My colleague Simon, John and I will run two sessions on Cheaper, flexible, effective institutions at JISC CETIS conference next week. David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, urged that universities need to find cheaper and more flexible ways to teach in “tough times”. The Browne review sets out a great political imperative for institutions to think about new funding streams and innovative approaches to widening participation. There a growing criticism of inefficiencies in Higher Education, including the costs of teaching and of producing learning materials and resources.
So how can we respond to these issues, in the light of political and economic reality, and in terms of the contribution from learning technology? In the first session, we will look at “technology, politics and economics”. Different political and economic assumptions, attitudes or views are likely to give different solutions to our question. In this session, we proposed five models of higher education in order stimulate the debate and discussions.
- State funded - HE could be a service provided free by governments funded from tax revenue to enable all citizens to develop their talents and interests to a higher level, and to benefit the national economy
- Free-market - HE could be a business where HEIs charge full economic fees to students in return for giving them knowledge, skills, professional training and qualifications, networks of contacts, and prestige to use later in working life
- Business-run - Higher-level education and training could be provided by businesses for their employees, as part of a process of managing their talent pool, and as a way to attract and retain the best employees
- Charity funded - HEIs could be charities dedicated to spreading learning and its benefits to as many people as possible, including the poor and disadvantaged across the world, using volunteer staff where possible
- DIY U - HE could be a self-organised system through which individuals decide on their higher learning needs and collaborate with other learners to achieve them using freely available resources where possible.
The participants will be asked to form groups around these positions or suggest other positions for group discussion. We expect that a rich picture for the vision from each position will be presented and some bullet points to cover the practical aspects of learning technology developments that could help to get there, and the role of JISC / CETIS.
In the second session, we will focus on “community and learner support” to explore how technology can help in the processes of learner support at different stages, either directly or through facilitating communities which can support the processes. In each case, who would be the members of the relevant community, and how can technology work for them?
Social software and e-portfolio tools are prime candidates to help with community and learner support, but how can this be done effectively? Can other learning technologies help as well, towards the goal of cheaper and more flexible HE provision that is still effective?
We would like to invite anyone who is interested in the future of Higher Education to share your ideas and thoughts in those sessions. We would like you to think about how cheaper, flexible, effective institutions could function, in terms of technology, politics and economics, and how low-cost, flexible and effective community and support for learners could be provided, how could we practically get there, and how could JISC and CETIS contribute?