Shaping the future of education and learning

An event report by Debbie Holley, National Teaching fellow and PFHEA

Panel: Cameron Mirza Chief of Party for IREX (Jordan) top left, Debbie Holley, Professor of Learning Innovation, Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bournemouth University (top right). Jess Moore, Senior Digital and Content Editor, Jisc (host) bottom left, and Sarah Jones, Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media at De Montfort University.

New Year, New Lockdown.

This week the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that 37 per cent of students report being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their academic experience, compared with 29 per cent reporting the same at the end of November 2020. And a statistically significantly higher number (63 per cent) of students reported a worsening in their wellbeing and mental health, compared with 57 per cent reporting the same in the previous survey. In this new report, Jisc and Emerge Education outline the need for a fundamental realignment of the ways in which mental health and wellbeing are approached and look at the role of technology can play.

Against this rather gloomy background, our panel met to talk about shaping education of the future, as part of the series of vodcasts Jisc are creating to highlight the importance and significance of DIGIFEST 2021. We started talking about our students – and complimenting them for their resilience, tenacity and dedication. We could each articulate examples of students sitting on the stairs in the family home, with earphones and mobile phones, trying to catch a class as younger siblings needed the home tablet for

their schooling; for walking to a public wifi hotspot to access more robust internet connections, and, indeed, 39% have travelled back to rented accommodation to have a better study environment.

Our first conclusion: never assume. Internet access, access to devices of their own, access to their own study space in family homes

Staff implications?

We had a wide range discussion about our new roles – we too need to be agile and flexible, and be a subject expert, researcher and IT savvy in the new digital world. We all need to work together to create a safe and secure and supportive learning environment online, and it is unlikely the ‘lone’ academic will be able to achieve all of this on their own. Thus different team structures, skills and support from our professional colleagues are essential. We discussed rapid transitions is assessment design; and reflected on the usual pace of policy development in Universities. Bite sized learning, credit transfer and accumulation, understanding pedagogies such as hybrid learning and hyflex are key agenda items. These will underpin the lasting benefits of emerging new learning models the sector is adopting.

Our second conclusion: Universities are already starting to business reengineer their processes, and this work should continue through to considering the ‘student experience of the future’; the panel see these changes are essential in an area of very rapid HE policy change.

What are the challenges?

BIG unanswered question – what about the knowledge gaps with a generation of school students being home schooled, and inequalities? Need big investment and a national strategy to ensure parity and catch up; and Universities are key component between schools and employers, influencers in local communities, can implement strategic visions to build capacity and community.

Mental health and the continuum to mental illness – strategies to intervene early, intervene well, and at scale – the evidence suggests a need for a blend of digital and ‘real life’ professionals offering talking therapies. Simply pushing students towards an array of ‘self-help apps’ is not sufficient. We thought that good mental health policy was a political issue, nationally, regionally and institutionally, and welcomed the recent Government funding announcement allocating £20.million for student mental health and wellbeing.

Graduate employability is proving to be challenging for students and Universities. Data from the 2021 UK graduate market survey has graduate recruitment down by 15%. Graduate recruitment has fallen in 13 out of the 15 most sought-after industries and 50% of he UKs leading employers have reduced their graduate recruitment budget.

Our third conclusion: the sector faces a series of challenges, and we need to co-operate for successful scaling up and moving forward. Technology and the confidence about when to use (and when to step away) is crucial for shaping the future of education.

What are we hoping for at DIGIFEST?

Sarah summarised our hopes for Digifest:

“My session is about preparing for future with immersive technology within education. I’m also really interested to learn from one of the Jisc sessions on the data around how students are experiencing learning online. I think it’s really, really powerful to help us inform thinking going forward. Changing cultures is really important – how can leaders support our staff some of whom are really struggling, like everybody, with homeschooling and delivery and workloads and research. How can we support people?

I’m hoping that by taking time off for Digifest my mind will become immersed with these great ideas and things for us to all to consider making Higher Education better”

Debbie Holley, Cameron Mirza and Sarah Jones are members of the steering group supporting Jisc’s four-day digital event, Digifest 2021. Registrations are now open.

Speaker biographies: Cameron Mirza (@cmirza1) Cameron is Chief of Party for IREX for USAID Pre-Service Teacher Education in Jordan.

Cameron recommends:

· High Fliers Research Limited: The Graduate Market in 2021

· Emerge education and Jisc (2020) employer-university collaboration Dr Sarah Jones: (@virtualsj) The Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media at De Montfort University. Her practice and research sits within emerging technologies and the development of immersive experiential films.

Sarah recommends:

· Brown, M., McCormack, M., Reeves, J., Brook, D.C., Grajek, S., Alexander, B., Bali, M., Bulger, S., Dark, S., Engelbert, N. and Gannon, K., 2020. 2020 Educause Horizon Report Teaching and Learning Edition (pp. 2-58). EDUCAUSE.

· Jisc (2020) The hyflex plus university: teaching and learning reimagined. Debbie Holley: (@debbieholley1) Professor of Learning Innovation in the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, and expert in blending learning, student centred learning and informal learning.

Debbie recommends:

· Kukulska-Hulme, A., Bossu, C., Coughlan, T., Ferguson, R., FitzGerald, E., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Rienties, B., Sargent, J., Scanlon, E., Tang, J., Wang, Q., Whitelock, D., Zhang, S. (2021). Innovating Pedagogy 2021: Open University Innovation Report 9. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Innovating Pedagogy 2021 –

· Cohen, A., Nørgård, R.T. and Mor, Y., 2020. Hybrid learning spaces––Design, data, didactics.

Jess Moore (@Jisc) Senior Digital and Content Editor

Jess recommends:

· Jisc and Emerge Education (2021) Student and Staff Wellbeing: From fixes to foresight: Insights for universities and startups.

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