Sunday, 18 October 2020

Universities through the Looking-Glass: what challenges and opportunities does an online, global future for higher education present?

The pandemic for me has brought a period of very intense international collaboration. From weekly meetings with academic friends in the US and Europe, a large-scale online conference run as festival over the summer (, through to working with the Far Eastern Federal University in Russia on a radically different kind of pedagogy online. I'm thinking that as many universities switch their teaching to online-only, and more pessimistic noises are made about a vaccine, what if online becomes a more permanent arrangement? What might it mean? 

I've started to list a few points... 

  • Teachers will get better at it
  • Personal tutoring will really become one of the most important things the university does, and not just a tick-box exercise 
  • Technologies for supporting innovative pedagogy designed to work in the online space will improve. Learning platforms like VLEs will evolve from web-based Content Management Systems into collaborative and cooperative academic relationship management systems
  • New pedagogies and ways of assessment will be developed
  • Many of these new pedagogies will focus more on personalised education - partly because this will be found to be useful for individuals struggling to survive in a profoundly uncertain environment
  • Universities are likely to review the ways they design and approve new programmes to encourage more innovation
  • Many new pedagogies will focus less on content, and more on tools - skills to use new tools will become of paramount importance
  • Global opportunities presented by being online will be exploited: there is no reason not to have contributions to teaching made by professors from all around the world
  • Economic challenges will bring an impetus to cut costs - globalisation will assist this, when rates of pay in universities across the world vary so much, and computer systems are increasingly global, why not have your administration. or even some of your  faculty, based in China? Will new legislation be required to protect jobs?
  • The annual scholarly conference will evolve into more established global scholarly networks which will become active on a more regular basis online. There will be efforts to engage students in these events, and maybe even to establish new kinds of academic apprenticeship
  • Active scholarly networks and platforms which are more open and outward-facing will gradually replace journals as the dominant mechanism for scientific communication
  • Global citizen science, empowered by AI tools, will drive new approaches to research in topics ranging from environmental studies, health, sociology, psychology, physiology, education, management, law and many others.
  • Fundamental science - particularly research into physics and biology - will connect with a more progressive approach to educational practice and theory
  • The arts will be one of the principle beneficiaries of this, as the biological mechanisms underlying creative work and collaboration are better understood as engines of social progress. The obsession with STEM will end as the online world makes the need for the arts even more apparent.


No comments: