connected to it through its
qualification and credit system. This way HEIs remain the main authorities as far as the certification of
knowledge is concerned. In this system, the instructors’ role is becoming that of a personal mentor and tutor,
providing guidance to the students not only in the content of courses and their skill development, but also in
their choices in this complex system.
This solution might easily lead to a higher level of specialisation among HEIs (and, importantly, might help
retain disciplines which are not directly profitable or future-oriented). It could also create future-oriented
and innovative organisations and initiatives which can renew their content and profile faster than the
traditionally slow, big HEIs. The network setup might also allow for division in terms of infrastructure, too.
Namely, HEIs could focus their infrastructural platforms to flexible and personalised feedback and
assessment systems, while new and untried technologies (such as VR) might be applied at first at other
member organisations as an experiment. Furthermore, in this arrangement, HEIs retain their roles in
socialisation, however, their influence and effect will be shared with others in the network.
Student-centred educational network without an institutional anchor
The highest level of flexibility would mean an educational
ecosystem where the students are not anchored to a given
institution anymore. In this case, there is an extended network
of HEIs and independent organisations providing educational
content and development. Students choose freely from the
possibilities they offer, which can be anything from short
lectures to complex certificate programmes. Accordingly,
students do not aim at a diploma but at building a so-called
’portfolio’, which shows the modules and programmes they
participated in, their involvement, their assessments and
qualifications. This arrangement results in the loss of monopoly
of HEIs in accreditation and qualification. Furthermore, no
longer being ‘mother institutions’, the role HEIs play in identity
formation and professional socialisation is seriously impaired.
Another consequence of this system is the need for new
‘arbiter’ organisation(s) which help both students and labour
market actors to validate and evaluate (that is, assign value to)
the different modules and programmes of the network.
This flexible network might be the most capable system to react quickly and effectively to fast-changing
circumstances and to provide up-to-date knowledge and development to all of those who are interested.
However, it is a huge challgenge for HEIs to define themselves and find their place in such a network: what
could be their added value, their unique selling point, in other words, something only they can offer.
Nonetheless, with their huge amount of disciplinary knowledge and age-old experience in teaching and
skill development, HEIs could be valuable and competitive actors of such a network – but only if they put
in considerable effort to move their institutions towards an operation characterised by the level of
flexibility and student-centredness required in such a context.
Accordingly, the instructors’ role in this provision is noticeably different from their present – mainly
knowledge-transferring and some tutoring – role. They would rather serve as knowledge brokers and
personal mentors for the students. Again, the question is whether the instructors should be anchored to
HEIs or they can be connected to any organisation of the network, too. And in case of the latter, whether
they would remain lecturers per se or would they become study coaches, personal tutors, programme
coordinators and course designers.
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Published by: Budapest Business School, Budapest, Hungary
April 2020
Géring – Király, 2020
How to cite: GÉRING, Z. – KIRÁLY, G. (2020) CHANGES IN TEACHING AND LEARNING – THE CHALLENGES OF
FLEXIBLE LEARNING. Horizon Scanning Report Series, Volume II. Future of Higher Education Research Centre,
Budapest Business School, Budapest
This report was prepared as part of the project ‘The future of business education’ funded by National Research,
Development and Innovation Office, Hungary (FK127972).
Future of Higher
Education
Budapest Business School
Digital infrastructure and technological background of flexible learning
Regarding the infrastructure underpinning flexible learning practices, many argue that the most important
technologies and applications are available at the present moment. There are online learning management
systems (such as Coospace, Moodle and others) as well as presentation tools and a number of others that help
teaching. Although the technologies that could facilitate personalised assessment and feedback in an online
learning environment (such as adaptive learning technologies, VR simulations, AI-based algorithms) are also
available, they are not mature yet, especially in an HE context. Therefore, we are yet to see a revolution in which
the whole of higher education – spanning through form, content and inner logic – is reshaped by technologies
that enclose it in a virtual/digital environment. To reach this phase, new content formats, cutting-edge digital
devices (e.g. easy to use and accessible VR tools), adaptive learning technologies providing personalised learning
paths and assessment forms, and the technological background of offering the interplay of synchronous and
asynchronous education in a virtual space are all ‘must have-s’. Nevertheless, they are still not sufficient all by
themselves, instead their functionalities need to converge into a new and integrated learning ecosystem.
Critical note:
A general problem looming over the proliferating IT infrastructure everywhere is that of cybersecurity. We can
assume that the types of learning ecosystems discussed above would store and share huge amounts of personal
data. To protect students as well as instructors and institutions, much higher levels of security measures are
required than what presently characterise HEIs.
Regarding the move from the present state to this highly technologised infrastructural environment, one
important ‘bottleneck’ is not the availability of necessary technologies, but rather the lack of and extreme
expensiveness of adequate content (e.g. VR simulations). A further important aspect is how the present instructor
and student populations would react to these changes, whether they would feel comfortable enough using these
solutions so that they modify their practices.
The importance of this question is currently being felt by these very stakeholders in higher education, seeing that
they all have to adapt to the challenge of full digitalisation during the time of COVID-19 in 2020. The way they
experience the adaptation to the pandemic might prove crucial when decisions about the radical transformation
necessary to move towards a more digitalised and personalised system of higher education are being made. Lastly,
we can also wonder whether without huge external pressure like COVID-19 in 2020, which turned the ‘might’ of
digital education into a ‘must’ within weeks, how long a transition to digital infrastructure would have taken.
Article
Full-text available
University education is full of promise. Indeed universities have the capacity to create and shape, through staff and students, all kinds of enthralling ‘worlds’ and ‘new possibilities of life’. Yet students are encouraged increasingly to view universities as simply a means to an end, where neoliberal education delivers flexible skills to directly serve a certain type of capitalism. Additionally, the universal challenge of technological unemployment, alongside numerous other social issues, has become educationalised and portrayed in HE policy, as an issue to be solved by universities. The idea that more education can resolve the problem of technological unemployment is a political construction which has largely failed to deliver its promise. In this article, we look at educationalisation in hand with technologisation and we draw on a Critical Discourse Analysis of HE policies, to demonstrate the problems arising from taken for granted visions of neoliberal social development related to education, technology, and employment. To disrupt the tired visions of ‘techno-fixes’ and ‘edu-fixes’ we identify in these texts, we call for a radical re-imagining of HE policy. Instead of attributing responsibility for social change to abstract notions of education, market and technology, a new shared vision is needed where more agency is explicitly attributed to the researchers, teachers, and students who are the genuine human future of work.
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter seeks to examine how formative feedback shapes students’ motivation and positive emotions in the higher education setting. We propose that formative feedback has a central role to play in fostering students’ motivation toward their learning, in that it does not only directly impact their motivation toward the courses where formative feedback practices are present, but also foster their overall motivational tendencies, through the promotion of positive emotions. Looking at a formative feedback project in a HK higher education institution, the current chapter reports a quasi-experiment to investigate the impacts of theoretically derived formative feedback practices on students’ extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and their positive emotions experienced during the courses in which the practices were put forth. The research’s findings suggested that formative feedback leads to increases in intrinsic motivation to attend the courses and students’ overall positive emotions. It also exerts a ‘protecting’ effect on their extrinsic motivation to attend the courses. Implications of these results are discussed. The impact of this study, especially on its contribution to scholarship of learning and teaching (SoLT), is discussed.
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Higher education is in crisis. It is too expensive, ineffective, and impractical for many of the world’s students. But how would you reinvent it for the twenty-first century—how would you build it from the ground up? Many have speculated about changing higher education, but Minerva has actually created a new kind of university program. Its founders raised the funding, assembled the team, devised the curriculum and pedagogy, recruited the students, hired the faculty, and implemented a bold vision of a new and improved higher education. This book explains that vision and how it is being realized. The Minerva curriculum focuses on “practical knowledge” (knowledge students can use to adapt to a changing world); its pedagogy is based on scientific research on learning; it uses a novel technology platform to deliver small seminars in real time; and it offers a hybrid residential model where students live together, rotating through seven cities around the world. Minerva equips students with the cognitive tools they need to succeed in the world after graduation, building the core competencies of critical thinking, creative thinking, effective communication, and effective interaction. The book offers readers both the story of this grand and sweeping idea and a blueprint for transforming higher education.
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One of the main missions of higher education is to prepare the young (but not exclusively them) for future challenges. It not only has the potential to change individual lives but it can also make the social fabric more resilient and adaptive. However, presently this future is highly uncertain and fraught with risks. This radical uncertainty makes it difficult to identify future-proof knowledge, skills and capacities. Moreover, it also raises questions about the possible roles higher education should play in future societies. We argue that higher education should be an active agent in shaping future society. In order to fulfil its potential as such, this type of agency-orientation should transcend its core activities, like research and teaching, currently built into its institutional settings. This special issue highlights certain possible directions for change as far as HEIs are concerned. These future possibilities are in relation to learning, ethics, fairness, community involvement and the role of research at institutions which were formerly teaching-oriented. These can be seen as first steps towards understanding what organisational changes are needed for HEIs to maintain their social relevance and to actively shape their environment.
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The potential influence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) on higher education institutions is much discussed and debated, with some arguing that MOOCs are a disruptive innovation that will radically change existing models of higher education. However, analyses of whether and how MOOCs might disrupt higher education models are relatively scarce. This paper analyses whether MOOCs should be considered a disruptive innovation according to the concept’s defining criteria. It compares characteristics of disruptive innovation with current developments in MOOCs, suggesting three perspectives – performance, benefits, and market – that can be used as a lens and analytic framework to explore and evaluate current practice. The findings indicate that MOOCs do not match all the characteristics of disruptive innovation as they are commonly identified in the literature. However, MOOCs may be a sustaining innovation that establishes new markets for learners who are not served by universities.
Internet of Things in Higher Education: A Study on Future Learning
  • H Aldowah
  • S U Rehman
  • S Ghazal
  • I N Umar
Aldowah, H., Rehman, S. U., Ghazal, S., & Umar, I. N. (2017). Internet of Things in Higher Education: A Study on Future Learning. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 892, 012017. doi: 10.1088/1742
Will US universities be made redundant by the employability agenda? Times Higher Education
  • P Basken
Basken, P. (2020, January 23). Will US universities be made redundant by the employability agenda? Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/will-us-universities-bemade-redundant-employability-agenda
The Impact of Technology on the Future of Human Learning. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning
  • R Bass
Bass, R. (2018). The Impact of Technology on the Future of Human Learning. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 50(3-4), 34-39. doi: 10.1080/00091383.2018.1507380
Is small still beautiful in the age of the mega-university? Times Higher Education
  • E Bothwell
Bothwell, E. (2019). Is small still beautiful in the age of the mega-university? Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/small-still-beautiful-agemega-university
EdX's co-CEO answers 3 questions about higher ed's future
  • H Busta
Busta, H. (2019, November 19). EdX's co-CEO answers 3 questions about higher ed's future. EducationDive. https://www.educationdive.com/news/edxs-co-ceo-answers-3-questions-a bout-higher-eds-future/567600/