Our post-digital priorities: overcoming the neglect of the tutor

*Originally posted at Learning Exchanges on 1 July 2009

A number of national research reports and position statements have been published recently, which impact technology-enhanced practice across the sector. These include:

  1. JISC, Thriving in the 21st century: Learning Literacies for the Digital Age, http://bit.ly/u1Wrb
  2. DEMOS, The Edgeless University http://bit.ly/10pd2r
  3. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills [DBIS], Universities set to go online for millions, http://bit.ly/2lr0S
  4. Report of an independent Committee of Inquiry into the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies [CoI], http://bit.ly/J1JMf .
  5. Revised HEFCE strategy: Enhancing learning and teaching through the use of technology, http://bit.ly/JikvC
  6. DCFS and DBIS, Digital Britain: Final Report, http://bit.ly/wdRgb

From the Revised HEFCE strategy, DMU is engaging with how technology-enhanced learning [TEL] can reinforce and extend its distinctive brand, in particular focused on the impact of the learner of the future, personalised learning and business flexibility, on both the business case and service provision. The development of a blueprint for TEL, and the concomitant investment and professional development implications, is central.

In engaging with these issues it is critical that HE is able to make decisions based upon the impact of developments in other areas of statutory and non-statutory education. The reports noted above highlight that HE doesn’t exist in a social or educational vacuum. Whilst current work on evaluating learner experiences helps shape and enhance current practices, future-proofing and planning demands engagement by the sector with progressive pedagogies being embedded in primary education. In particular the Rose Review of the Primary Curriculum and the Early Years’ Foundation Strategy enable HE practitioners to develop a manifesto for the future.

  1. Sir Jim Rose, Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum, http://bit.ly/2eBjX
  2. Becta’s contribution to the Rose Review, http://bit.ly/FOHEp
  3. DfES, Early Years’ Foundation Strategy, http://bit.ly/a0tkK

Pedagogically, Rose and the EYFS frame enabling environments within which structured play, risk-taking and decision-making can take place. There is a developmental focus on the learner taking personalised ownership of the learning pathways s/he wants to follow, framed by a mentoring approach by more experienced others. The addition of ICT as a core competency or “literacy” alongside numeracy and traditional literacy, elevates technological autonomy and agency [what tool to use, when, how and why]. The emphasis on the professional development of teaching teams also shapes or scopes a move towards technological transparency, or engagement in what might be termed a post-digital world.

The ramifications for HE of both a societal and educational move towards high-skilled digital and post-digital practitioners demand attention. In particular, there is a very real danger that we fetishise the learner voice at the expense of the needs of our teaching teams, and that an educational divide between staff and student capabilities, flexibility, autonomy and post-digital agency becomes unmanageable for institutions. In terms of fetishising the student voice, I mean, broadly the extravagant trust, fixation or reverence that is at times shown to it as a concept, without demonstrating the concomitant impact on other stakeholders. The wordle cloud for all the releavnt HE-related text from sources 1 – 6 above is shown at: post-digital HE. The focus on the learner and technology is stark. As is the potentially disastrous, limited focus on staff and staff teams. Whilst the reports all focus on the need for professional development, there is little concrete that is actually presented. At DMU this is now a core focal point, with a key frame-of-reference made by the Committee of Inquiry.

The world [students] encounter in higher education has been constructed on a wholly different set of norms. Characterised broadly, it is hierarchical, substantially introvert, guarded, careful, precise and measured. The two worlds are currently co-existing, with present-day students effectively occupying a position on the cusp of change. They aren’t demanding different approaches; rather they are making such adaptations as are necessary for the time it takes to gain their qualifications. Effectively, they are managing a disjuncture, and the situation is feeding the natural inertia of any established system. It is, however, unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. The next generation is unlikely to be so accommodating and some rapprochement will be necessary if higher education is to continue to provide a learning experience that is recognised as stimulating, challenging and relevant.

The themes arising from an analysis of the reports [1 – 6] are noted below, with key developmental areas. These will form the spine of our approach to technology-enhanced learning for a post-digital world at DMU.

  1. Enhancing our learners’ [post-]digital literacy through our services and curricula [focus on services, curriculum, pedagogic roles, literacies]
  2. Enabling learning environments that frame personalisation of experiences [focus on services]
  3. Developing services that enable students to manage transitions, progression and attendance [focus on autonomy, pedagogic roles, services and progression]
  4. Reappraisal and extension of professional development [focus on pedagogic pedagogic roles, reward and recognition, literacies]
  5. Developing flexible approaches to the curriculum [focus on informal learning, affiliations, business, personalisation, DL]
  6. Extending a distinctive institutional culture and brand [focus on the business case, services, affiliations and open access]

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