By Abbi Flint
Engaging students as co-researchers, co-designers and co-creators of their learning experiences is an idea that, over the past few years, has captured the attention and imagination of many staff and students. The rationales for engaging students as partners in their learning are diverse and complex, including political and pedagogic perspectives. From a desire to engage and empower all students to take responsibility for their learning, an ethical responsibility to ensure students have a say in their education, to offering a constructive alternative to consumerist models of higher education.
At the HEA, our rationale is pedagogic. We are interested in how approaches which foreground partnership with students are powerful ways of transforming teaching and inspiring learning. As a sector we need evidence of their effectiveness in fostering deeper engagement with learning, particularly how impacts play out across different national, institutional and discipline contexts. Recent HEA research makes a much needed contribution to this debate.
Engagement through partnership is a popular idea, but what does this actually look like in practice and what difference does it make to the student learning experience? Continue reading →
By Alison Cornu
There has been an enormous amount of hype around MOOCs since they first entered the UK HE arena roughly five years ago. That tens of thousands of students from around the world could enrol and study simultaneously was something both to marvel at and question. Two big issues have dominated discussions about the future of MOOCs on the HE landscape: first, what business case can support them; and second, what evidence is there that students learn? Today, with much water under the bridges of both experience and research, we are in a better position to put forward a view of what we think about MOOCs.
At the outset, the notion that so many students from so many backgrounds could all learn together, and learn ‘properly’ and effectively, seemed to some impossible. As a society we have consistently had drilled into us the fact that learning best occurs in small groups. One-to-one is perhaps the crème de la crème, but groups of four to six adults offer an excellent environment for learning one from another, epitomised in the traditional Oxbridge style. Parents are keen to see their children in smaller classes and governments hasten to reassure them that everything is being done to ensure that is a reality. The paradox with MOOCs, of course, is that while at one level thousands learn together, at another, in typical distance learning fashion, each student is a lone individual working away in isolation, miles from any peers whom they don’t know and are unlikely ever to meet.
So are these initial reservations merited? What do we now make of them pedagogically? Continue reading →
By Alison Le Cornu
Is flexible learning going to be more of a key feature in the future than it has been in the past? It depends on how you define it, of course, and depends too on what the perceived drivers are behind it. For some, the change in the fee structure in UK HE means that increasing numbers of students will need to earn while they learn, and hence require the flexibility to combine work and study, quite possibly also with family life. For others, the wider global context coupled with technological advances mean that HE is not the only sector that will see greater flexibility: employers too will be looking for flexible employees, which in turn will impact family and leisure time. In the not-too-distant future we will be living in a ‘flexi world’ and HE will have to adjust.
Whether we embrace this vision or eschew it, flexible learning is gaining increasing prominence throughout the sector. Key to its practical outworking is the notion of offering students choice in how, what, where and at what pace they learn: the flexibility of pace, place and mode that the HEA uses to focus its work in this area. Certain features underpin its practice. Flexible learning is largely contingent on learners studying part-time. It is both dependent on and enhanced by rapid technological advances that allow innovative pedagogical approaches. It facilitates cooperation between higher education providers and employers which has led to a strong culture of work-based learning, and requires a determination on the part of institutions to adapt their structures and systems so that the student experience is effective and of high quality. Credit transfer, still in a state of flux, remains one of the key players of the future. Continue reading →
By Ceredig Jamieson-Ball
Conducting research into how different parts of the higher education sector have responded to policy developments can help us develop better support for academics and institutions as they seek to ensure that students have the best possible learning opportunities. The same evidence-base, gathered now, will provide vital data when it comes to influencing future policy and understanding how changes might affect those at the centre of higher education – students.
Over the last few years reform of higher education in the UK has provided a discussion point for everyone with an interest in the sector, from parents to policy-makers, from academics to administrators. It’s now three years since the Browne report, and there is still plenty of discussion about what the upper limit on tuition fees in England should be and how the devolved governments around the rest of the UK are financing higher education. Continue reading →