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Event Report: Responding in Testing Times - the future role of e-learning in Higher Education

26th February 2010
at Brettenham House, London

"A very thought provoking event"

"It was certainly a valuable theme to address"

The context - Evan Dickerson, JISC RSC London

Evan Dickerson makes his presentation

This event was organised by JISC RSC London to bring together representatives from HEIs across the region to focus on the impact that future funding cuts might have and discuss what responses the HE sector might make. The range of delegates ensured that the RSC-supported HEIs were represented alongside some larger unsupported HEIs and FE colleges with significant HE provision. 

Evan Dickerson presented on the "New Realities and Government Blueprints" that are currently facing the HE sector. Key strategic documents were identified, cuts to funding from the 2010-11 academic year were outlined and balanced against the need government is placing upon HEI to continue provision of high level skills needed by today's knowledge economy. This will see institutions having to identify areas of research strength and teaching priority whilst broadening outreach and diversifying the models of HE course level, structure and format available to students. To conclude, note was made of some potential impacts upon the sector that could be seen alongside JISC's initiative of the Agile University, which places technology use at the centre of an institutional solution to achieve business goals.

Link to Evan's presentation

The View from Kingston College - Andrew Williams, Director of ILT, Kingston College

Andrew Williams, Director of ILT, Kingston College

Andrew Williams assisted delegates in reflecting in on their own situations by first providing some background on the HE in FE context at Kingston College. He proceeded to ask some significant questions, which he suggested, delegates would need to answer with reference to their own contexts:

  • What are the key underpinning values that we need to hold on to during uncertain times?
  • How can the twin aims of efficiency and effectiveness be held together given the pressures that HE (and FE) will face over the coming years?
  • What strategies and practical steps can be taken in order to successfully introduce blended curriculum delivery strategies ? 
  • How can blended learning enable HE, and HE in FE, to survive in the new economic climate? Kingston's JISC-funded KUBE project was referenced in relation to these last two points.

Link to Andrew's presentation

E-learning: saviour or not? - Philip Butler, Senior Adviser, ULCC

Philip Butler (r) discusses his presentation with a delegate

Philip Butler, ULCC, gave a provocative presentation in which he suggested that the HE sector has to think about how they support and deliver teaching and learning in the 21st Century. 


The following issues and statements were considered:

  • Increasing challenges for the sector; competition from other sectors.
  • Personalisation should be at the centre of a whole organisational approach, not confined to e-Learning.
  • Any initiatives should be quality driven, raising standards not diminishing them.
  • Efficiency often comes out of effectiveness;
  • Transformation fails when vision isnít translated into targets, or failure to assign priorities.

Taking a personal portalised approach, as Lewisham College have done, streamlines the e-portfolio, VLE, Personal Learning Plan and Assessment Manager to take account of professional and social audiences alongside national, instututional and personal drivers. Failure to do so risked the deskilling, disengagement and disenfranchisement of learners in a potentially deregulated and unstrategic educational landscape of the future.

Link to Philip's presentation

Link a blog post by Philip Butler about the event

Delegates discuss the issues at this timely HE-focussed event
Delegates discuss the issues at this timely HE-focussed event

Summary / Final thoughts:

It is clear that the future of Higher Education will not conform to a 'one size fits all' blueprint, a future also shared by other post-16 sectors. Tough decisions will have to be made, but equally these may often have to take account of how mulpuple agendas and drivers interlink whilst maintaining quality, the student experience and institutional infrastructure, making the most of opportunities to employ technology where appropriate. To achieve this will throw the need for thought through strategic planning continually into the spotlight.

Evan Dickerson and Martin Sepion

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