From MOOCs to mobile learning, the past few years have seen the rise of plenty of new learning technologies and approaches with the potential to revolutionise traditional higher education. So far, the revolution has been less than total – but with external policy pressures now bearing even more strongly on Australian universities, have we reached critical mass? We asked some of the experts due to speak at the Future of Learning in Higher Education Summit in February to bring out their crystal balls and predict the most dramatic shifts in teaching and learning in 2015.
“As the global economy struggles to keep pace with the volume of graduates, we’re going to see the value of learning linked even more strongly to employability”, says Andrew McAuley, DVC (Education) at Southern Cross University. According to Shelley Kinash, Director of Learning & Teaching at Bond University, the shift has already commenced. “There is widespread awareness that rates of graduate employment are the lowest in 20 years,” she notes. “With graduate employability a heightened focus, the challenge for teaching and learning is to embed employability strategies into the curriculum and culture from the first semester of a student’s enrolment.”
Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath (UK), predicts that we will see “increasing diversity of types of programme: in forms of inter-disciplinarity, in means of delivery, length of course, in the integration of mobility for staff and students during programmes, etc.” This diversity, our experts note, will allow an equally diverse student population with differing priorities to shape their own personalised learning experiences. “Students will choose study mode as well as subjects,” says Margaret Jollands, an OLT Project Leader based at RMIT University, “making personalised learning the biggest trend of 2015.”
Similarly, study will need to fit in around the work, family and extra-curricular commitments of increasingly time-poor students. “We’re going to see more flexible delivery, with students accessing education programs in and around their working and personal lives,” says Susan Young, Dean of Students at Victoria University. “This reflects the trend away from full-time on-campus students and the increase in the hours students are working.”
“I think we’ll see a shift back to small group and tutorial teaching,” says Michelle Lincoln, a Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney. “Content will largely be delivered on-line and replaced with high quality small group face to face enquiry based learning and teaching.”
“The focus on student learning outcomes has led to conversations about assessment of learning in multiple settings,” says US speaker Diane Lee, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education at the University of Maryland (Baltimore County). “In addition to continued innovation and assessment informed by technology, I believe we will see more options for computing credit for experience. With competency-based education, service learning, internships, study abroad, and such, I think the trend is toward more doing and directly applying learning while in college; it is no longer about persons in seats, listening to the learned pontificate.”
Alison Sheridan, PVC (Academic) at the University of New England, predicts a shift in the ‘teacher’ role. “Due to changes in how we facilitate student learning,” she says, “we will likely see a move away from a single academic expert to a team of collaborators with different skills.”
In a further step away from the traditional “god-professor” model, Marina Harvey, an OLT National Fellow based at Macquarie University, expects to see a continued – or even increased – reliance on sessional staff. Geoff Crisp, DVC (Academic) at RMIT University, agrees that we can expect to see teaching being outsourced more often to sessionals or contract academics. “Continuing or tenured academic positions are likely to become increasing rare, and five-year academic appointments will become more common.”
Alec Cameron, DVC (Education) at the University of Western Australia, predicts that 2015 will see the further emergence of non-traditional competitors for universities, especially private providers. The non-university higher education sector already currently accounts for 8% of the undergraduate student market, and – particularly if government plans to extend support to private providers go through – it will be looking to significantly increase that percentage in 2015. The onus will be on public universities to convince students of the continued relevance and value of a comprehensive university education.
To join the discussion on leading change in teaching and learning, join us at the 2nd annual Future of Learning in Higher Education Summit, 16-17 February 2015 at the UNSW CBD Campus, Sydney. V