The Future of Higher Education – A Student’s Perspective

Susan Metros illustrates in her presentation at the Ninth Sloan-C International Conference, “E-learning: from electronic-learning to engaged-learning” that in order for students to be appropriately engaged, the implementation of e-learning needs to follow a three step process. Firstly, old teaching methods and aids need to be digitised. Metros calls this step transfer. Secondly, these aids and methods need to be transform, as some physical teaching methods do not translate well onto a digital platform (did someone mention smartboards?). And finally, we need to transcend to higher and more innovative methods of teaching that utilize this technology to its fullest extent (Metros 2003). Following this model, I believe that currently we are sitting between the transfer and translation stages; resources and traditional teaching rituals have been digitised (online submission, emailing tutors), while self assessment services and assessment feedback demonstrates translation, as the breakdown of assessment criteria is better suited to a digital platform. With e-learning being introduced in the 1960s (the term, however, wasn’t coined until 1999), it is safe to assume that we would have reached the transcending stage by 2050. So what lies in store for future students? Fraser suggests in his talk Colleges should tap the pedagogical potential of the World-Wide Web, that the future of education will be interactive (Fraser 1999) through the use of gaming, and three dimensional virtual worlds as a teaching tool. In essence, strategies that are more disruptive than traditional pedagogies, sparking innovation through their ‘radical’ nature. Personally, I do not find these approaches to learning appealing; the adaption of models initially designed to entertain to the educational spectrum has often been weak, with the educational aspect tacked on at the end, and not considered throughout the whole design process. However, my intransient view on this idea may be derived from my relationship with conventional teaching methods; much like instructors, who struggle to use e-learning methods, as they “have never used e-learning strategies in their student role” (Hedberg 2007), university students also struggle to adapt to more radical e-learning strategies as the majority of their student life has around the use of traditional pedagogies, and perhaps, this is the cause for the struggles of my focus group during the workshop “Valuing Student Voices”. 

However, learning strategies are not the only thing to consider when building a scenario around the future of higher education. What about the campus, for example? Our focus group explored the idea of digitising the campus, and agreed that while some aspects of  the campus will move to the digital platform, such as lecture halls, the classroom will fundamentally remain the same. Through analysing current attempts of completely digital learning, it is evident that this idea is not an attractive solution to a younger demographic: “The closure of the UK eUniversities Worldwide (UKeU) follows the earlier failure of such schemes in the USA, where the low numbers of enrolled students indicate that this is not always what the majority of students seek for their university education” (Hedberg 2007). Evidently, what university students seek is the ‘traditional’ university experience of attending classes, socialising with peers around campus, and just generally interacting in a physical landscape.  This idea is reinforced by observing the current projects that UTS is undertaking. The investment into a range of new buildings and services, such as the recently opened Engineering and IT Faculty building, the new library and the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building demonstrate that, at the very least, UTS believes that the campus is something that will not become obsolete anytime in the near future.

– Sam Watson

Reference List

Fraser, A. 1999 “Colleges should tap the pedagogical potential of the World-Wide Web”, Chronicle of Higher Education, Vol. 48 pg. B8.                                                                                                                         available online at: <http://fraser.cc/Talks/Chronicle.html>

Gogos, R. 2013  “A brief history of elearning (infographic)” efrontlearning weblog, New Castle viewed 19th of October 2014                                                                                                                                                      < http://blog.efrontlearning.net/2013/08/a-brief-history-of-elearning-infographic.html>

Hedberg, J. 2006 “E-learning futures? Speculations for a time yet to come”, Studies in Continuing Education, Vol. 28:2, pg 171-183                                                                                                                                    available online at:  <http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01580370600751187&gt;

 Metros, S. 2003 E-learning: from electronic-learning to engaged-learning, PowerPoint presentation, Ninth Sloan-C International Conference, Florida, viewed 29th of September 2014 <http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/publications/view/v2n9/images/metrosppt1103.ppt>

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