The survival of Higher Education (5): Recommendations

This is the fifth and final part of my short series of posts on the future of higher education.

In my previous post I discussed the ways technology might help to promote the survival of universities in a time of financial upheaval and disruptive culture.

In this post, I discuss change management and outline some of my recommendations for the adoption of new practices and technologies.

Recommendations

Ultimately, to ensure that technologies are successfully adopted, institutions need to demonstrate that each is relevant and can be used effectively to support, enhance and extend learning beyond what is currently possible. The value added potential of new technologies becomes the unique selling point, including its capability to change or challenge current provision. Change however, comes with a price, usually in human cost. Many teachers are reluctant to embrace new technology because they may perceive it as undermining their authority, it may challenge roles they are comfortable within, or require them to invest time and effort into learning how to do something new. Many are unhappy about change and some will actively resist. Often such resentment or distrust of new technologies can be transmitted to students, particularly those who are more mature. Universities therefore need to find ‘champions’ – early adopters of the new technologies who are also respected opinion leaders within the academic community.

Changes often come from the grassroots upwards, but without support and nourishment from the top, many seemingly useful changes fade and die. Managers and leaders need to listen to the views of their staff (and also their students), and commit their institutions wholeheartedly to new innovations that are pragmatic, to ensure that they are spending money on technology that fits into the every day teaching and learning activities of the organisation. Such decisions need to be informed by empirical research that is generalisable.

Institutions will need to secure adequate funding so that new technology is sustainable. Too often organisations buy into new technology but fail to budget for ongoing support such as training, upgrades, repairs and maintenance. Professional development should be offered that is realistic and authentic so that teachers can situate their new skills within everyday practice. Finally, institutions will need to offer better opportunities and incentives for teachers to encourage the use of new technologies that are relevant across entire curricula. Sometimes curricula may need to change to accommodate shifts in practice, and there should be latitude to embed new technologies into everyday practice.

Conclusion

The advent of new and emerging technologies such as interactive touch surface devices, mobile and wireless technologies and the social web, afford teachers with unprecedented opportunities to try out new pedagogies which would previously have been difficult or impossible. Teachers may see new technologies either as opportunities or as threats. Whatever their views, the teachers who are most likely to be successful will be those who embed new technologies into their courses, and who adopt a role that us supportive of flexible and mobile learning. Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who adopt new technologies will probably replace those who don't. Younger students who entered higher education in 2008 were the first students who had grown up in a world in which connection to the internet had always been there. They expected to have fast and seamless access to digital resources, social networking and mobile learning opportunities. Students today have even greater expectations, and if this kind of provision is not forthcoming or is discouraged, they will go somewhere where it is available.

It is up to the institution, through clear leadership, strong support of innovation and the adoption of a culture of blame-free experimentation, to ensure that new ways of using technology are discovered and that technology becomes embedded into the fabric of education programmes. Only then will we begin to see the social web being used to its fullest capacity – as a liberating tool to enable students to learn anywhere, at any time, and in a style and at a pace that suits their individual needs and preferences.

Previous posts in this series:

The survival of Higher Education (1): Changing Roles
The survival of Higher Education (2): Changing Times
The survival of Higher Education (3): The Social Web
The survival of Higher Education (4): 5 Key Objectives

Photo by Felix Burton on Wikimedia Commons

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The survival of Higher Education (5): Recommendations by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Comments

Anonymous said…
You write "Many teachers are reluctant to embrace new technology because they may perceive it as undermining their authority, it may challenge roles they are comfortable within…". I would suggest that it is not just the adoption of technology, but the adoption of almost anything different. Last eek, I asked the teaching assistants teaching on my research methods module to allow the students in their groups (between 15 & 20 students each) to work on the problem sets, offering support, without forcing the students to work through the problem sets in a lock step manner (which I have seen in past years). At the end of the session, one of the TAs stated that she didn't like this new model of teaching, as she wasn't in control. In my usual tactful manner, I pointed out to her that this is not about her teaching experience, but about the students' learning.

Not what I would call a major change in pedagogic approach, but somewhat challenging to the TA.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your interesting comment Jesse. I also meet with this resistance wherever I go, and you're right, it tends to be 'anything new or different' that is resisted. I suppose people become so comfortable with their little worlds, any changes are seen as a threat to either their roles, or more usually, their routine and personal time.
David Hopkins said…
"Teachers may see new technologies either as opportunities or as threats. Whatever their views, the teachers who are most likely to be successful will be those who embed new technologies into their courses, and who adopt a role that us supportive of flexible and mobile learning. Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who adopt new technologies will probably replace those who don't."

I know that for my two boys - one just started school, the other starting in September - I want their teachers to prepare them for the world they live in. This is not the world the teachers (of whatever experience or background) were trained in or grew up in themselves, this is the world in which my two boys live in NOW. This world has touch screens and streaming video, it has gesture control and games with artificial intelligence, it has possibilities and no apparent limitations. If my children are to survive and flourish in tomorrow's world then it starts now; at school, at home, with friends, with teachers.

All the best, David

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