Reimagining education and the student experience
This year the Digifest’s focus was on learning, teaching and libraries, and took place in an immersive, interactive virtual environment, where we explored future challenges and opportunities.
This year’s programme focused on learning and teaching, and libraries with a day dedicated to each key theme:
- Reframing the student experience
- Tomorrow’s technology in today’s education
- Digital leadership
- Culture and resilience
I was privileged to be on the Conference Steering Group, helping the great @Jisc team to frame the conversations as this amazing event unfolded. With Dr Sara Jones (deputy dean in the faculty of computing, engineering and media, De Montford University) and Cameron Mirza we worked with Jess Moore the senior editorial officer to record two pre-conference ‘thought pieces’ considering education of the future. We then co-authored a series of blog posts to share the learning from the discussions with the AdvanceHE National Teaching Fellows (NTFs).
In December we considered what has the pandemic taught universities about leadership and discussed the evolving role of digital technologies, the changing needs of students, and the future role of higher education. Despite the challenges of the sector pivoting to online at such short notice, we all agreed that continuing to move ahead with the digital agenda for HE was critical, but more needed to be done re equity, mental health and curriculum (re) design allied with excellent learning design.
NTF blog post:
February 2021 saw us reconvene to consider digital leadership and our aspirations for the sector. As the ONS reported that month, 37% of students were nor satisfied with their studies, and 63% reported wellbeing concerns, our panel concluded that, as educators we should Never Assume: Internet access, student access to devices of their own, access to their own study space in family homes.
We also concluded that Universities were already starting to business reengineer their processes, and this work should continue through to considering the ‘student experience of the future’; our panel saw these changes as essential in an area of very rapid HE policy change.
Our third conclusion was, as 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 from use) is crucial for shaping the future of education.
And in March #Digifest2021 arrived!
Moderated by Jisc managing director of higher education, Jonathan Baldwin, I joined a panel discussing ‘Shaping tomorrow together – the future of education and learning’.
- Alex Butler, the chief digital and information officer, Bath University;
- Aftab Hussein, the ILT manager from Bolton college, whos amazing work on ffv ; and
- Steven Hope, head of independent learning, Leeds City College we explored the biggest challenges and hurdles for 2021,
- Debbie Holley, Professor of Learning Innovation, Bournemouth University
In our discussions, we explored what the global pandemic has taught us about current and future student generations; understanding what will prove to be the lasting benefits of the new learning model(s) that the sector has quickly adopted; and finally the biggest challenges and hurdles in 2021?
Link to panel via Jisc website
Personal highlights and reflections
Out of four days of fabulous sessions, panels and keynotes it is impossible to even start to highlight the range and depth of work covered, but for me, a key highlight was Prof Steven Heppell in conversation. Amongst all the doom mongering and talk in the UK press about school age, Steve sees this generation of learners, given some curricula freedom, as exceptional. This work is currently underway in Australia. Find our more at http://heppell.net/
Find out more:
and I would recommend heading over to the
Recommendations from report:
Based on our research we make the following recommendations for universities, sector agencies and government:
- Universities to use their strategic and structural planning processes to effect the digital transformation of learning and teaching, ensuring that sponsorship is provided by governing bodies and executive teams
- Universities to review their strategic investment in digital learning and teaching
- Universities to make investment plans to mitigate the heightened cyber security risks that arise from greater dependence on digital technologies
- Universities to think radically about the scale and scope of their learning and teaching activities, prioritising blended learning approaches wherever possible
- Universities to accelerate the adoption of blended learning, with close involvement of students in all aspects from design to delivery
- Universities to ensure inclusivity and accessibility are integral considerations in curriculum redesign
- Universities to ensure their professional development plans include digital training, peer support mechanisms and reward and recognition incentives to encourage upskilling
- Universities and sector organisations to establish research to remain in step with the changing digital preferences and expectations of prospective higher education students
- Universities, government and funders to provide additional funding or means to reduce digital poverty as a barrier to students accessing higher education