The Edgeless University

…is the title of a new report from Demos, (A UK “think tank”) which deals with how higher education is (or isn’t) responding to the growth of technological tools. Personally, I found it a little disappointing, in that much of it simply rehearses debates that the educational technology community has been having for some time. (I laughed out loud when I read the hackneyed phrase about “guide on the side, not sage on the stage” presented as a new idea – It must have been around for at least 25 years)

But, and it’s a big but,  it is good that somebody outside that community has noticed that there are examples of extremely good practice within the sector, and is drawing attention to them. I’d also agree with the report’s argument that simply imposing a technology on a current practice is unlikely to make much difference, and I was pleased to see the benefits of Open Access being so well supported in the report.

Where I’m less convinced by is the continuing discussion of research and teaching as though these were separate activities. While it is true that “research” is currently seen as a more productive career path for academic staff, I’m coming round to the view that teaching should be “research engaged”, that students learn as they work with their teachers in the discovery of knowledge. That (admittedly quite old) idea has all sorts of implications for curriculum delivery, assessment, quality assurance and enhancement, and yes, the use of technology. All of these things will need to be radically rethought, if Higher Education Institutions are to become genuinely edgeless.

I’m really at the beginning of my thoughts about this, so the report was a useful prod in the right direction.