Traditional versus radical change in education

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According to two articles in Times Higher Education change is moving both too fast and too slow as these quotes demonstrate:

“Many students will “defend to the death” the need for traditional campus-based lectures, and will only delve into the world of free online educational resources if instructed to by their teachers, a conference has heard.”

“Our belief is that the models of higher education that marched triumphantly across the globe in the second half of the 20th Century require radical and urgent transformation. Our fear is that the nature of change is incremental and the pace of change too slow”

An Avalanche is Coming: higher education and the revolution ahead, is a report published by the Institute of Public Policy Research which claims that ‘radical and urgent’ transformation is needed in order to keep universities in business.  It argues that universities need to specialise and find their own niche and recommends a process of ‘unbundling’.  This could be focusing on teaching or research alone.  The report tells us that we need to rethink the university as a whole and how we teach, learn and assess.  This includes embracing online education.

Toni Pearce, National Union of Students vice-president for further education, speaking at the Open Educational Resources conference at the University of Nottingham described students as very traditional in their attitudes to learning.  In particular, students expressed a preference for the lecture the sense of community they gained from it and did not use online resources unless guided to by their lecturers.  In response to the report, Toni Pearce stated:

“An avalanche? Please. Higher education and the revolution ahead? It sounds terrifying. But the basis of the argument is that students in the future will have no interest in attending formalised education because they can consume content elsewhere, not last online.”

In my experience, students, or perheaps all of us, will support educational models that we have previously experienced and that we are comfortable with above unknown models that will enhance our learning.  We must not forget that learning itself can make us feel vulnerable and uncertain.  Students will always take the lead from their lecturers and are driven by assessment criteria.  It is important to take advantage of new technologies, online education and positive educational models in order to ensure the future of universities and provide the best possible higher education but we need to remember that students need support and confidence and experience to ensure they are able to thrive in that environment.

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