About this challenge
For this challenge we asked that in this modern, connected environment, are current systems meeting the needs of our institutions and students, and is it time to think about the next generation of digital learning environments?
Read more about this challenge
As new technologies have emerged and become popular, they have been bolted on to existing systems, sometimes making other functionality redundant or even unusable. At the same time we have seen behavioural changes across society, and in education we have a student and staff body that is, potentially, more digitally connected than ever before; unconstrained by space and time and able to access information and engage with others as they need.
The majority of virtual learning environments and similar systems currently used in higher and further education have their roots grounded in the pre-social media era, and are aligned with the teaching ideas of the time.
What possibilities now exist to create the next generation of learning environments? How can we harness the power of social connectivity to allow people to come and learn when they need answers to their problems? How can we provide them with a system that allows social learning and still provides essential assessment and accreditation?
Is it possible to create chameleonic virtual environments that are responsive to staff teaching needs and adaptive to students as they go through their learning? Can we bridge the physical and virtual learning environments in a way that is seamless, and unbound by the formal and informal learning spaces?
Questions for you to consider
- If there was a next generation of learning environment being built, what would it do for you, your students and the other people you work with?
- What kind of learning experiences would a next generation learning systems need to support?
- What do you need in your learning teaching practice that current systems don’t provide?
- What do you think the existing problems are?
- What do you think the possibilities are?
- Would it only address learning and teaching?
- What else could it do?
- Have you looked at the next generation research co-design challenge?
- With the prevalence of analytics in education, can data be used to create a learning environment that is more responsive to student and staff needs?
- Can the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) type tools enhance learning environments?
Two ideas gained a lot of support during the consultation:
Overdesigned, complex digital environments are commonplace in education. Many staff reported the experience of themselves or colleagues 'just having a quick discussion on the blog' or 'creating a social media group' as an alternative to working within the educational tools available. These spaces, where learning is taking place, are neither under the control of institutions nor able to contribute to learning analytics systems.
This project would create a series of lightweight tools, such as a discussion forum, quiz or wiki, able to be deployed at a small scale, and potentially time-limited. The exact tools would be decided by working with practitioners in institutions.
Additionally, these tutor-controlled pop-up digital tools would be appropriate for situations where access to traditional environments is not possible (eg several apprentices in a small engineering firm). Each tool should have the ability to export user contributions in an open format, and have an API to export learning analytics.
The challenge identified that a vast array of tools were in use across the education sector, both bespoke edtech, such as VLEs and e-portfolios, and tools such as Evernote, blogs and social media.
Getting these tools to work together is a challenge. Simon Thomson from Leeds Beckett identified that his institution will be working on a HEFCE-funded project that will explore the potential to allow their VLE to interact with a selected range of tools and social media, based on the concept already established by the successful IFTTT (If This Then That) tool. This approach recognises that students (and staff) also have an established presence in many digital places.
We will explore whether Jisc can develop solutions that move data between systems such as the VLE and web tools, whilst ensuring that the learning analytics and content produced in web tools can be captured by institutional systems. This will give staff and students freedom to use the tools that suit them while ensuring the activity is recognised by institutional systems.
To explore this idea, the first step will be to work with staff and students to identify what practices are going on, and in what spaces. This is an activity that was repeatedly suggested during the consultation.
Thank you to everyone who voted.
We have decided to focus on exploring the idea of connecting the virtual learning environment with some of the tools used for learning outside of the institution. We think that the idea of a pop-up VLE will be enabled by this approach but we will not be focusing on that for now.
We will be sharing the initial results of our exploration in May. Keep an eye on the Jisc blog for announcements.