Some reflections on day one of Jisc #digifest14

Today I’ve been at the Jisc Digital Festival being held in Birmingham and here are few quick reflections following the opening keynote from Diana Oblinger, President and CEO of Educause who looked at ‘Designed Digital. You can watch the recording of Diana’s keynote over on the JISC mediaplayer.

Diana highlighted that so much of what we do with digital is a retro fit or a bolt on.  We were challenged to think about the digital experience and the role of digital in the student life-cycle and beyond into how digital is shaping the workplace and employment, how it’s changing work and changing society.  Rather than thinking of man and machine as separate entities we need to think of the two working together.  The demographics of those engaging with education are changing in the US, there are more adult learners and students from minority backgrounds or first generation students in higher education. To support this education needs to change we need new models.  Should we be moving from face-to-face delivery to online delivery and exploring the potential of collaborative and immersive learning environments.  Thinking of health care professions education the area I work in this all sounds great, however the costs in developing these environments is not inconsiderable.

There were a couple of things which really struck me from the session.  There was mention of the push in the US to more competency based learning and the lack of technology to support this.  Also the notion of a type of pick and mix approach to earning a degree by selecting and progressing through a pathway of competencies using curated elearning resources. All of this raised some questions for me:

  • Is that really higher education though, are we talking about providing training rather than an education?  Do we need to stop and think about what higher education really is?
  • Why do people want to study for a degree?  Far more people go onto higher education than when I left school.  It’s maybe not a politically correct question to ask but do so many people need to go onto University.  When I first started working in a University many of the secretarial/admin staff had not been to University, they had left school and gone into further education and gained an HND or HNC in secretarial studies or office administration.  Nearly 15 years on these posts seem to be nearly all filled by graduates. We keep hearing how so many graduates end up in unskilled jobs and yet we’re also hearing that we have a lack of people with skills.
  • Brings us back again to whether we need to rethink post 18 education and training.  There’s perhaps a role for competency based training but are Universities the place to be delivering this?

There was also big mention of learning analytics – (alongside MOOCs and flipped classroom this seems to be the other big hype in higher education).  I think learning analytics have a lot to offer, having integrated systems that can flag up students who might be struggling would be great , it’s where we’d like to get to in my own institution.  I like the notion of adapted learning and how technology can help support this. BUT in the back of my mind I’m also left thinking whether learning analytics will end up as another means of technology being used to spoon feed our learners when actually what we need to do is be encouraging them to be self-directed and independent learners and helping them to nurture and develop skills for lifelong learning.

I had a brief twitter exchange with Pat Parslow about some of this and I tend to share his fear that all of this talk about how we apply digital and technology to higher education is taking us back to an industrial model that will turn out clones.

Maybe I’m being to pessimistic?! I’ll hopefully get a chance to post some more reflections on discussions around the final session of the day which I think give us much more cause for hope.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s