“Change is the only constant’.
This well worn phrase has special significance for higher education, a landscape where technological progress is driving a need for change for universities around the world.
Experts agree that the possibilities and challenges posed by tech innovation are significant and many, and that universities must now focus on evolving skills for future jobs. Furthermore, the growth in virtual reality and augmented reality will mean that the future of learning will look and feel nothing like it does today.
This is a subject which Mark Bramwell, CIO at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, addressed at Canvas’s Lunch and Level Up session at the recent Bett event.
Mark highlighted that a near universal focus on price, accessibility and reach means that education is in danger of becoming a mass-produced, unspecialised product of potentially diminishing value. For Mark, success lies in finding competitive advantage by creating differentiation. In Saïd’s case this has in part meant an ambitious digital transformation programme and investment in technology which has seen the institution adopt Canvas as its School and University wide LMS to support and enhance its student experience, improve learning outcomes and aid continuous learning and development.
Of course, when faced with big issues like this, it’s natural for governments and analysts to talk about the need for more budget, a focus on the core curriculum, a back-to-basics approach to delivery - and the need for more teachers. But these are conventional solutions to new problems. Instead, organisations like Saïd are promoting a much more rounded approach to changing education - looking holistically at skills, knowledge and collaboration.
This approach moves beyond the classroom, developing skills and knowledge needed to live and work in a competitive and fast moving digital economy. Rather than encouraging the development of narrow skill sets that can (and ultimately will) be commoditized, institutions must lay the groundwork to encourage the development of adaptable, flexible and multi-skilled graduates.
For Mark, then, change is fundamentally necessary. And, to ensure universities stay relevant and important, they need to change in a number of ways, from working within changing political structures to embracing institution wide edtech.
So, is your university ready and/or willing to change?
As a starting point, over the next six weeks we’ll take a look at the most pertinent areas of change HE leaders are focusing on - combining real-life stories from institutions at the coal face of change, to advice from tech experts, we’ll offer actionable advice on how to stay ahead of the curve and embrace change.
Keep tuned for our first piece next week, on the need for geographic expansion - recruiting students from other territories, and how to do so in a sustainable way. In the meantime, you can visit our website to see how institutions across the world are trading up their edtech to deliver better results in a rapidly shifting education landscape.
Bas Ten Holter
Director for Higher Education Europe, Instructure