This vision for the future of HE has been created by Dr Maren Deepwell, chief executive of the Association for Learning Technology (ALT), for the learning and teaching reimagined initiative. It's not what we think the future of higher education will - or even should - look like, but just one possible scenario to inspire (possibly scare) and provoke discussion.
This content represents an imagined scenario and is set in the future
Post-COVID, the learning technologist view
Alex Kay’s day leading a large team of learning technologists at the university is looking busy! Today is the anniversary of what they still jokingly refer to as the ‘great online pivot’ and staff and students are taking part in a week of activities promoting wellbeing and remembering the 2020 outbreak of COVID-19.
Alex thinks back at those early days when their team of only two learning technologists was doing the work of twenty, working all hours of the day to try and bring more and more courses online within a few short summer weeks. It’s hard to imagine how few resources there were at the time, especially when looking at the long list of faculty-specific and institution-wide teams that are now collaborating across the institution.
In the long term, the impact of that particular crisis on learning and teaching had become a positive one, Alex reflects. Not initially, of course, but in the years that followed. First there was a general upscaling of technology adoption which prompted rapid progress in setting out robust policies for a broader range of tools, platform and use-cases than before.
Facilitated by professional bodies, universities had worked together to share best practice in areas such as learning analytics, accessibility and open educational resources.
Without an effective professional learning network that reached across institutions, the step change that happened wouldn’t have been possible. Being able to connect with other learning technologists, joining into webinars and virtual meet ups made those early months of being stuck at home during lockdown and later the years of working flexibly whilst juggling care responsibilities and family life more enjoyable.
Even as the team in the institution had grown, new recruits valued the sense of being part of a wider network and learning from experts beyond the university.
Edtech open day
Looking at the dashboard of activities across the university, virtual activity is markedly down this morning as everyone is preparing to gather on campus. The learning technology teams have an edtech open day today, welcoming staff and students to come and meet in person, try out new technology and look at some of the older technologies in the department’s archive, from overhead projectors to prototype VR headsets.
Alex is really looking forward to seeing her academic colleagues and students in person and being able to spend time with them, directly interacting with the technology hands-on and seeing first-hand what works and what doesn’t.
Today’s edtech open day will help generate vlogs that will be presented at a large national conference later this year, sharing user perspectives on the innovative systems they have implemented with learning technologists from other institutions across the country.
In 2020, Alex remembers, that possibility seemed very far away.
Send us your visions
This is one of a number of visions of the future of HE, created as part of our learning and teaching reimagined programme.
We’d love to hear your visions for how learning and teaching in higher education will change over the next few years.